The Capitol (Hill) of Coffee

Zigzag Black

Crossing the border back into the States felt like waving farewell to a cousin you know you won’t see again until the next family wedding or funeral. We slid around the Peace Arch of ‘cousinhood’ just before sliding into the Blaine, WA Marine Park. We pulled over to reconcile ourselves to a foreign shore, and send a wistful glance back across the bay.

We headed for Seattle on a driving tour of Grand and Noble Firs, Vine Maples, Western White Pines. Early September didn’t bother with modesty on our account. Mount Rainier shot up like our North Star, and the leaves seemed to turn just as we passed by. We can’t entirely claim to be wanderers – wanderers don’t need a destination. But how or when we arrived mattered less than it ever had; our only obligation to breathe in as hard as we could and soak in the soul in the air.

Our place in the city was an airbnb jem, promising a minimalist, urban retreat. The clean modernism dotted with bohemian comforts served as an appetizer for the serious attention to quality that is unique to such localized culture.

With hip Capitol Hill in our temporary backyard and 2.5 days to see, eat, and feel everything our feet could take us to, we elected a list of musts. Which revolved entirely around our stomachs. And perhaps making a stop or two from Kinfolk’s City Guide. But roaming directionless through neighborhoods in our sneakers never fails, so we hit the sidewalks. The sidewalks looked like an endangered species on residential streets, squeezed on both sides by life forms too numerous and alien to name.

You can hardly walk a mile in Seattle without physically running into a cup of something caffeinated. I anticipated sleepless nights for love of Ethiopian, Costa Rican, and Guatemalan flavors. Our first sipping stop led us to Milstead and Co. in Fremont, one of Seattle’s favorite neighborhoods. The 115 year-old reclaimed wood table-tops and cast-iron bake case, numbered among other odes to antiquity, foretold what we were about to taste. One sultry little dark thing, no more than 6oz high and a tall, dark, and handsome iced toddy. I marked mine with cream and regrettable zeal, transforming its bitter honesty into a cloud of luscious compromise. Too late to apologize, too delicious to regret.

Already lusting for more, we snuck back to 10th Avenue, where no one would know we had already thrown back a few. Our hearts were set on brunch at Oddfellows Cafe, the self-pronounced “living room” of the corridor-like streets jutting off from the more bustling Pike & Pine. A homey ageness dominated the fixtures floor to ceiling, like a semi-preserved gallery of Americana. We seated ourselves in a far corner to swing our perspective wide and full, then took up the chore of choosing just one slice of the menu. One of the Fellows recommended “the best fruit bowl in Seattle,” and so it was. The juiciest local raspberries, blackberries, peaches and crisp apples, generously topped with mint, honey, and walnuts. We hastily tacked on a flaky homemade biscuit the size of our combined stomachs, stuffed with plump scrambled eggs, provolone and smoked ham. If you aren’t already making your reservations, you should be.

In our brief tour of the city, we shuffled through Fremont, Wellington, Pioneer Square, and countless other small pockets of distilled culture. After traveling at such an intense pace, we meditated on the life we encountered. Absent from our glimpse of Seattle was the hustle so pervasive in city life. The people reflected the mountains they moved beneath. In a hushed awe they floated from brew to task, and back again, generating some of the finest food and drink on the Pacific Coast.