The Best Coffee Shops In Seattle image


The Best Coffee Shops In Seattle

Back away slowly from the green mermaid and head to one of these spots for caffeine.

Ah yes, the elephant in the room. We all know that Seattle is the coffee capital of the country. And yet, when folks visit from far and wide, they wait for an eternity outside the first Starbucks—which isn’t even the first Starbucks—to order the same burnt Pike Place blend you can find at any airport or suburban Target. The real coffee shops that define caffeinating in Seattle are little walk-up windows, iconic roasting operations, grungy lounges that double as vinyl stores, and spots where iced lattes are made with cocktail shakers and flavored with bitters. Check them out any time you want a macchiato that doesn’t come with caramel on top.


photo credit: Nate Watters



Capitol Hill

$$$$Perfect For:BreakfastCoffee & A Light BiteQuick Eats
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If we judged an espresso bar solely on how much Dr. Frasier Crane would appreciate it, Vivace is enough to make the man shout, “Life is a banquet!” But this isn’t just a Capitol Hill pinkies-up spot trapped in the ‘90s—it’s definitively the best coffee shop in Seattle. That’s thanks to house-roasted beans, smooth ristretto pulls, and a deep dedication to the science behind using porcelain cups. Plus, a double-shot tastes just as fancy and rich as an iced mocha sloshed with chocolate sauce.

This rickety house and its wraparound porch is a Fremont staple, and the eternally creaking space is as iconic as their phenomenal coffee. In fact, if you haven’t spent a rainy afternoon in one of its tiny rooms sipping a cappuccino eight inches away from a complete stranger who’s reading a newspaper, you better make it happen. Fremont Coffee Company’s curated syrup combinations are always home runs—they aren’t sickly sweet, and have some nuance (like strawberry shortbread or raspberry cheesecake). You can also always count on the baristas to make fun foam art shapes like hearts, leaves, or skeleton heads. 

C&P is a giant house, too—but it feels more like a community center we never want to leave. At this West Seattle spot, there’s antique furniture, bookshelves, a living room with sofas and armchairs where regulars flip through newspapers, and a backyard garden that you might mistake for a Bainbridge Island summer home if not for the “poetry tree.” The espresso is all from Lighthouse Roasters and the pastries are all from Macrina, which is as classic of a duo as Hall & Oates or Tim Robinson and self-deprecating humor.

You can find hand tampers, steamer wands, and baristas who think they’re too cool for you at any Seattle cafe. But at Ghost Note, cocktail shakers are also part of their coffee-making toolkit. A lot of precision goes into their caffeinated drinks—as evidenced by a cold espresso infused with smoked grapefruit rosemary syrup and served neat in a coupe. We’re big fans of the malted mocha that comes with drinking chocolate and orange rind. But the greatest concoction is the espresso float. It’s essentially a creamy iced latte cut with local root beer. There isn’t much space to spread out, but a drink to go will be the best thing to happen to your car’s cup holder.

To be clear, Root is not quite a coffee shop. This corner spot is first and foremost a plant store (with suspiciously few plants) but they have a secret espresso counter in the back. We can’t vouch for the vitality of their monstera, but the coffee is the best in Ballard. Root’s menu is short and seasonal, which means you’ll find things like honey lavender lattes or orange vanilla bean shaken espressos in the summer, and warming rosemary syrup in the winter. Sitting at a minimalist-chic black table among the cacti and ferns here should increase your serotonin levels, while the expertly pulled coffee should…also increase your serotonin levels.

This place used to be La Marzocco Cafe, which hosted a different out-of-town coffee residency every month. Now, it’s just another Caffè Vita. Welcome to Seattle, we guess. But the charm remains—it’s a Space Needle-adjacent spot that’s perfect for getting work done and watching (and listening) to KEXP’s on-air shows that record mere feet away in a sound booth. Sure, that “cookie cereal milk latte slushy” is really a Frappuccino wearing a trench coat, and sometimes the espresso tastes a little bitter on an off day. But Queen Anne’s better for having this impeccably hip, lively place. If you get writer’s block while tapping away at that novel, buy some vinyl at the kiosk in the back, or count all of the beanies you see.

It doesn’t get much more Seattle than a hidden Pioneer Square alleyway espresso bar that shares space with a bike shop. And even though this narrow brick-covered room has barely any natural light, Heard is best used for a quick latte to go, or for slowing down on those moody winter mornings when the sky rotates between different shades of dark gray. They serve Anchorhead coffee, which is so reliably great that it’s on this guide, too.

Vietnamese coffee is a huge part of the Seattle caffeine situation, and Aroom serves the best of the bunch. You might mistake this Fremont shop for a luxury interior design firm, and we wouldn’t be surprised if that’s Aroom’s next venture. (The busy team also owns a nail salon.) The coffee here is very strong, which pairs well with more mellow toppings like salty foam, black sesame cream, or housemade coconut ice cream. Our favorite is the nutty cloud, a vegan peanut butter latte that tastes like what Cap’n Crunch would suck back before his thankless day steering a two-dimensional pirate ship. 

If you're looking for somewhere to get work done and/or phenomenal espresso in First Hill, URL is an oasis in a neighborhood full of hospitals. It has CB2 energy—the hygge-ness of natural wood and abstract paper lanterns make for a relaxing work session. Regardless of whether you're hanging out here or not, be sure to order the Walk To Work, a rich iced latte topped with a soft mound of cinnamon-dusted whipped cream. 

