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Best espresso drinks in the US, or the world?


nathanm
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So here is a potentially contentious question - which shops make the best espresso, capuccino, lattes and related drinks?

Private homes don't count - this is about commercial establishments where anybody can buy a coffee.

The very best is an elusive topic of course, and personal preference enters in at some point. However, I am sure that people have their own opinions, and even if we can't agree on the "very best" we ought to have a lot of overlap in the top 10 or 20.

I live in Seattle, so there is plenty of coffee in the area. A friend playing with the GPS navigation system in my car turned on a feature that puts an icon on every coffee shop - well, there are so many in downtown Seattle that you can't see the streets on the map at all with that feature on - it is just a sea of coffee shop icons.

I also travel a lot, and it is much harder to find great coffee elsewhere. Is there anyplace in New York City with incredible coffee? I don't dout that there is, but I don't know of it. Washington DC? Boston? There must be, but I have not found them yet. Apologies to anybody in those places - I am not trash talking your town, I'm just ignorant of where to go to find fanatical quality espresso drinks.

I've never had truly great coffee at a restaurant - no matter how expensive the restaurant or how great the food is, they just don't put the effort into coffee.

I'll start with my nominations:

Vivace - Seattle

Victrola - Seattle

Sant Eustace - Rome

Nathan

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My highly biased list:

Seattle:

Victrola

Vivace

second tier Seattle (but still very good)

Hines

Lighthouse

Washington DC area:

Murky Coffee

a close second in that region is Jay's Shave Ice in Timonium MD (using Hines coffee last time I was there - Murky uses Counter Culture and I like their blend a bit better)

Ithaca NY:

Gimme Coffee

I'm sure there are some places elsewhere in North America but I have not yet been lucky enough to stumble across them.

I'll be visiting Vancouver and Chicago in 2006 and looking forward to trying the Elysian Room and Intelligentsia. Italy will most likely wait for 2007.

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I'll be visiting Vancouver and Chicago in 2006 and looking forward to trying the Elysian Room and Intelligentsia.  Italy will most likely wait for 2007.

You should make a point of visiting Cafe Artigiano when in Vancouver. Sammy Piccolo won the World Barista Championship in Rome a few years ago. And interestingly, Artigiano used to import Intelligentsia from Chicago, but now roasts its own.

Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Tazza d'Oro in Roma is the best I have had in the world.

"My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them." ~Winston Churchill

Morels- God's gift to the unworthy human species

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I think that from best to worst here in Seattle we go: Caffe Vita, Lighthouse (tie: Lighthouse taught Cafe Vita how to roast.) then Zoka's, Vivace, then perhaps Pegasus.

" You soo tall, but you so skinny. I like you, you come home with me, I feed you!"- random japanese food worker.

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Oops...the "best" espresso, or favorites? :wub:

Whatever you want to opine on!

Favorites are fine. If there is one place that is so good you think it is the best, then say so.

It is worth knowing what the best place is in a given city even if it isn't the best in the world because hey, if you're there you're there. Previous to reading your post I had no idea where to get a good espresso in Prague or Tel Aviv, and now I do. Not that I have ever been to either place but hey, might as well be ready...

Nathan

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Rome: Sant Eustacio - I still dream about that cup of coffee so many years later.

Philly: La Colombe is the perennial fave, but Double Shots at 2nd and Chestnut makes really good coffee too. They use these delicious all natural flavored syrups. I was drinking their Vanilla iced lattes all summer. :wub:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I might have gotten unlucky with the competence of my barista, but the espresso shot I last had at Pegasus was miserably overextracted.

Vivace, Victrola, and Lighthouse are my top favorites; I appreciate Vita and Zoka, and am increasingly partial to Vita's Fiore (organic) line, though results are mixed so far. I think Vivace and Victrola are the most obsessed with getting the quality right, but it might just be an impression based on their marketing strategy.

Outside of Seattle I've had bad luck with espresso so far, particularly in Vancouver. My worst urban coffee experiences outside of Seattle were in Denver and Chicago, but I'll leave out the names to protect the guilty.

I think that  from best to worst here in Seattle we go: Caffe Vita, Lighthouse (tie: Lighthouse taught Cafe Vita how to roast.) then Zoka's, Vivace, then perhaps Pegasus.

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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Tazza d'Oro in Roma is the best I have had in the world.

I think that TDO is good, but have you tried Sant Eustace - it is only a few blocks away. The great debate in Rome is which is better, and both have their partisans..

Yup I have tried S.E. and although it is phenomenal I like Tazza d'Oro a bit better. It has that amazing dark chocolate taste that comes through

"My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them." ~Winston Churchill

Morels- God's gift to the unworthy human species

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The old Giacosa cafe in Firenze was fabulous.

Stockfleths in Oslo does great work as does Estate Coffee in Copenhagen.

Hines in Seattle was wonderful.

Elysian in Vancouver BC is really good as is Albina Press in Portland OR.

fanatic...

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You should make a point of visiting Cafe Artigiano when in Vancouver. Sammy Piccolo won the World Barista Championship in Rome a few years ago. And interestingly, Artigiano used to import Intelligentsia from Chicago, but now roasts its own.

My friend Salvatore (Sammy) Piccolo is an amazing barista, and Artigiano is DEFINITELY a great, world-class coffee bar... but Sammy's hasn't won the World's... yet :cool:.

Go Sammy! WBC Bern 2006!

Philly:  La Colombe is the perennial fave, but Double Shots at 2nd and Chestnut makes really good coffee too.

Kinda ironic... I don't know that much about Philly coffee (yet), but there's a place called "One Shot Coffee" that's opening soon in the city.

Also, Katie, check out "Chestnut Hill Coffee." Haven't been there, but John Hornall, formerly of the venerable Hines Public Market Coffee, has taken the helm recently.

Edited by murkycoffee (log)
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Also, Katie, check out "Chestnut Hill Coffee." Haven't been there, but John Hornall, formerly of the venerable Hines Public Market Coffee, has taken the helm recently.

Really? That's very cool. It gives me a good excuse to visit Philly again - only a five hour drive and I usually find some other fun things to do there.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Aldo's in Greenport, NY

Monorail and Vivace in Seattle

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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I had brunch in Ithaca NY this weekend at Carriage House Cafe in Ithaca NY - on Stewart Ave - just down the hill from the Cornelll campus.

Chris Deferio, formerly the barista trainer for Gimme Coffee, is co-managing the joint and has set up their coffee and espresso service. He's not only a championship level barista, latte artist and all-around nice guy... he's done an outstanding job with the espresso and coffee oferrings.

My friends had the brie stuffed and also the almond creme stuffed French toast, I had the buttermilk pancakes and we shared garlic potatoes and Niman Farms bacon. Truly excellent breakfast/brunch food - really the best pancakes I've ever had (even better than the ones served at Rick's Blue Heaven in Key West FL - and that's high praise indeed).

The latte's and machiatto's we were served at Carriage House were right up there in the top tier of any I've ever had. It's also a much more elegant and upscale atmosphere than the typical coffeehouse - even though it's a relaxed and casual setting.

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You should make a point of visiting Cafe Artigiano when in Vancouver. Sammy Piccolo won the World Barista Championship in Rome a few years ago. And interestingly, Artigiano used to import Intelligentsia from Chicago, but now roasts its own.

Are you sure? I know he has won the Canadian championships a number of times, but I don't believe he's won the world. He came in 3rd in 2005: World Barista Championships

Cheers,

Anne

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I keep hoping someone will list someone or somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area, so I can go try some quality espresso!

Anyone? Suggestions?

I know the oddly named Ritual Coffee Roasters (shouldn't they roast their own beans?) get their beans from the well regarded Stumptown, so at least they are starting with a quality product.

Philz? Haven't been there, yet...

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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I should start by saying I've yet to find any espresso drinks in San Diego that knock my socks off the way Seattle's Vivace did (that's a reference to the general quality of the beverage, not the effects of the caffeine, although that happens too. :biggrin: ).

But having gotten that out of the way, I've had decent lattes--and excellent coffee-house atmosphere--at Lestat's. (Great walking neighborhood too.)

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I keep hoping someone will list someone or somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area, so I can go try some quality espresso!

Anyone?  Suggestions?

I've been told that Caffe Trieste in North beach is worth a visit just for its status as sort of an iconic destination SF culturewise. But I have not heard that they make great espresso.

You might go visit the web site for Ecco Caffe Roasters and send them an email through the address listed on their site - direct it to Andrew. They have a well earned national reputation for producing some exceptional coffees - I'm sure they can steer you one to of their wholesale customers who's doing a good job with espresso.

And let me know what you find once you get to try a place. I visit the Bay area a couple times each year for my day job and have yet to have any really good espresso there.

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And let me know what you find once you get to try a place. I visit the Bay area a couple times each year for my day job and have yet to have any really good espresso there.

In North Beach, some people swear by Graffeo's beans.

I dropped the Ecco Caffe folks a note and Andrew suggested the Blue Bottle stand in the Ferry Building and Ritual Coffee Roasters on Valencia. Looks like Blue Bottle also now have a store in Hayes Valley on Linden.

I've had Blue Bottle's beans in the past. Will be interesting to try again.

-Erik

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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