Finding Liquid Gold in the Emerald City: Seattle Coffee Guide / by Rachel Eva Lim

It baffles me why anyone who visits Seattle would punctuate their vacation with a stop at the original Starbucks at Pike Place Market. The crowds are hellish, the lines are long, the drinks taste exactly the same as any other Starbucks in the world and it’s honestly the ugliest location of the mega chain that I’ve ever seen (and this includes rest stops on the New Jersey Turnpike). The tantalizing lure of corporate America aside, Seattle’s rainy streets are home to some of the best independent cafés, coffee shops and roasters in the country. The city regularly pops up on various lists of America’s most caffeinated cities, which is pretty fitting for a place that—according to a recent survey by The NPD Group—harbors 3.5 coffee shops for every 10,000 residents. Coffee is deeply embedded into the cultural fabric of this Pacific Northwest metropolis, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a Seattle resident who doesn’t chug at least one serving of the stuff a day. While the plethora of places doling out a high quality cup of joe means that this is by no means a comprehensive list, here are some of the Emerald City’s greatest caffeine gems. 


770 N 34th St
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 659-4814

Located in Seattle’s quirky Fremont neighborhood—just a stone’s throw away from the infamous Fremont Troll—Milstead & Co. serves some of the city’s most exquisitely crafted coffee. Owner Andrew Milstead, who opened the café in 2011, sources his coffee beans from a variety of different roasters including Wrecking Ball, Intelligentsia and neighboring Portland’s Stumptown, Coava and Heart. The baristas are extremely friendly and the low countertops allow you to watch as they expertly whip together your drink. The café includes a large covered patio with sweeping views of the George Washington Memorial Bridge, and the bright and spacious interior provides the perfect spot to while away a couple of hours. Chocolate lovers shouldn’t leave without trying the Theo mocha. 


235 Summit Ave E
Seattle, WA 98102
(206) 678-7443

When Danny Hanlon and Tim Hayden decided to add to Seattle’s already crowded coffee scene, they aspired to create nothing more than a simple and comfortable neighborhood café serving high quality libations. Tucked away in a corner of Capitol Hill, Analog’s high ceilings, bright and rugged interior—inspired by equal parts Scandinavian design and a nautical theme—and central service counter provide an intimate and cozy setting to savor their killer almond milk cappuccino or tightly-poured espresso shots. Analog serves Seattle’s own Herkimer Coffee and use Fresh Breeze Organic dairy for all their milk needs. They were also the first in the city to serve cold brew on tap and—true to their name—have a working vintage record player in the back.


240 2nd Ave S #103
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 445-7808

Situated in the heart of Pioneer Square, this new kid on the block does an admirable job of caffeinating neighborhood residents, tourists and workers at the many emerging start-ups downtown. Seattle-native and founder Brendan Millally spent nearly a decade honing his skills at Joe Coffee in New York before opening Elm in 2014 with head roaster Drew Fitchette (formerly of Seattle’s Stumptown outpost and Onyx). Elm light roasts a variety of beans—including Guatemalan, Ethiopian and specialty Kenyan—in-house using a Probat 12 kilo, while shots are pulled using La Marzocco’s classic Linea machine. The café’s airy minimalist interior includes Carrara marble counters, seating booths crafted from salvaged Boeing airplane parts and exposed wood beam ceilings.  


532 Broadway E
Seattle, WA 98102
(206) 860-2722

David Schomer and Geneva Sullivan founded Vivace—one of Seattle’s most venerated coffee shops—in 1988 and roast their beans in the Northern Italian style. Baristas from as far away as South Korea, Australia and the United Arab Emirates have flocked to this café to learn the craft from Schomer, and with good reason. Vivace’s perfectly pulled espresso shots are enhanced by Schomer’s technique of maintaining a steady water temperature for the espresso, which allows the coffee to taste sweeter. Vivace currently has three cafés scattered throughout the Seattle area, though their spacious Brix location in Capitol Hill is both spacious and inviting—perfect for spending the afternoon with a steaming mug of their signature white velvet. 


2001 NW Market St
Seattle, WA 98107
(206) 706-2900

Come for the coffee, stay for the books. Bauhaus’s Ballard location is a bibliophilic caffeine fiend’s wet dream come true. While the coffee shop itself includes a reading area stylized to look like a library, they also partnered with local secondhand bookstore Twice Sold Tales, which occupies a series of rooms located at the back of the café that are crammed with everything from comic books to hard to find fiction. Bauhaus has been operating in the city since 1993 and also has two other locations in the Seattle’s Capitol Hill and Green Lake neighborhoods. Their cold brew was the only thing that got me through an uncharacteristically hot and dry Seattle summer. 


5413 6th Ave NW
Seattle, WA 98107
(206) 701-4238

Slate adopts a decidedly scientific and progressive approach when it comes to crafting their coffee—think deconstructed lattes, nitro cold brew and tasting flights designed to enhance the aromatics and tasting notes of the espresso. A stalwart of Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, this cutting edge establishment aims to turn the standard grab and go coffee drinking experience into a more considered affair. Their method of exposure roasting ensures that the coffee seeds are roasted just long enough to highlight their unique characteristics. This allows customers to better distinguish between beans from various regions and different types of processing. Stop by their coffee bar for an iced coffee and some friendly conversation with their baristas. 


310 E. Pike St
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 325-6080

Victrola first opened its doors in 2000—a time when the neighborhood was sorely lacking in social spaces for the community and the specialty coffee scene was a shadow of what it is today. Now a neighborhood anchor in Capitol Hill, Victrola has been roasting its own beans since 2003 and primarily sources their single origin fare from Colombia and Ethiopia. They host complimentary public cuppings every Wednesday and their baristas are some of the friendliest in the city. Their trademark Streamline espresso blend is a stellar dark roast. The establishment is relatively large and has ample seating space—ranging from long dining tables to wooden two-tops—so it isn’t a tight fit even when the café is at its busiest.

Commissioned by Bone & Seed, a Dinner Lab publication