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Legit Coffee

The quest for enlightenment through coffee.

Tag Archives: victrola

MarcusAt long last I made it to the Victrola on 15th Ave on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. It is shocking, really, that I hadn’t been there before. I’ve been drinking coffee in Seattle for almost twenty years, and I’ve even been to bars on 15th, I’ve been by tons of times.

So, when Monica (also of our Legit team) texted to see if I was up, I knew at last I’d go. My first advice: take the bus. Parking sucks here. But the bus is much more with the cafe ethic anyway.

The place is hopping. I have to say that for such a busy, well known shop, quite a few people were solo at their four person tables. I prefer the shared space attitudes one finds at Zoka or Fiore (which I’ll review soon.). But after getting our orders in Monica and I found a table and embarked. And everything she recently wrote on atmosphere totally applies.

First: the latte. Damn. For years, Vivace was the standard in Seattle, far and away the coolest and highest quality shop around. This was easily on par. This is almost certainly in part due to the Guatemalan single origin espresso, which was so remarkable that drink two had to be a macchiato. It is smooth, dark, I found it to taste a bit like pound cake, if one can imagine that. Like it melted in your mouth, but while a little sweet it wasn’t exactly chocolate. Just go have it.

The art: quite good. Standard rosettes for me, Monica got some fancier stuff. Foam was remarkably smooth to both the tongue and the eye. Even the best sometimes have some bubblies, but not today. This probably contributed to the pound cake feel. Fantastic.

The food: we have to eat, and they have some fine, simple eats. I had baguette with ham and Brie, and a tasty biscotti.

Atmosphere: people watching here is fun, as it is all over Cap Hill. All sorts of people converge here, and it had the feel that made Seattle great in the 90s (the dream of the nineties is alive in… Seattle?). People in jeans and flannel, people in suits with bowties and suspenders, piercings, whatever, and everyone is chatting.

I’ve long been a Zoka partisan, largely for their spectacular and very consistent cappuccino. Another few trips here, and I may switch allegiances.

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mojenbest news ever, all. Victrola has a new SO, and it’s delicious. Guatemalan grown, fair trade, roasted on Pike. Guatemala is an excellent place for coffee growing, and Seattle for roasting it, and all those who are even vaguely nearby should go, because wow, it’s amazing.

I’ll try to make this more sensical soon, but this is pretty exciting news, so. No promises.

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mojenback in seattle for the day, i did my best to visit as many of the coffee shops as i could in a short time. i did fairly well– hit victrola, vita, vivace, stopped by ladro. not a bad coffee day, all in all, (though the vita espresso was a bit more acidic than normal).

but i realized when i got back to olympia, wonderfully caffeinated, that as much as i adored the coffee i had consumed, that i hadn’t really had the seattle café experience i’ve been missing so. (i think i’ll blame nathan for making me think about this) despite the fact that i’d had the opportunity to savor the best in the northwest in coffee, there was something missing from my experience– the ability to spend a good few hours in a wonderfully cosy coffee shop and simply absorb the atmosphere.

because the atmosphere is almost as important as the quality of the espresso for cafe enjoyment. i doubt i’d adore the caffe vita  on pike nearly as much if the upstairs didn’t contain game nights. the reason the victrola on 15th is so much more enjoyable to visit than the one on pike is that 15th’s has cosy seating arrangements, and beautiful art, and about forty people reading, writing, gossiping, facebooking, interviewing.

while you’re thinking about coffee shops in the abstract, rather than which one is closest, breathe in the air– you can smell the coffee, yes, but what else? there’s the aromas of spilt simple syrup, steaming chai, the quiche from the next table over. someone reading across the room laughs, short and explosive, unable to contain her merriment. there’s someone skyping next to you connecting with another who’s across the country or world, but who is also sharing your cafe. while you’re in line for a drip refill, the music changes, and you notice that the two people in front of you have unconsciously started tapping their toes, shifting their hips in time; you think about it, and realize that you have too, nodding your head to the beat. in a corner, a young man is reading one of your favorite books. you think about going to talk to him about it, but it looks like he’s reading the best part, and you can’t bring yourself to tear him away from the climax, so you smile to yourself, and think about rereading. you make eye contact with another regular patron, and smile, acknowledging your mutual love of the espresso, the location, that super cute barista (you know the one). oh, look– your barista, the one who totally doesn’t know of your epic crush, has made a heart in your latte art; calm down, calm down, it (probably) doesn’t mean anything.

so, while i’ve got your attention, think about this too– when you get your coffee to go, and run out the door to your busy life, you’re not only missing out on the amazing atmosphere of the cafe you’re leaving behind, but also making the coffeeshop experience for whomever queued behind you a little bit less amazing.

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