Pin It
Favorite

Far From Generic 

by Sheri Boggs


It was just a flash of corrugated metal, a silvery blur out of the corner of my eye, and two of my favorite words in the English language: "coffee house." But I didn't think anything of it; in fact I figured that while the metal sign was for real, I was probably hallucinating the coffee house part. After all, this is North Washington, I reasoned, nothing but pizza, office buildings and the wedding chapel. But a few of my colleagues reported seeing it, too, and like a crew of UFO hunters, we headed for the "North Bank" neighborhood not too long ago to go check it out.


Sure enough, Coffee House is for real. We must commend them on the utilitarian simplicity of their name and, in fact, wish other businesses had the Richard Scarry-esque sense to call themselves "Grocery Store," "Hair Salon" or "Chinese Restaurant." Upon entering, we immediately appreciated Coffee House's informal-but-inviting groove. Neither too cozy nor too edgy but somewhere in between, the place is done up in warm, yellowy tones, with framed modern art prints, more corrugated metal and exposed duct work. We counted about a dozen tables, plus a corner with big overstuffed chairs and plenty of windows for traffic and people-watching.


We headed up to order and right away got distracted at the counter by the Barista Action Figure, which comes with two heads, tattoos and lattes in tall and grande sizes. We learned from the back of her packaging that the action figure's name is "Nico," and that she lives in Seattle and gets grumpy sometimes, but it's worth it because, "without her you'd be forced to drink the coffee back at the office." Ah ... a sentiment we've often used to reason away our sometimes-exorbitant weekly coffee expenditures.


Pia went for a scone ($1.70), and promptly declared it not only "enormous" but also "really fresh, with a homemade taste." We admired the plump berries and decided that the sugary substance on top wasn't icing but rather the light sweetness of sugar water. From there our attention turned to Amy's banana bread ($1.60), which delivered a strong banana presence, as well as the de rigeur dark banana threads that indicate real bananas were not only used, but harmed, in the making of your morning loaf. And finally, we had high hopes for my slice of bacon-and-cheddar quiche ($2.95), which was okay, but nothing we couldn't get at various coffee shops around town. The crust's outer rim was hard and not very flaky.


The coffee, though, was excellent in the various forms in which we encountered it. Pia's latte was just right, while Amy and I got our double short Americanos as ordered, with enough room for a decent slug of cream.


One thing we couldn't help noticing is that the guy helping us behind the counter seemed periodically overwhelmed both by catching all of our requests and by getting through the whole ringing-up-and-making-change procedure. It could do with the fact that while owner Gregg Sowder has spent a great deal of time in coffee houses, he has had no previous experience working in one. From 1989 to 1997, Sowder was the owner of the Mt. Spokane Ski Area, after which he took some time off to write music in Nashville and relax.


"I got the idea down there that I could make a nice coffee shop happen," he says. "And even just hanging out writing music gets old after awhile, so it seemed like the right time." Sowder opened Coffee House in November after seeing the property for sale last fall. To prepare, he went through an intensive training program via the Thomas Hammer Company.


"I knew as much about the coffee business as you can know before actually opening a place yourself," he says.


Coffee House has enjoyed good business from the very beginning, due largely to its auspicious placement across the street from a big glossy office complex. They don't bake their own goods but instead offer a selection from a handful of local bakeries. The lunch crowd has been fond of the ready-made sandwiches (courtesy of the Viking) and the recent introduction of soup on the menu. Future plans include the completion of a meeting room that can accommodate up to 30 people, opening on Saturday nights for live music, and even firing up the ol' grill every now and then.


"One of the really fun things we've got planned is to have a couple of Fridays when the weather gets better where we're going to be barbecuing out on the patio," says Sowder, adding that Coffee House has a 600-square-foot patio on the south side of the building. "It will be a laid-back, party kind of atmosphere and all the businessmen who are out playing hooky on Friday afternoons can just come and do it here."





Publication date: 02/06/03

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • From Doctor to Drug Dealer
  • From Doctor to Drug Dealer

    Rafael Beier was living two lives. One of them consumed the other
    • Aug 18, 2016
  • 'Seek and Destroy'
  • 'Seek and Destroy'

    In his final days as state superintendent of public instruction, Randy Dorn keeps shouting on behalf of schools. Has anyone listened?
    • Aug 18, 2016
  • All Aboard!
  • All Aboard!

    Stuckart reverses course on fining coal and oil trains; plus, which students will a proposed CdA magnet school attract?
    • Aug 18, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue
Bodies Human: Anatomy in Motion

Bodies Human: Anatomy in Motion @ Mobius Science Center

Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 31

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Sheri Boggs

  • BOOKS
  • BOOKS

    From puppies to a new James Bond adventure, there are tons of great reads this season
    • Dec 3, 2015
  • Beer and Branding in PDX

    • Sep 15, 2005
  • Rural Revolution

    All the farms I remember from growing up in North Idaho and Eastern Washington were not what you'd call stylish. In fact, what I do remember are blocky sofas covered in that ubiquitous mauve upholstery, copper Jell-O molds lining the kitche
    • Jun 23, 2005
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • 'Unreasonable Threat to Life and Property'

    Spokane's rental housing has problems, but landlord and tenant groups are split on a solution
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • 'End of Story'

    Condon administration aims to close the controversial Frank Straub chapter — but last week's scathing report has irrevocably changed the narrative
    • Aug 4, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Our Republic
  • Our Republic

    Not just another small town heroin tragedy
    • Jun 23, 2016
  • Path of Least Resistance
  • Path of Least Resistance

    Spokane Public Schools looks at reworking a grading system that drives students into the easiest classes
    • Jan 14, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation