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For librarians headed to ALA Midwinter in Seattle, may I strongly suggest NO STARBUCKS. As a general rule, this is expected of the resident. For the visitor, abstaining for one day is good enough.
Instead, as a Seattle native, I recommend a 10-minute walk (probably in the rain) to indulge a few of Seattle’s many superlative and nearby–the–Convention-Center cafés, located along the E. Pine/E. Pike St. corridor in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Take a couple of hours respite from ALA panels and meetings. Wake up your mind and rejuvenate your ideas with a new colleague on a neighborhood café crawl. Seattle won’t disappoint you with its special brew, and the people have a way of sitting still and looking charmed in their local café that you won’t see again after you leave.
Start by walking northeast on Pike St. toward E. Pine St. toward your destination, Bauhaus Books and Coffee (301 E. Pine St.), where you’re told, “take a book and tune out.” This landmark café defines one kind of Seattle vibe. While you wait and if you are without reading material, feel free to pick up a book (they’re everywhere) from the Bauhaus’s wall-lined shelves or casually watch the barista craft a cappuccino.
You’ll have time to ruminate—your mood right now is as temperate as the Olympic rainforest, which on a clear day you’re able to view from the Bauhaus, and being only a ferry ride plus 30 miles away by car there’s nothing but a fool keeping you inland. When “hanging out” turns into idleness, grab your book and/or your peers and continue east on E. Pine until you reach Stumptown (616 E. Pine St.), once a personal favorite, and home to an original espresso “bar” feel (my mouth is salivating). Find a seat at the window, or if the drizzle isn’t a bother, sit outside and watch the laissez-faire gaits of Seattleites who saunter past—Capitol Hill is home to Seattle’s quirkiest personalities, all of them spectacular.
Since you’re really so close, you should continue east on E. Pine and cross Broadway. Take a right onto Tenth Ave. where Seattle’s legendary Elliott Bay Book Company (1521 Tenth Ave.) now lives. Take your time browsing the cedar shelves that hold over 150,000 titles. Read the staff picks spread across one-third of the southwest-facing wall—they’re numerous and among them you’re guaranteed to find a gem: this may be a book or it may be the staff’s recommendation. Seattle is brimming with writers moonlighting as booksellers.
If you’ve started to feel an unsettling fatigue, aka caffeine crash, no need to panic—Seattle loves to eat and to eat well. Next door to Elliott Bay Book Co. is the fairly newly opened (2008) Odd Fellows Café (1525 Tenth Ave.), offering a healthy selection of food and beverages, not limited to regular and/or decaf. The menu itself reflects neighborhood pride as all products are “sustainable, organic, and humane”—plus 90 percent of the furnishings are made from recycled materials. Okay, Empire State, your recycling program is looking dim, and I own an umbrella now.
After you’re sated and finished with your free-range bison burger, sunflower salad, and a cup of wild asparagus soup (menu is editor’s, not Odd Fellows), wash your palate with another shot of flavorful fair-trade, and glance outside to see if it stopped raining. One may get used to this rhythm.
To complete the crawl and what I hope turns out be a sort of sunny afternoon, walk south to E. Pike St., turn left, and enter the friendly and often very crowded with regulars Caffe Vita (1005 E. Pike St.). Vita baristas are super-Seattle savvy, and similar to their Hill counterparts they tend to refrain from chitchat. As you ingest what may be your final shot(s), notice the caramel-colored crema: what shape has the barista poured into your porcelain cup? With the afterglow of fine espresso you steadily descend the Hill—the rain will persist no matter how much you beg. You’ll return to the Convention Center with new books and heightened attention, however desperate for clarity under the clouds—the crawl has made you feel clean, sharp, and coolly observant.