Driven to Espresso: Drive-through Coffee Stands in the Northwest

If you think coffee culture is cool, you have come to the right place. I have loads of information and opinions to share about espresso in the Pacific Northwest, especially the drive-through phenomenon.

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Location: Edmonds, WA, United States

Monday, May 12, 2008

What happened to carts?

As a predecessor to the drive-thrus, espresso carts had their period of extreme popularity on the sidewalks of Seattle, starting around 1980 in front of the downtown Nordstroms. I have been tracking down the last of the carts so they can be represented in my book. Two of the ones I photographed a few years ago are no longer in business as far as I have been able to determine. On the other hand, Friday I photographed a fairly new one in front of The Edgewater hotel on Seattle's waterfront, and I will be photographing the cart that Nordstroms still operates in front of one of their entrances.

On my quest for the remaining carts, I have spoken to Bob Burgess, owner of Seattle Barista Academy and Burgess Enterprises, and one of the key participants in Seattle's espresso boom in the early 80s. I've also heard from Chuck Beek, an early-early cart owner (also claims to be the first) and now still operating a sidewalk mini-cafe called Monorail Espresso. In fact, I remember getting an espresso from him in the early 80s underneath the monorail and thinking what a great idea it was.

There is an indication that the espresso carts could return. See this article by Matt Milletto.