Hospitality and breaking bread together evoke a nearly universal theme among all the faiths and cultures in the world. Since we found only one faith-based eating establishment, our review begins with it and then moves to dining spots with religious references in their names.
The Mosaic Community Coffeehouse (4401 Second Ave. NE, Seattle; 567-3293; www.mosiaccoffeehouse.com), in the Wallingford neighborhood, is a nonprofit, community-oriented venue that prides itself on being a meaningful part of its community. It is operated by Seattle First Church of the Nazarene, is located in the church basement, and is staffed by mellow and friendly seminary students.
They host Community Hobby Monday, Parent and Family Tuesday and Drop-In Center Wednesday. As a nonprofit, Mosaic is based on donations and allows patrons to pay what they think is fair. It serves lovingly brewed lattes and very tasty coffee drinks, a wide assortment of teas, and fresh bagels and muffins. The commitment to welcoming the community shows in the spacious, yet friendly environment, with plenty of tables occupied by people working on their laptops, as well as quite a few overstuffed chairs and couches that invite quiet meditation or a friendly conversation.
Mosaic includes a children’s playroom (the “Demitasse”), attached to the main coffee house from which emanated a joyful hubbub when we visited on a Tuesday morning. Due to a staffing shortage, Mosaic is only open three days a week: Mondays and Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon.
While independent, local coffee shops are dwindling, Holy Grounds Coffee House (9000 Holman Road NW, Seattle; 783-1797; www.holygroundscoffeeandtea.com) is a divine coffee shop in the Crown Hill neighborhood, located just off Holman Road, that stays faithful to its Seattle roots.
Holy Grounds provides a return to nature despite its location overlooking a fast food restaurant and gas station. Upon entering, we felt a deep sense of warmth and comfort from the fireplace located in the center of the shop. The walls were decorated with images of stacked rocks, which provided a pleasant atmosphere for meditation with a fresh cup of coffee. The lighting provided a gentle aura, bright enough to enjoy your favorite reading material, but not bright enough to detract from the calm scenery.
The barista was incredibly friendly and provided excellent service. Although several individuals were seated with coffee, there remained a wide selection of seating, including a small, colorful table where children can play with toys while their parents enjoy a delicious brew.
To break away from the chilly weather outside, we selected the traditional mocha, which was made with a light roast and had a rich, full taste. The mochas have the perfect blend of coffee and chocolate flavor, leaving coffee aficionados in awe. The coffee is purchased from local roaster Caffé Vita. If you believe in supporting local, independent businesses, purchasing coffee from Holy Grounds will satisfy your creed.
You can also ponder your individual spirituality while worshiping your favorite carbohydrates. Holy Grounds offers breakfast sandwiches, lunch options and pastries. We selected a heavenly slice of chocolate zucchini bread to share. While the bread could not feed the multitude, it miraculously melted in our mouths. Overall, Holy Grounds is a tranquil venue with independent, local coffee and delicious food selections that are prepared in house.
Finding Simply Soulful (2909-B E. Madison Ave., Seattle; 474-9841; www.simply-soulful.com) was a challenge, even when we knew where to look. Tucked away off the street facing a small parking lot (yes, free parking) between Café Flora and City Peoples Mercantile, this establishment was well worth the search. From the first contact upon walking in and throughout our stay, Simply Soulful was as warm, welcoming and friendly as anyplace in town.
Everyone working there had a friendly, family-like attitude and made us feel right at home from the moment we walked in the door. The menu items are all made from scratch, much of it in the open kitchen, right before our eyes. We watched the crusts being made for the next day’s sweet pies while waiting for dinner.
Breakfast is served all day, so for dinner we tried the biscuits and gravy with an egg. The biscuit was cooked to order and the chicken sausage gravy was mostly sausage, a filling option at any time of day. The shrimp and grits had just enough spice, with smooth and fluffy grits, making us want to order it and/or the catfish and grits again. We wanted to try the chicken pot pie, but it had sold out; however, the chicken-and-dumpling soup was an amazing substitute. One member of our group pronounced it as good as her Mamma’s (high praise from a southern girl). We both hope it is on the menu the next time we stop by.
The décor is not fancy, but cozy, especially with the friendly service. And Simply Soulful features the FlyBuy app, allowing you to order and pay in advance, and someone will bring your food to your car — so you have all the convenience of a drive-through meal, but much tastier. (We admit we have not tested this service yet.) Simply Soulful is a hidden gem that makes us happy to be reviewing restaurants, and we know we will be going back often.
Living in Seattle can be a challenge for a person who grew up in the West Indies (and for many of us who did not). It might even be considered an act of faith to keep plodding from one monochromatic, short, gray day to the next, believing that someday the gloom will be replaced by a brilliant blue sky graced with what is referred to as a “golden orb” because the common name has been forgotten. Sometimes, on particularly dreary days, avoiding a crisis of faith requires an infusion of hope in the form of Caribbean flavors and hospitality — a taste of paradise.
When those times occur, visit Island Soul Restaurant (4869 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle; 329-1202; www.islandsoulrestaurant.net), located in the bustling blocks of Columbia City that boast a number of restaurants and storefront businesses, as well as two iconic Seattle businesses: Bob’s Quality Meats and Columbia City Bakery. The restaurant is warm, loud and welcoming and the food is tasty, served with the requisite Caribbean pepper sauce, add to taste.
On a Friday night, the bar was full and energetic. The hearty happy hour menu offers items not on the dinner menu and will bring us back to try, among other items, the lamb burger. From the menu of classic Jamaican recipes, we started with a hush puppy each — firm inside, crunchy on the outside with a light, slightly sweet sauce drizzle; fried, sweet plantains with a mango sauce; and, our favorite, a spicy beef Jamaican patty (turnover).
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