I’m in Seattle a few times a year for work, usually spending a weekend in the convention center, so I’ve passed Monorail Espresso a dozen or more times, and always been intrigued by the line down the block. But I’m usually running to the convention center, with about three seconds to spare, and Seattle is a city with great coffee everywhere. Caffe D’arte, and Cafe Dilettante both stand out in a sea of Starbucks.
Monorail Espresso is an unassuming coffee window on Pike Street, between 5th and 6th. Even early on a Sunday morning, there were a couple of people in line ahead of me. When I got to the front of the line, ready to order my skim hazelnut cappuccino, the owner completely disarmed me by asking how my morning was going and talking about tango.
In my native Brooklyn, we snap out the order first, and the barista snaps out the total, we nod and go on our ways, mutually prioritizing efficiency. Meanwhile, when I’m in Chapel Hill, I have to brace myself for stream of inane questions and banal observations on the weather until I am begging the barista to please stop talking and start making a coffee. I don’t know what to do with human warmth AND coffee-making efficiency together.
And the coffee! It’s strong and not bitter, a tough combination to find. I started with my go-to drink, a skim hazelnut cappuccino, and then came back every day to try a different coffee. I am an unabashed fan of flavored and foamy coffee drinks, partly because I can make a cup of coffee at home, but I can’t make my own pumpkin pie latte or mocha frapp. I loved everything I tried, and everything was made with the same efficiency and friendliness and strong, fresh coffee.
Monorail Espresso is between 5th and 6th on Pike. To find Monorail Espresso, take Pike Street between the convention center and Pike’s Place Market. and don’t be deterred by the line. It’s worth it.
520 Pike Street
Seattle, WA 98101