Because I’m from Seattle, coffee isn’t just my favorite morning beverage, it’s a lifestyle. This also means that I’m pickier than most when it comes to my twice-daily vanilla lattes. Although I’ve survived the lines at the Starbucks inLeavey and built part of my diet around the Les Mis from Midnight MUG, I had resigned myself to settling for mediocre espresso until my return to the Evergreen State over the holidays — until I stumbled upon the Bean Counter.
Located on Wisconsin Avenue and Reservoir Road, the Bean Counter is an intimate, family-owned cafe that embodies the term “hole in the wall”; if you aren’t paying close enough attention, it’s easy to miss. Upon entering, however, you are greeted by a homey space decorated with local artwork and handmade, local jewelry that is also available for purchase.
The menu itself is relatively simple and offers a basic selection of coffee, all of which is organic, fair-trade and locally roasted. My vanilla latte, the standard by which I judge all coffee shops, was smooth and sweetened just enough that I could still taste the espresso itself; it made me wonder why I had chosen to order just a small. Other notable drinks include their spiced chai, which had a welcome afternoon kick and offered an aromatic alternative for those who aren’t in the mood for a coffee.
Unprepared for anything more than an after-class caffeine fix, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Bean Counter also offers cleverly named sandwiches and salads inspired by the owner’s previous career as a venture capitalist. Everything was delicious, from the Mutual Fund — a mixed greens salad with sunflower seeds, dried cranberries and walnuts — to the 52 Week High — a smoked chicken sandwich with provolone cheese, guacamole, bacon, greens and tomatoes. My friend and I chose to share the Bean Counter’s most popular sandwich, the Cuban, which is piled high with roasted pork, sweet ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on a pressed Cuban roll.
Although presentation was a bit unimpressive — the sandwich arrived cut in half on a simple white plate — it was reminiscent of mom’s home cooking and provided some much-needed pre-finals comfort food. Flavorful and toasted, it too made me regret that I ordered a smaller portion. A sandwich could easily feed one person while leaving room for one of the freshly baked cookies or brownies.
Everything is made to order, and a create-your-own-sandwich option is also available, offering additional choices for the more adventurous foodies — or those just seeking a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that they don’t have to make themselves.
As a lover of coffee-shop music, I was disappointed to find that there wasn’t anything playing, although this did make conversation easier. An added detriment was the lack of a wireless network; I’m always on the search for new places to study, but the absence of Wi-Fi ruled out the Bean Counter as an alternative to Lau. As my friend pointed out, however, this does force you to enjoy your meal and relax without school-related distractions, making it an ideal retreat to unwind after exams.
Prices are fairly reasonable; sandwich costs are comparable to those of Booeymonger’s, and coffee costs are similar to Uncommon Grounds. Breakfast is also offered at affordable prices in the form of breakfast sandwich, muffins and toasted bagels.
Without the student-and-yuppie ambience of Saxby’s, the Bean Counter provides the perfect place to grab a cup of Seattleite-approved coffee, order a sandwich when your self-pressed Leo’s paninisaren’t cutting it and escape from your computer — at least for a little while.