Hines Public Market Coffee closed about a year ago now, and it seems like it’s been much longer.
Meghan and I lived on Eastlake for several years. For the first year or two, the only real coffee nearby was the stand outside the 14 Carrot Cafe. When remodeling work started on the vacant space that was to become Hines, we were interested, but didn’t really know what we were soon to experience.
What we experienced for the years that Hines was open was the best coffee in Seattle. John (“The Roaster”) Sanders and John (“The Barista”) Hornall worked the two sides of the business, and with their employees (including Bronwen Serna, 2004 U.S. Barista Champion) produced the best coffee in a city defined in large part by its relationship with coffee. They made it a point to find the best beans and employees, and use the best techniques and equipment to get the best flavors into your cup.
A bold claim, certainly, but what are the alternatives? Vivace gets the attention, but frankly their baristas are overrated—I’ve had way too many mediocre shots there, certainly not worth the hassle of parking or dealing with the long line. Victrola has a nice atmosphere, and 15th is cool, but it’s not gourmet. Lighthouse is fine, but awkward to get to, and more focussed on roasting than pulling shots. Diva is fine, too, and I like the atmosphere, but I don’t sense the attention to detail that they had at Hines. Fremont Coffee, which I finally visited a few weeks ago, has the best atmosphere of any coffee shop I’ve been in, and some decent espresso, but I haven’t had enough shots to say whether they’re reliable, and … well, it’s hard to get to Fremont from where we are.
When the Johns learned their building was to be torn down (to make way for a new condos-and-ground-floor-retail building1), they started looking for a new location. It seems they finally found a new location down the street, but for whatever reason—maybe their requirements were too tough, maybe they didn’t look hard enough, maybe their hearts weren’t in it—they never completed the necessary remodel.
But from every death springs life anew2.
John Sanders is reportedly operating Hines Coffee as a roasting business up in Vancouver. John Hornall has been sighted at Chestnut Hill Coffee Company in Philly (where, I can say from first-hand experience, they have desperate need of good coffee, so more power to them).
Perhaps the best news of all, barring the Johns opening a shop down the street from our new home, is that Bronwen is pulling shots on Eastlake again, at Sitka & Spruce, a well-reviewed restaurant started by Matt Dillon, a great guy and former chef at the Stumbling Goat.
I think I’ll stop by on the way to work tomorrow. Maybe you should, too.
1 I’m all for urban density, and Hines (and Porta, successfully relocated and now Porta by the Market) notwithstanding, that building was a minor blight. I just hope the new building is more architecturally interesting than 95% of the new condos built in the last few years. And I really hope they don’t put in a chain coffee outlet.
2 Is that a saying, or a quote or something? If it isn’t, it should be.