When I said I was going to continue my search for charming coffee shops to work in on the Eastside (we've already covered north of Lake Union and Downtown Seattle, Queen Anne and Capitol Hill) I was told by those in the know that such gems were rarer than unicorns' teeth in an area dominated by the big coffee chains.
Well, it seems that unicorns may be getting more common, because here are ten Eastside coffee shops full of personality which will welcome you and your laptop with open arms.
A little off the beaten track at the back of the charming Gilman Village mall, the bustling indie coffee shop Issaquah Coffee Company is appealingly cozy with super friendly baristas. The coffee is from Stumptown, there is a wide selection of pastries, including gluten-free options from the Flying Apron, and the smoothies are also great. There are plenty of tables and open wifi, and seating on the pleasant outside deck in the summer months.
Situated in a soulless strip mall surrounded by Radio Shacks and Office Depots, Soul Food Coffee House in Redmond comes as a pleasant and welcome surprise. With a hippy vibe which wouldn't be out of place out on the islands, this is the place to come not just for great coffee from the Eastside's own Caffe Lusso - we loved the decaf - and the wide selection of tasty well-prepared snacks, but for all your Tarot, astrology and crystal needs. It's a quiet and spacious place with plenty of tables and squishy sofas, where you can enjoy the gentle hum of conversation, the sweet smell of incense and the reliable wifi.
Down Pour Coffee Bar, which ought to win prizes for its name alone, stands on an unassuming corner in the Bridle Trails neighborhood. There are plenty of tables, loads of window light, some comfy armchairs, very smiley baristas and a somewhat limited selection of pastries and breakfast sandwiches from Molly's and Little Rae's. The highlight, though, is the hard-to-find Sleepy Monk coffee (from Cannon Beach, Oregon) served in satisfyingly thick mugs. Oh and the grey clouds on the ceiling.
Bustling Caffe Rococo on pedestrianized Park Lane in the heart of downtown Kirkland, is the flagship location of small batch specialty roasters Rococo Coffee. The décor here is lovely and the walls lined with striking B/W portraits of their customers show where their priorities lie. The coffee is unsurprisingly delicious, there is an extensive choice of the company's loose leaf teas and they serve a good selection of pastries from Alki Bakery. This would be a good place to hang out before starting your Christmas shopping in Kirkland too.
When I asked my Facebook friends for their Eastside recommendations, Kirkland Zoka won hands-down. The formula is familiar from the Seattle Zokas - a big beautiful space with big beautiful windows, Zoka's excellent house-roasted coffee, knowledgeable baristas, plenty of tables, a good selection of baked goods and a busy convivial hum. Also in the Zoka tradition, the Kirkland location is open late. Kirkland Zoka is situated a couple of doors down from Lady Yum's amazing macaron shop, so it's easy to pick up a decadent treat to accompany your coffee.
Situated opposite the Kirkland Performance Center a little way from the center of Kirkland,St James Espresso is an excellent place for some focused work. There are lots of tables and outlets, plenty of window light, good wifi, excellent Caffe D'Arte espresso drinks, and plentiful parking nearby, but, probably due to its location, it's noticeably quieter than Kirkland's other options. This also makes it a great place for meetings, especially in the cozy couches next to the fireplace. The pastry options aren't extensive, but you could always stock up at the French Bakery, a couple of blocks away, beforehand.
Unlike many coffee shops, Urban COFFEE Lounge has a strong contemporary vibe to its décor, with polished concrete floors and counters, funky light fixtures and seriously sexy leather armchairs and couches. There are two Eastside locations, one in Kirkland and one in Juanita Village, where one of the world's friendliest baristas served us well-made Stumptown espresso drinks. They also have a wide selection of pastries to choose from including Molly's sandwiches and wobbly, eggy quiches. Plentiful tables, power outlets and big windows make this a great place to work, and wine and beer in the evenings is just an added bonus.
Bellevue is surprisingly still lagging behind other Eastside locations when it comes to a thriving indie coffee culture but Café Cesura in downtown Bellevue can compete with the best. It too has an urban vibe to its décor, while the double height ceilings and windows give it an airy ambiance, complemented by the calming lilac walls. Beautiful wooden tables, padded leather seats and plenty of outlets mean you can work in comfort. They serve well-made Caffe Lusso drinks, a selection of artisanal teas, a good range of pastries and a hearty breakfast sandwich.
Nestled amid the sterile skyscrapers of the Bravern in Bellevue, and close to the Bravern's fireplace if you want to sit outside with your drink, Vovito is a welcome oasis of good coffee, more substantial snacks, panini and, dangerously, gelato. There's also beer and wine at happy hour. The décor is a little soulless but the raised seating area at the back is a good place for a quiet meeting or some focused work, though it doesn't get very much natural light.
Tucked away in Old Bellevue, T'Latte is a homely little place, quiet and cozy, with comfortable seating, good wifi and not very busy. Its specializes in Asian teas and tea lattes, hence the name, and also has a long list of bubble teas. Since I'm not a great tea drinker, I stuck to a regular latte - they serve Café Vita espresso drinks - and was rewarded with one of the best coffees I've had since I began writing this series of roundups. They also serve a reasonable selection of pastries and have a good choice of macarons.