Barista-turned-owner of Seattle’s oldest coffee house
The motto at Café Allegro has always been “we’re more than coffee,” says co-owner Kate Robinson. “Our community is everything to us; we wouldn’t be here slinging coffee everyday if it wasn’t for each person who walks through our doors.”
For over 45 years Café Allegro, nestled in the alley between University Way and 15th Avenue NE, has been the home-away-from-home for thousands of students, writers, poets, musicians, neighborhood folk, tourists, and the Seattle’s community at large, where customers are encouraged to get out of their comfort zones, share tables, talk to strangers, and open their minds to new experiences. It’s no wonder the atmosphere is as addictive as their onsite-roasted coffee. (Be sure to try their signature Allegro espresso—a doppio brewed over a white cardamom pod). Here, owner Kate Robinson shares what she loves most about her home city, what makes Café Allegro unique, and why coffee is so much more than just a morning routine.
What’s the best way to enjoy Cafe Allegro? Is there a particular order you recommend for a first timer?
When you walk into the cafe the first thing you’ll notice is our wall of windows that look out a busy European-like alleyway. Our space is an old converted mortuary garage with high ceilings, lots of old brick, and a giant wall filled with posters of upcoming community events. We have three seating rooms to enjoy your cup of coffee. The front room is often bustling with energy and is the go to spot for new comers to enjoy a cup of coffee and people watch. Walk through a small hallway and you’ll find our side room filled with old church pews and a unique colorful restroom; this room is often filled with studying students and is a great space to read a book. If you go outside, you’ll find a hidden door that leads to our upstairs space which houses our coffee roastery as well as an outdoor seating area that overlooks the alleyway.
For first timers we recommend ordering an Allegro espresso, a doppio brewed over a white cardamom pod. Originally from our 1975 menu we had to discontinue the drink when cardamom seeds became too expensive; thankfully prices are back to normal and last year we welcomed the drink back to our menu. We also recommend a cortado for those who like milk based drinks or our house made cold brew, available to take home by the growler.
At Cafe Allegro you roast your own beans, what’s special and unique about your roast?
We take pride in making our coffee approachable. There are so many available options now a days from all the different third wave coffee companies it can often be confusing and overwhelming for folks to choose. We try to make it simple by roasting a couple blends that are available year so folks can rely on having their favorite blend all the time. For those who are adventurous and want to try something new we feature a rotating single origin as well as a fundraiser blend, which proceeds going to a different charity each month. Our most popular blend is our Original Espresso roast, it’s what some would consider traditional Seattle style espresso, slightly sweet with a hint of smoke, it’s great as a stand alone espresso and even better when mixed with steamed milk.
Can you suggest three places that a coffee and food lover should visit in Seattle?
If you’re visiting Allegro and the UDistrict you can’t go wrong stopping in and grabbing a biscuit at Morsel for breakfast, a taco from Agua Verde for lunch (they rent kayaks too), and a vegan Thai from Araya’s Place for dinner.
Outside of the UDistrict you have to try UnBien for the best Cuban sandwiches, The Walrus and the Carpenter for fresh oysters, and Cafe Besalu for the most incredible croissants west of Paris.
How would you spend your dream day in Seattle?
Assuming it a sunny summer day, I’d grab an Americano and snack from Allegro and head down to Portage Bay and rent kayaks and tool around Lake Union checking out the views of downtown and Gasworks Park. After kayaking I’d hop on the lightrail and head up to Capitol Hill and check out the bookshelves of The Elliot Bay Book Company. I’d then grab sandwiches from HoneyHole on Pike and walk down to the waterfront Sculpture Park with its incredible views of the Olympic Mountains and the Puget Sound. After enjoying a sandwich feast at tshe park I’d head up to the Pike Place Market, watch some men throw some fish and take in the sights of the fresh flowers and crafts. After stopping into Beecher’s Handmade Cheese for a cheese sample I’d head up to the Radiator Whiskey, upstairs in the Corner Market building in Pike Place for happy hour.