Calling all Trekkies and D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) fans, Distant Worlds Coffeehouse is a delightfully geeky, sci-fi-themed coffee shop in the U-District and city-wide gathering place for ‘geeks of all stripes.’ Owner Rebecca SerVoss took over the cafe formerly known as Wayward Coffeehouse two years ago and has since put her own spin to create the nerdy cafe of your dreams.
A rendering of the serenity, the name for the spaceship from the short-lived but much-loved sci-fi show Firefly is still painted on the back wall from the Wayward days, but there’s “no half-naked chicks or swooning,” as SerVoss puts it, referencing classic book covers and sexualized renderings of women in science fiction. Instead, she chooses to promote inclusive nerdom by incorporating sci-fi merch and memorabilia with POC characters and empowered female characters all over the shop. Her quest for inclusivity extends to the menu, which boasts many vegan and vegetarian options, including a vegan white chocolate mocha. She also keeps a completely nut-free establishment for those with allergies.
SerVoss describes her shop as a “caffeinated speakeasy.” Tucked inside a cluster of small businesses, one might not know the cafe is there, but for the bold black block letters spelling out COFFEE along the entryway wall of the cafe that can be seen from the busy intersection of 65th and Roosevelt. The mural acts as a bat signal for the caffeine-deprived. Inside, Herkimer Espresso makes up the base for a slew of specialty drinks inspired by geeky favorites, like the Tardis, a blueberry Irish cream latte, and a nod to Doctor Who, or the Sorting Hat Latte with caramel and hazelnut that celebrates everyone’s favorite wizard, Harry Potter.
The cafe is spacious with an eclectic mix of furniture to get comfortable in and spend the afternoon playing one of the dozens of board games provided or do some remote work.
“It’s cool to stay here for three hours, this can be your basecamp, your home away from home," says SerVoss. Local artists sell their geeky art, like Rick and Morty prints on the expansive walls of the cafe under the glow of Edison bulbs. SerVoss even customized many of the tables in the shop, refinishing the tops with sci-fi-themed collages, from an Analog magazine table with covers of the sci-fi magazine mosaiced on top, to a Magic: The Gathering table tiled with the popular playing cards.
The cafe has also become home to a number of food pop-ups. Before becoming a coffee shop owner, SerVoss was the owner of The Shrubbery, her small business making homemade shrubs, which she sold out of farmers’ markets. Through the farmers’ market circuit, she befriended other small food businesses in Seattle and when the pandemic hit, she reached out to see how she could help their businesses impacted by farmers’ market closures. Soon friends like Pie Bird and 9th & Hennepin had set up pop-ups to sell their wares out of Distant Worlds. Now every weekend there is a new pop-up slated and a community bake-off hosted every fourth Sunday with Lá Liath Bakery.
When pop-ups aren’t in the shop, SerVoss is cooking up a wide array of treats to fill the pastry case, like savory vegan hand pies with chorizo-spiced mushrooms, black beans, and fajita veggies, to the smoky vegan breakfast sandwich with eggplant bacon and a tahini harissa spread. SerVoss sources ingredients for her drinks and food from small makers, and locally when possible, like jams from Girl Meets Dirt in the San Juans.
In every aspect of the cafe, SerVoss is celebrating not only sci-fi in popular culture but honors what the genre stands for.
“A thread of science fiction is standing up for what’s right, for humanity,” SerVoss says. By using her shop to support others, from pop-up chefs to local artists, to local geeks looking for a community, SerVoss emanates humanity through Distant Worlds.