Monorail Espresso

Overall Rating: 7.400

Address: 520 Pine St.
Cross Street(s): Btwn 5th & 6th Aves.
City, State ZIP: Seattle, WA 98101
Neighborhood: Downtown
Phone: 206.422.0736
Hours: M-F 6am-6pm; Sa 8am-6pm; Su 9am-5pm
Type of Establishment: Espresso Bar
Cafe Rating: 6.20
Barista: 8
Savvy: 8
Ambiance: 3
Presentation: 6
Consistency: N/A
Espresso Machine: La Marzocco
Coffee Rating: 8.60
Aroma: 8
Body: 9
Brightness: 8
Crema: 8
Flavor: 9
Taster's Correction: 1.0
Size: M
Primary Taste: Pungent
Coffee Beans: Mukilteo Coffee Roasters
Cup Manufacturer: Richard Ginori
Price: $2.00
Last Update: 11/19/2014
First Reviewed: 11/19/2014
Notes: Kiosk

This humble but legendary espresso spot started Dec 1, 1980 as Chuck Beek's espresso cart set up near the Westlake Center beneath the Seattle monorail. His idea was to see if he could sell espresso on the streets rather than coffeehouses, and it helped trigger the 1980s Seattle espresso cart revolution. By 1997, it moved into its current location - a 100-square-foot kiosk that's today next to a Banana Republic. While it has changed little since then, other than former barista Aimee Peck taking over ownership, it is a global espresso institution: Seattle locals and global travelers alike come here and celebrate its praises. And they deserve all they can get. There's a neon "Caffeine" sign, maybe a chalkboard sidewalk sign advertising the latest specialty drink (e.g., maple latte), and a lot of bike messengers lounging nearby. From a sliding glass window, they've been serving espresso for eons made from a custom Monorail Blend produced by the small Whidbey Island roaster, Mukilteo. Tourists bring their own demitasses from around the world to leave at this location, and they often employ some of these mismatched, saucerless demitasses in service if you're not getting it in paper. (We got a Richard Ginori cup.) Using a two-group La Marzocco Linea, they pull shots with a splotchy dark and medium brown crema with old-school-quality looks. It has a creamy mouthfeel and has a robust flavor of chocolate, cloves, spice, and a great roundness in its taste profile. This is an espresso of thoughtful quality that's unfortunately fallen out of vogue fashion among many newer coffee shops. I'd trade all the Sightglasses in SF for just one 100-square-foot Monorail. Downtown, corporate espresso is arguably the Seattle norm save for a wonderful exception such as this. Served with a glass of sparkling water on the side. Cash only.