Seattle Coffee of the North

Day 2 of Seattle’s Best Cafes:

Just now, as I sit down to write this among decaying sunflowers in the shade on this lovely September afternoon, to my delight a massive hawk has decided to settle in a tree above me. This can happen often in the Pacific Northwest—eagles and hawks abound in the skies above the many large, salmon-rich puddles we like to call lakes.

Hawk surveying Lake Sammamish's bounty.

Hawk surveying Lake Sammamish's bounty.

One more for perspective!

One more for perspective!

After this surprising intro, I think I could use another coffee, and I have just the one in mind…

4. Caffe Ladro – 2207 Queen Anne Ave

The original Caffe Ladro on Upper Queen Anne hill.

The original Caffe Ladro on Upper Queen Anne hill.

I started off Day 2 of my coffee extravaganza at the place Seattle Weekly readers voted “Seattle’s Best Café” in 2007, and presently it’s in the 2009 running to be voted Evening Magazine’s “Best of Western Washington.” The original Caffe Ladro in Upper Queen Anne opened in Seattle in the late 90′s, and has continued to flourish ever since. Now there are 13 locations throughout Seattle and a few of its neighboring cities. Friendly barista, Ryan, recommended that I try their signature drink, the Medici, and described it as an orange-flavored mocha. I had an enthusiastic go.

.”].”]My "medici" [pron: meh-dee-chee].

My "medici" [pron: meh-dee-chee

Yum! What a delicious drink. My favorite so far! The subtle orange balances very well with the chocolate and coffee; you’ll even find a genuine orange twist at the bottom of your cup once you’re through. I’ve heard some people recommend it as an after-dinner drink, yet it suited me just fine on a rainy fall afternoon after perusing the streets of Upper Queen Anne. Even on hot days you can enjoy it iced.

Like so many Seattle cafes, Caffe Ladro was ultra-artsy inside. A line of art ran along the hallway toward the backyard patio, and 3-pronged copper fans with a wing-span of about 9-feet circled below the ceiling.

Caffe Ladro's welcoming décor creates the perfect spot to read over a Seattle paper.

Caffe Ladro's warm décor creates the perfect spot to read over a Seattle paper.

5. Café Solstice at 4166 University Way NE

UW's best college cafe.

UW's best college cafe.

The fifth and final café I reviewed was voted Best University Café by urbanspoon.com. It’s Café Solstice, located in the University of Washington district of Seattle. The big, black-cratered moon above the door beckons you inside, to a dark and spacious lime-green and crimson-walled interior, sparked with colorful lights that hang above the large counter. I think that if I were a barista this bar would be the dream. It just looked like they chose to be there, and not at all like they were trapped. I was coffeed out for the day (yes, I’m a wimp), but all the better because I was able to try the white-chocolate banana bread recommended by another barista named John. He explained that everything here was actually made in Solstice’s very own bakery, and pointed to an adjoining door towards the back. Unfortunately, around 6:30 when I arrived, they had stopped serving hot food, but I hear they have a delicious grilled cheese and tomato soup combo.

Solstice's spacious dream bar.

Solstice's spacious dream bar.

The music was pumping in this café, as they have the kind of indie-gem mixes playing in the stereo that only college guys are able to make. They also have a raised couch section that doubles as a stage for bands and flamenco shows on special evenings. Wine, beer and loose-leaf tea are sold here. There’s also a miniature library stuffed with World Book encyclopedias, the annotative collection of Shakespeare, and cooking books; and a neighboring shelf is packed with board games ranging from Mousetrap to Chess, which the latter I’m sure UW graduate students enjoy while sipping a nice glass of Chardonnay. To be sure, this is a place you don’t want to leave. Especially if you’re some college kid looking for a date, excellent coffee, good music, or just plain friendly conversation with John the barista, while sitting on one of the counter’s comfy bar stools. To top it all off, there is also an excellent happy hour featuring $3 pints of Elysian ale from the local brewery on top of Capital Hill. John knew Solstice like the back of his hand, and had probably been “interviewed” before. Both the Seattle Weekly and the Stranger have given Café Solstice solid reviews and its an easy drive from most downtown Seattle hotels.

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