Boon Boona sources their coffee beans from Africa and roasts them in-house—the result is a rich, bold cup that will inspire you to change your commute in the morning. While their espresso is terrific as-is, they’ll often have a berbere-kicked mocha available. It’s earthy, a little spicy, and the perfect thing to sip all morning as you snack on an Umami Kushi okazupan and stroll around Capitol Hill. On a hot day, you can also find Boon Boona’s coffee steeped into popsicles at Seattle Pops

Monorail Espresso has been a classic since 1980, and this little walk-up window should be on your shortlist of Downtown coffee shops that make it worth spending time Downtown. While it’s best used as a quick stop before checking out the waterfront, there's a roomy picnic table set up right in the middle of the sidewalk for stalling those plans by 15 minutes. Just remember two things: they charge if you need directions (“Where is Nordstrom?” will run you $1.25) and don’t forget to order a chubbie—a cakey chocolate chip cookie the size of a tennis ball.

Cafe Red provides Seattle with a vegan coffee shop and a community space at Othello Station. They also provide Seattle with one of the greatest caffeinated inventions in the city: Oatnilla. It’s not complicated—cold brew, oat milk, and vanilla—but the combination of the three elements in a huge takeout jug is so thirst-quenching and silky that we’d slug it Big Lebowski-style out on the spacious back patio. (They also serve the stuff in regular cups should you forgo a half-gallon.) Their beans are Costa Rican and are sourced from Fulcrum, a great Denny Triangle coffee shop.

On any given weekday morning, the corner of Roosevelt and NE 88th is so packed that it might as well be Capitol Hill Block Party. Instead of Charli XCX, Remi Wolf, or a DJ who shrouds their identity with a silly helmet, the people are there for Cloud City in Maple Leaf. The crowd spills out onto their makeshift sidewalk-parking-lot patio—hungover adults, families with their dogs, and so very many strollers. But is it worth the wait and floating pet dander? Yes. Cloud City’s homemade roast is some of the best coffee north of Lake Union. We look forward to the seasonals—like pumpkin spice lattes that don’t taste like Home Goods, or a black sugar-spiked doubleshot in the summer that feels like your soul is dancing the Electric Slide. 

Every time we step inside Santo, we get the sudden urge to become real estate agents just so we can take client meetings here. Maybe it has something to do with the black marble bar, green velvet sofas, and floor-to-ceiling windows. But it also has something to do with the serious espresso they serve. This Roosevelt spot is partly owned by Fredy Montero of the Seattle Sounders, so the beans are exclusively sourced from Colombia. The resulting coffee drinks are stellar, whether you’re in the mood for a cortado or the panela—a latte with sugar cane and orange bitters that tastes excellent scalding hot or on the rocks. 

Empire might seem like it’s just a Columbia City coffee shop inside of a narrow renovated garage, but it’s so much more: they have a lounge and record shop upstairs, a virtually silent rooftop patio up some more stairs, and standout coffee that pairs well with both their homemade date cashew milk and shopping for vinyl. We’re also big fans of their made-to-order belgian waffles.

photo credit: Erin Lodi


There are over 800 different drive-thru coffee windows around Seattle. So what makes KJ’s, a seemingly random Pinehurst shack, special? For starters, their Caffé D'arte espresso is always perfectly stiff. The milk-to-coffee ratios are scientifically precise, whether we’re talking about a soy latte or a nitro with pistachio-spiked cold foam. And even though KJ’s possesses every Torani and Monin pump on Earth, nothing’s too sweet, rightfully letting the espresso shine. North Seattle can be a dead zone when it comes to coffee shops, so come here instead of resorting to the Starbucks inside of Safeway or the other Starbucks inside of the other Safeway.

We love this Filipino bakery in the International District for ube-flavored everything, like miniature cheesecakes, cookies, soft serve, and especially their sweet ube latte. You might just have to wait in line behind people trying to snap photos of the purple syrup swirling with espresso and milk. And if yam isn’t for you, Hood Famous serves other drinks like tangy calamansi espresso tonics, or iced pandan lattes.

Editor's Note: Due to an electrical fire, Good Voyage is closed indefinitely. You can find their Gofundme here.

By night, Good Voyage is a natural wine bar in South Park where you can discuss carbonic maceration with other people who know what that is. But by day, this dark cafe makes for a great morning coffee HQ. The menu involves a simple lineup of solid espresso drinks featuring Dorothea beans, and while not coffee-related, we highly endorse the occasional 9am Campari-spiked OJ with one of the city’s best breakfast sandwiches.

Cold brew is such an essential part of Seattle coffee culture that we’d gladly clutch a frosty glass of the stuff while rain is spraying sideways onto our freezing red knuckles. For the best in town, Anchorhead Downtown is the place. You can choose between black, nitro, chocolate milk-splashed, or our favorite way to do it: the Honey Bunches Of Cold Brew. It’s stirred with burnt honey, cinnamon, maple syrup, and oat milk. If you aren’t a coffee fan, well, we don’t know why you read this far. But Anchorhead’s pistachio milk matcha latte is a grassy, nutty drink that’s as gulpable as anything espresso-based.

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photo credit: Erin Roberts

The Best Coffee Shops In Seattle image