Empire Espresso is Seattle’s Columbia City’s newest coffeehouse. This place is that I discovered while I was temporarily living in Columbia City. I was also able to check out the ground offerings from Columbia City Bakery and Tutta Bella, the Italian Pizzeria who also have an Italian espresso bar. Now for those of you know aware, Columbia City is not a city, but a neighborhood in Seattle, just east of Beacon Hill. I have talked to quite a few, even from the Seattle area, who have never even heard of Columbia City.
Empire is actually owned and run by a pretty cool chap called Tino. What is interesting about Empire is that when you first step into the place, you notice immediately that the place is a little different in terms of the interior design. On talking to Tino himself, I quickly found out that the place was actually designed by a team of architects… the same architects whose offices are in the same building, up stairs. Apparently the architects are also his parents too… so I am guessing he probably got a great rate for the design work.
Tino has been in coffee for a while now. In a past life he was a barista, and even worked as a bar tender at one time. But it was last year that he decided to strike out on his own and start his own coffeehouse in the area where he grew up, that is, Columbia City. In addition to his parents being close by, I believe he has quite a bit of family in the immediate area.
And who did he get to supply him with coffee? None other than Seattle Coffee Works’ Sebastian Simsch. I was happy to find a place in Seattle that serves Seattle Coffee Works coffee. It is a little unfortunate that the majority of the roasted coffee beans in Seattle are supplied by a few big names like Cafe Vita and Stumptown. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that their coffee is bad. What I am saying is that it becomes difficult to sample new and exciting roasts from some of the other smaller independent roasters that also have great coffee, so it is always exciting for me to discover coffeehouses in Seattle that have something different. Hence my excitement with Empire.
Overall, I have to say that I liked the coffee there. Tino and his baristas are really friendly and great to chat with. When I first went there, I chatted with one of the baristas who initially gave me the low down about the place. I wanted to take pictures of the inside and I asked the barista on duty for permission. She told me that in general she wouldn’t mind, but since one of the owners was around, I should ask her instead. And she pointed me to this lady who was seated having a conversation about coffee with this other gentleman.
This was the same lady whom I had observed a few minutes earlier drinking a straight espresso shot for the first time and asking the barista a lot of questions about this particular espresso shot and about good vs. bad espresso shots in general. Since she was pretty much engaged in conversation with the other person, I didn’t want to be rude and interrupt so I figured I could come back another day and chat with her. Because of the way she was interacting with the barista and also from the way the barista had pointed her out to me, I initially thought she was the owner of Empire but it was only much, much later that I guessed, and I believe that I am right, she must be Tino’s mother.
The one thing that I didn’t like about Empire, and this is nothing to do with the coffee, were the operating hours. They would close pretty early in the afternoon, sometime between 1 and 3 in the afternoon. However, that was changing around the time I was leaving, and they were going start opening much, much later. This of course makes it easier for those who do not live in Columbia City to stop by later in the evenings since the early closings I think primarily benefits the locals.
So, if you are in and about in Columbia City, I certainly suggest you drop by and check out what Empire and Seattle Coffee Works has to offer.