Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cortona Cafe: Seattle: Capitol Hill/Central District

I woke up at my friend's place in Capitol Hill, eager to try Seattle coffee for the first time. I headed to the closest coffee shop to him, Cortona Cafe. When you walk in, the front looks kind of ghetto and is swarming with flies. Ignore them. It turns out they're everywhere in Seattle.

I asked for a double espresso, having not seen the "one size" by the espresso and macchiato on the menu. So I asked for a double and he said okay and proceeded to make me the one size he was going to make.


Espresso - $2.25
 But it's thick beautiful, rich, bitter, dirty espresso, so okay. Better than the stuff I've had in NYC, Austin, Toronto or Nashville? Not yet. I would eventually, during the course of my Seattle coffee tour, learn that all the good places use a ristretto (restricted) method of espresso pulling, a finer grind with a shorter brewing time that gets you a higher flavor:caffeine ratio. You'll typically end up with 1-1.5 ounces with your double ristretto, as opposed to the 2 ounce you'd get at a less connoisseur-ish coffee shop. I now realize what I wanted was a quadruple ristretto.

Blueberry Turnover -
I should've gotten the mixed berry that looked a lot better, with some sort of crumble on top, but then I got blueberry because I like blueberries. Next time I'm going with what looks best, with slightly less regard to what flavors I prefer. 


I could've gotten a better scone out of the freezer at a Safeway (it was a little dry and too sweet and just really simple), but the espresso was 9/10 (still holding out for earth-shattering espresso, which I was promised I'd find here!) My total was $5.15, and, when  I paid with a $20, he just have me back 15 even. I tipped him a quarter, hoping that was cool. It's a cute, sort of generous, who cares about change attitude, but then I can't just give him my change. I suppose I was supposed to give him a whole dollar, but he gave me back a $10 and a $5, so he was out of luck there.

Their coffee dressing bar included Stevia, Splenda, sugar, simple syrup, and honey. There's a self-bussing tub to the right of the door.

There's a restroom downstairs and marked "WC,"  which makes me smile not only because Americans affecting Britishisms is inherently adorable but because "WC" always makes me think of this story, which was originally read to me by one of my sixth grade teachers whom I swear to god taught no math or science, simply switching off between reading books to us and having the whole class take long personality tests to figure out our personality colors, animals, etc. The WC was a single and a nice one.

They also have a bunch of board games on a shelf for the playing. Also, apparently in this part of the country it's typical to have soy and rice milk as options, based on this being the case in the two coffee shops I've visited thus far. Also, at the airport, they give the shuttle instructions in English and then in Japanese here! How cool is that?!

Then you can walk upstairs to an area with seven tables (six of them 1-2 seaters, one of them an up to 6), where it seems to be an unwritten rule that everyone works silently on whatever they're doin with their free wifi, 66 degrees outside, 78 upstairs somehow. The diversity of age and race up there was pretty awesome. Three white (plus me), one Indian, one Asian, age approximations: 23, 24, 36, 46, 52 (plus me 25).

The next day I had my Americano 8 oz, but I didn't get nearly the flavor profile there. I had a broccoli cheese quiche that the barista (a different one, a woman today) very kindly offered to warm up, which she did, saying that if it wasn't warmed up in the middle she's be more than happy to heat it up more. It wasn't warm in the middle, but it was so bland my friend and I didn't even care what temperature it was. Nothing was going to help this worthless quiche. The crust had some rich, flaky potential, but the rest of it was bland mush. They don't have hot sauce, so there was nothing to do to help it.

If you're going to get food there, you should probably stick with the empanadas from some local woman or the Belgian waffles they pop out at Cortona for $7.50, including: tiramisu, strawberry-Nutella, banana-pecan, and more, with some vegan options available. Some of their pastries are vegan too, and they have a $6.50 vegan hummus plate, though I imagine that's silly and pointless to order here.

Cortona Cafe on Urbanspoon

Espresso Rating - 9/10 - $2.25

Americano - 7/10 -  $2.50 You can get your Americano any size you want for this price since it's going to have that same double ristretto shot no matter what size you get.