Located: 411 15th Ave East
Location: Backside of Capitol Hill
Parking: Street Parking
When I think of good coffee joints in Seattle, I think of Victrola on 15th Avenue in Capitol Hill. (They also have a couple of more locations in the city). I had a positive impression of Victrola on 15th long before I even had the opportunity to visit the place because several people highly recommended them to me. So I visited as soon as I could, with high expectations.
Although I am not a regular, I have been there around 15 -17 times (or more) over the last couple of years and plan on more visits in the future. It’s located in a great neighborhood, with one of my favorite restaurants a few doors down, Coastal Kitchen.
Overall, the ambiance of Victrola is pretty mellow and conducive to good conversations, working solo, or reading a good book, all while looking out on to the rain. It’s neat and tidy Art Deco design and the variety of wall art gives it a clean but non-corporate feel. They’ve recently made some design changes to create more space and are now piping in music tunes to upgrade the bathroom experience, which was well thought out. (A large back room would be able to hold a dozen more people)
If you’re looking for a great place to catch up with a friend or you need to get some work done, both are realistic here. The music's not too loud, so voices don't have to be raised to accomplish intimate conversations which makes it easier to focus on my laptop rather than than the visuals inspired by the recounting of last night's one-night-stand from the adjacent table.
The place brings in a wide variety of people; a veritable cross-sections of Seattle’s community. This, in my book, is always a desirable feature. If the place is too cliquish, and I find myself either uncomfortable because I don't fit in, or uncomfortable because I do and I can't stand being surrounded by my clones.
Victrola’s baristas seem pretty friendly – some more so than others – but considering the amount of patrons they have coming through, I don’t think I would be able to personally pull off a smile if I stood on the other side of the counter looking back at a line full of impatient coffee addicts waiting for their fix. No – these guys are pretty cool and I always appreciate that. If you’re looking for pretentious baristas, this isn’t the place for you (but return to this blog later, I'll cover those, too). These guys are straight up friendly, patient, and helpful.
If you come in the afternoon, they serve a few bottled beers (like Bear Republic Racer 5). This seems to be the latest trend around town over the last few years: offering downers (alcohol) with the uppers (caffeine). They also stock sodas and have a couple of decent snack options like veggie melts and muffins.
Overall, a reliable place to get a satisfying cup of coffee, a great place to work, wonderful service, and an excellent place to meet up with friends.
*A previous, shorter version was published in April 2012.