If the tongue-in-cheek staff bios, the colorful mission statement, or the laugh-filled video of its Bellevue store is any indication, Seattle Coffee Gear is run by happy folks. And why wouldn't it be? With two retail locations and a wealth of bright, accessibly written online resources, the company clearly loves coffee and has plenty of energy with which to share that passion. Should they choose, shoppers visiting the stores encounter interactive experiences. They can test over 80 espresso and coffee machine models, learn how to whip up the perfect latte, or put a leash around whatever floating cloud of frothed milk that they want to take home. The stores' new and refurbished gear ranges from simple electric kettles to restaurant-grade, multi-cup espresso machines. An on-staff team of technicians also maintains and repairs the machines that java fans bring in.
The story of Brown's Coffee Café begins in Europe during World War II, where the wartime experiences of Virgil Brown, owner Neal Brown's father, motivated him to seek a peaceful, provincial life. In the 1960s, Virgil moved the family to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia in search of this tranquil existence. But although the Brown clan found life on their 400-acre dairy farm fulfilling, the hard economic realities of dairy farming drove the family back to urban living.
Years later, when happenstance flung Neal into the world of coffee, his days on the farm filled him with sympathy for coffee farmers who harvested beans for menial wages, out of sight and out of mind for the coffee drinkers abroad enjoying the fruits of their labors. Neal therefore resolved that his shop would use only fair-trade beans that were free of chemicals and pesticides and capable of providing an honest wage to hard-working farmers. Eventually, like a popcorn kernel under an interrogation lamp, the café expanded, and it now includes a menu of chorizo burritos, cuban pulled-pork sandwiches, and other fare that represents the traditions of numerous nations, just as Neal's story does.
Great Harvest specializes in baking tasty delicacies and healthy, homemade breads ($4.50–$8.50 per loaf) that are high in fiber, free of preservatives, and crafted with freshly milled flour every day. The bread selection changes each day of the week according to a monthly schedule; previous offerings include golden honey wheat and Dakota bread. Gluten-free and high-protein breads are available in a variety of flavors, including gluten-free cinnamon-chip bread. For carb connoisseurs that prefer breaded delights that are easily juggled, Great Harvest bakes scones, muffins, cookies, cinnamon rolls, and bars.
Java Jane's plethora of gourmet beverages runs the drinkable gamut, from icy smoothies to steaming signature mochas. Begin a caffeinated patriot's ride down the gullet with a Roosevelt cheesecake mocha, with white chocolate and cheesecake and raspberry syrup constituting a unified liquid dessert ($2.80–$4.05), or celebrate simplicity with a Victorious vanilla latte ($2.80–$3.30). A Cuppa Joe ($1.50–$2) can get early-morning synapses to play nice, and one of four fruit smoothies ($3.65–$6.25), such as the strawberry banana yogurt or mango, keeps summer suns from overheating the head. Italian sodas ($1.55–$3.10) and iced Americanos ($1.55–$2.05) round out the on-ice lineup.
The city of Seattle is speckled by pho joints, each one serving its own rendition of the beloved belly-warming noodle soup. However, Le's Phở Tái remains a cut above the competition with its commitment to using locally grown ingredients and creating flavorful broth. Chefs begin the process of preparing the beef stock more than 20 hours before the soup hits the table, setting beef bones and spices to boil in order to procure what reporters from Journal Magazine praised as "exceptional flavor". Once the broth is ready, the chefs add thin vermicelli noodles along with cuts of tender beef, fresh seafood, and crisp veggies. They serve the soup in massive bowls alongside plates of bean sprouts and jalapeno slices.
When chefs aren't cooking pho, their attention is absorbed in the preparation of other Vietnamese specialties—chewy spring rolls, tangy teriyaki dishes, and bahn mi sandwiches with barbecue meats and french bread. Servers carry these dishes out into the warm, casual dining room, along with glasses of sweet iced-milk coffee and refreshing coconut juice. The accommodating staffers encourage guests to call ahead to place food orders for faster service, particularly if they have to speed back home to make sure their cats don't start scratching the Bruce Willis statue they’ve been sculpting out of peanut butter.
At locations dotted all over the Pacific Northwest, Black Rock Coffee Bar’s baristas dazzle patrons' taste buds with their simple and elaborate coffee creations. Served in ink-black cups emblazoned with their understated lowercase logo and red stars, their hot drinks range from brewed coffee to chai-tea lattes to flavored mochas. The baristas infuse the mochas with extras—including white chocolate and caramel to create the caramel blondie and hazelnut to concoct the blackout mocha, which, unfortunately, will not make you black out for the entire workday. On the chilly side of the menu, their blended drinks include shake-like delights made sweeter with Oreos, mint chips, and chai, as well as smoothies and icy coffee granitas.