Coffee Cruises Seattle: An Update

Last June we published our exclusive coffee guide to Seattle, a blatant homage to Tom Wolfe entitled “Chief Sealth, Tiny Mummies, And The Coffee City of Yesterday…Today!” It was a feature that hit close to home, for let the historians never forget that Sprudge.com began in Seattle; birthed in the Stumptown Coffee space on Pine Street, and raised through its awkward stage in Odd Fellows Cafe, Trabant, Pony, and apartments in Wallingford and Capitol Hill. Our initial Seattle feature was met with wide praise (some of it from unlikely sources), and that’s why we’re pleased to bring you an update to our Sprudge Guides Seattle, featuring two brand new and noteworthy entries on the Seattle coffee scene and a fancy pants restaurant doing specialty coffee as well as anywhere else in the world. Read on.

Milstead & Co.

Part and parcel with The Lewontin Theory of Seattle small business economics, Andrew Milstead’s pantheon to specialty coffee underwent a literally unfathomable duress of delays, red tape, and bureaucratic King County bullshit prior to finally opening in time for Seattle Coffee Fest 2011. Both arms of Sprudge visited well after the C-Fest hubbub had died down, and left with a handful of impressions on Milstead & Co., the most ambitious new cafe to open in Seattle in a long, long time. We wound up so impressed, we awarded Milstead & Co. a coveted Sprudgie Award for Best New Cafe.

First things first, all of the coffees we’ve had at Milstead & Co. has been solid, bordering on delicious, or downright delightful. Coffees tasted included several Guatemalans from Stumptown served as espresso, various Aeropresses from Coava, and a rare off-menu chance to try Kenyan coffee from Market Lane, in Melbourne. Shots of single origin espresso have thus far been complex, unique and exemplary – for a cafe that lives and dies by its SOE offerings, Milstead has the alchemy down.

Milstead & Co are doing a laudable job of handling their multi-roaster identity. You’ll see a Stumptown sprinter van parked outside, and notice the cluster of Starbucks Roy Street apparatchiks gaggling around the front bar. Milstead is currently offering (or at least displaying) an array of coffees from Stumptown, Heart, Coava, and Intelligentsia. One gets the feeling that a great many very special coffees make their egress and ingress through the front doors of Milstead & Co. on a weekly basis, a fact that should not be overlooked by those unfamiliar with the reality of Seattle coffee, which is as curiously cloistered as it is tres moderne.

All that to say, it should be noted that the cafe itself is just enormous. You could stage a bullfight inside of Milstead & Co., or open a full cast production of “H.M.S. Pinafore”, or build your very own Boeing 747. It is an agoraphobe’s nightmare. Huge! Everything has this kind of ash-beige blonde wooden veneer, with an impossibly large cluster of high tables, high chairs, and metallic gleaming high bar seats clustered around a high front window. That high front window is the sweet spot, by the way, as it reduces the voluminous sweep of the place to a charming view of the lake, the bridge, and the assorted doings and goings of Fremont.

This is quite possibly the biggest non-roaster cafe we’ve ever seen – should at some point in the future Mr. Milstead seek to try his hand at roasting, he’ll have ample room in his current digs. It’s a testament to interior design, then, that Milstead & Co. doesn’t feel forbidding or cold. There’s a truly epic assortment of vintage treasures arranged behind the front bar. The cache of gear for sale towards the South window of the shop is as good as any we’ve seen. Andrew Milstead’s attention to detail is evident in a recent months-long collaboration with LA-based artist Chris Turnham, whose coffee plant art adorns the walls, with limited edition prints available for sale. A gorgeous shared outdoor seating area just longs for those clean, late Seattle summer nights. There is so much promise here.

Go and visit Milstead & Co. as soon as you possibly can. Let Andrew himself recommend you a coffee flight; order multiple things, and put your trust in him. For the wide array of coffee he offers, there is a careful sense of curatorial playfulness afoot here to rival any multi-roaster in America.

Analog Coffee

On the exact opposite end of the spacial spectrum from Milstead & Co., there is Analog Coffee, a quaint little space on Summit in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Like a magic eye puzzle, the interior of Analog reveals itself as your eyes adjust to the fuzzy warmth of the space. The vibe here is provisionally Nordic: a single low wood table by the front left window, buttressed by curved bench seating; high chairs at a sparse counter in the front right; a simple wooden hanging menu; huge metallic heating and fan implements potted plants dominating their rightful place in cafe’s canopy, and a softly angled front counter framing a wide entryway. That open front space is keenly reminiscent of Cafe Peddar in Carrol Gardens, Brooklyn, but with a much softer attitude and color palate. Opaque, muted eggshell tones abound, nowhere with more understated grace than on Analog’s White-Out white Synesso Hydra, outfitted with digital timer displays on each grouphead.

Analog serves Herkimer Coffee, a Seattle roaster almost entirely unknown outside the Northwest. (In discussing this feature, Sprudge mentioned Herkimer to a [very] prominent figure in American specialty coffee; he had never heard of them.) Herkimer is not perfect – the “About” copy on their website, for starters – but we’ve had interesting, chimerical experiences with their coffee in the past. It can be surprisingly delicious from time to time, and knowledgeable Seattleites have been known extoll Herkimer’s virtues. You can taste it at Analog. The shots we tried were fine, but the cups of V60 brewed coffee – Herkimer’s Tanzania Ruvumana, in particular – were unexpectedly piquant.

Open 5 months and still entirely owner-operated, it’s the little details as much as the coffee that make Analog stand out. Vintage speakers at a dedicated vinyl nook behind the counter, an antique Sony reel to reel TC-366 in the restroom, a thin rail of a standing counter space running along the south wall, piles of comic books on the aforementioned ash-blonde front table…the overall effect is, in a word, charming, and a worthy new addition to the Seattle cafe scene.

Canlis

Our full write-up of the coffee service at Canlis is available here.

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