I spent most of the pandemic—er, so far, since it’s definitely not over!—hiding out on the south end of Whidbey Island, and do you know what they don’t have out in the forests of Island County? Vietnamese coffee, or cà phê sữa đá. Since I’ve been back in the city, I’ve been sucking them down every day, making up for lost time, and seeking out any opportunity to drink delicious iced coffee. Because I can, because it’s available here, and especially because we’ve been suffering inside of this miserable on-again, off-again heat dome. I’m like that meme chick with the hot dogs being poured over her face, except it’s bespoke iced coffee. Pour it fuckin’ on me.
Here’s a handful of favorites from the last month or three. If I’m missing any important ones, please tell me in the comments! These are just a few selections, not a comprehensive list! This town’s drowning in great coffee, as is well documented. Go drink some.
Aroom opened at 38th and Stone Way about 30 seconds ago, and thank god, because last week I had the wise idea to walk like four blocks in 91-degree heat. This place saved my fat, sweaty life with their iced bạc siu (a milky, diluted version of Vietnamese coffee). I went back this week to try the avocado coffee, which was pretty good! Clean and sweet! But it was the sesame latte, recommended by the barista, that blew my mind all to pieces. This is all-powerful Vietnamese coffee crowned with an intense, intoxicating purée of black sesame paste, heavy cream, and sweetened condensed milk. I was thinking it’d taste like tahini, but it’s more like peanut butter. Yes, I know, tahini is the peanut butter of sesame seeds, but this has more heft and intensity, and the black sesame makes it super earthy. It’s like a tahini-flavored peanut butter milkshake poured on top of your coffee, with, like, ash or coffee grounds or squid ink or something dark-flavored mixed in. I’m about to burst into a round of “Memory” from Cats about this sesame latte.
By the way, it’s not coffee, but I also like Aroom’s peach tea, which sounds like it would be way too sweet but was exactly right, and comes with a thin orange slice and a little floret of rosemary. So nice! So summery!
Nos-Nos Coffee House
Out in West Seattle’s High Point area (the highest elevation in the city!), Nos-Nos (6080 35th Ave SW) serves nos nos, pronounced like “nose-nose” but with a soft S, and it’s a real face-puncher. Nos means “half” in Arabic, so it’s half milk and half super-concentrated Moroccan coffee, served in a traditional beldi glass with the Saturn-ring bump-out just below the lip. This coffee is packed very, very full of caffeine drugs, and an eight-ounce will keep your eyes wide open all day. It’s both delicious and a great deal! Imagine if it were a full coffee and not a half!
I’m also a fan of Nos-Nos’ luxuriant if less-powerful Moroccan spiced latte, with elements of chai in its flavor profile. I like this one even more served warm, although it’s still certainly lovely when iced. Also, Nos-Nos serves that crisp mint iced tea that you find throughout North Africa and which is weirdly elusive in Seattle, and they make it with real mint leaves. That shit’ll refresh your ass clean off.
Moore Coffee Shop
Right next door to the Moore Theater, the cozy Moore Coffee Shop (1930 2nd Ave) went through a major redesign in the spring of 2021, and the space has reopened with an upscale Mexico City vibe, featuring gilt accents, fresh flowers, jewel-toned velveteen settees, Mexican Spanish word art, and a menu that includes handmade tamales and pastries in addition to the sandwiches and breakfast fare from before. (And churro waffles! Although waffles are pastries, I guess? But hell yeah, churro waffles.) The café is also still maintaining their old rep for cutesy kawaii latte art, if that’s your thing.
My thing is the horchata latte, which isn’t a sugar bomb, like actual horchata can be, but is rich and creamy and cinnamon-y as fuck. I have a little ritual where I take the lid off and inhale the cinnamon vapor before recapping and taking the first sip. Speaking of the first sip, this is one of those beverages where you can’t stop drinking once you’ve begun. I cannot practice mindful eating when I have an horchata latte in hand. After I bought mine, I caught the bus at Second and Pine, all of a block away. My drink was already history by the time I got to the stop.
Coffeeholic House (3700 S Hudson St, 8525 Greenwood Ave N) is what got me into this trouble in the first place, after slavering over all of their gorgeous Instagram photos from afar. Much hoopla has been made about this place since the Columbia City location opened in early 2020. It’s a Vietnamese coffee emporium with manifold styles and accoutrements to decorate your coffee. Both Coffeeholics shops are hustling hard to cultivate a rep for their Technicolor-purple ube latte, both via social media and sandwich board, and it’s good, but I’m honestly all about the cheese foam. It’s a fluffy, velvety miniature cheesecake cloud that blesses the top of your coffee.
Listen, I have just learned about cheese foam? But I fucking love cheese foam. It’s just whipped cream with cream cheese and salt added in. Pretty simple. But it does something transformative to this beverage. I’m gonna learn how to make cheese foam. I bet you can put it on, like, a slice of pie and it would transform that pie. Or… chili, maybe? A taco? Borscht? Can you shave with it? I’m going to order a whole 16-ounce cup of cheese foam next time, with a shot poured over it. A dirty cheese foam.
I also like sitting in Coffeeholics’ swingy wicker-egg porch chair thing among all their pretty monstera plants. While drink-eating cheese foam.
Sound and Fog
My bestie lives next to Sound and Fog (4735 40th Ave SW, 800 E Denny Way opening soon), and I’ve ended up drinking gallons of their coffee sort of unwittingly as a result. It’s just regular classic iced coffee, and it’s really good! I’m picky about burnt-tasting or acidic coffee, and this stuff tends to be brighter and lighter, which I prefer. They also make a really interesting orange-infused nitro cold brew topped with oat cream that all the oat people have been fangirling about. (No shade, it’s very nice; I’m just a dairy person down to my soul.) They also source their beans from international roasters, so it’s fun to try new kinds.
Sound and Fog sells coffee beans, fancy bottled beer and wine, and a selection of gifty imported chocolate and Danish ceramics and hand-screened tote bags and similar artsy item. That plus the elegant Scandinavian interior design kinda lends S&F the controlled whimsy of being inside a museum gift shop. One that actually has good coffee!
Inside the historic Publix Building at 5th Avenue South and South King Street, next to the Chinatown Gate, Hood Famous (504 5th Avenue S #107a) has so many colorful and enticing Filipino snacks and pastries on offer that it’s a shame to only talk about the coffee. But like everything else they serve, it’s truly exceptional. The HF shop is a bakery/cafe by day and a cocktail lounge with Filipino bar food (arroz caldo and inihaw skewers!) after 5 pm, and when they’re in cafe mode, the signature pandan leaf latte is my go-to—iced, naturally. The latte’s flavored with a subtle housemade pandan syrup. It’s got a delicate, grassy vanilla flavor that doesn’t bowl you over, and the raw demerara sugar they use for the simple syrup really shines through. It’s a smooth floral sweetness that mixes with creamy coffee in a heavenly way.
And if you DO want to be bowled over by pandan, as all of us in life sometimes will, try the pandan cheesecake.