CoffeeBeer >> Double Shot Buzz >> Previous Coffee Columns >> Counter Culture Cafe
From outside and inside the Counter Culture Café suggests a real neighborhood place. Outside it's situated on one of the more interesting blocks of Belltown, with the Crocodile Cafe and Mama's Mexican Kitchen across the street and some of Seattle's more colorful street people just around the corner. The cafe inside is irresistably neighborly, from the friends of the barista who stop in at regular intervals to the grandmotherly person working in the back, not to mention the wheezing, belching old lady in stocking cap who jiggles her foot nervously while she sips her latte. The cafe is very small inside, a cozy living room with textured yellow walls, a couch and coffee table here, two inviting easy chairs at another coffee table over there, and two more comfy chairs against that wall -- oh yeah, and don't forget the 1950s yellow diner table over on that wall. In the remaining spaces are bookshelves full of books, newspapers and magazines strewn about and, most importantly, a small statue of Rodin's The Thinker watching over everything. (And, like all inviting living rooms, no goddamn TV!) Simple still life paintings hang on the wall, a paper lantern decorates one corner, and everything seems perfectly set in a rough room which looks like somebody's bohemian uncle's combination home and coffeehouse. In fact, there's a door Grandma keeps going in and out of that looks like it leads to where Uncle John must live. (Uncle John was my most Bohemian uncle when I was growing up, but he's gone now, as are all my uncles except for my famous Uncle Tom, the Bay Area's resident globetrotting blacksmithing contra-dancing birdwatching kilt-wearing trainchasing necropolis-roving industrial archaeologist, renegade heating and refrigeration engineer, and accordion aficionado -- in other words, sort of a Harry Tuttle meets John James Audubon with a touch of Casey Jones and John Waters thrown in. But I suppose everybody has an uncle like this, don't they? Well, don't they?)
My double short cappuccino was served in a beautiful shiny black cup, a bit on the large side but so nicely shiny and black I'll excuse the oversize. It was sitting on a matching shiny black saucer and was accompanied by a nice demitasse spoon. Yes, a spoon! So many cafes have been missing this important espresso accessory, I'd almost come to think of it as an expected oversight. So what a pleasure to once again find a place that offers a tiny spoon with one's cappuccino. The dryish bubbly foam looks so intensely white in the black cup, it's as if it were bleached. The espresso itself isn't the best -- strong enough, it seems, but a bit on the sour side. Ah, well, can't have everything. Counter Culture also serves pastries and breakfast along with a few sandwiches. (I couldn't help noticing the grilled cheese sandwich on the menu -- sounds really good right now!)Ah, I just noticed there, among the floral still lifes on the wall, a painting of a pumpkin -- a small, mysterious pumpkin with an interesting history, a secret, dark past. Do pumpkins have private lives? Do gourds in general? I'll bet a 100-pound acorn squash has a lot of stories to tell...
I can't believe how comfortable and cozy Counter Culture is. On this visit it was a bit overheated; but it was a particular cold day, and I was wearing a lightweight top under a warm coat, so I felt perfect -- in fact, I could have stayed in there forever, sleeping in my soft, comfy easy chair. I liked the barista, too; she put out some leftover Halloween candy and was complaining that she hates chocolate -- "it tastes like crap!" My sentiments exactly in regards to milk chocolate. And then she said she likes only good chocolate, which obviously would be the wonderfully dark, bittersweet stuff. Yes, I agree! (Sorry, you milk chocolate junkies, but I just can't say anything kind about that, um, stuff...)
Sitting in this living room makes me want to go in the kitchen and make myself a snack. How about one of those grilled cheese sandwiches? Or maybe a bowl of cereal? Speaking of which, here's more e-mail from earlier this year about cereal:A couple weeks ago, in the interest of broadening my cereal horizons, I decided to add a box of Oatios to our morning selection. I went to Rainbow Grocery with the original intention of buying some Kamutios (pronounced, wonderfully enough, Kah-MOOT-eeohs). But when I read the ingredients they sounded like they might be a bit sweet. So I went for the Oatios.