Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ode to Ding Dongs, and the Seattle Coffee Shops of My Dreams

There was a time that the neighborhoods of Seattle felt a little like Southeast Portland does now. When I was in college, Capitol Hill was this area with cute houses and apartment buildings, vintage clothing stores and independent coffee shops every few blocks. But these were the coffee houses of the 90s-- mismatched vintage furniture, open at night. They were where I learned to love lattes and scones (and later paid for it), and how to read under low lighting over a loud and crackly stereo system. The espresso tasted sublime to me then (mostly Caffe Vita and Vivace) and the pastries were satisfying but not ambitious. Leafy trees covered most of their windows to provide just enough of a mid-page distraction. My favorite coffee shop back then, and still today when I return, is Bauhaus on Pine Street.

About half way down the hill between Broadway and downtown, its floor-to-ceiling windows stretch two stories. Sitting at a table on the second floor, you're treated to a view of the iconic Space Needle, perfectly framed. The place is almost exactly as it was ten years ago – black walls and tables, two stories of library-style bookshelves, loud music, free alternative newspapers and a chalkboard menu listing the coffee drinks, Kool-Aid and Ding Dongs. The way those Ding Dongs were wrapped individually in foil and stacked on a cake stand inside the pastry case was timeless, and too tempting to resist. Their presence seemed both rebellious and retro in that dark space.

Like so many places that I developed a fondness for in Seattle, I just found out that the building’s been sold to a developer, and Bauhaus will soon be no longer, making way for condos and other commercial development. The thing about those developments that have changed Capitol Hill are that they destroy all of the character that made people want to live in the area in the first place, replacing cozy coffee shops with cold chains. Huh. I just read that the shops's tagline is: "brilliant. and less cold than elsewhere." Get your Ding Dongs and your free views while you can.

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