Empire Espresso’s Patio

Although it’s just a roped off section of a courtyard, Empire’s beloved outdoor seating has been earning some praise as of late. The latest: an inclusion in The Stranger’sLeast Expected Great Decks.”

The outdoor seating at Empire Espresso—a charming cafe in the heart of Columbia City—is in the corner of a concrete court enclosed by one of the best-designed new buildings in the area (Columbia City Live Aboves, by the firm Arellano/Christofides). A simple chain marks out6717307_whjZDHoNrRv5n5XMnY3FkmqpH0CcVYgHi02D3hLU1R8 the seating space, which contains metal tables and chairs. What makes the place special, particularly during happy hour (4 to 7 p.m.), is its complete lack of ostentation. The courtyard, like the brick apartments and office spaces that surround it, seems to be very at home in Columbia City; nothing here is garishly celebrating the forces of change, urban improvement, and so on. What you are enjoying here is the feeling of being in one of the most interesting neighborhoods in the city, but not getting too excited about it. All sorts of people visit the cafe, and the owners and workers play all sorts of interesting music, which drifts out into the courtyard. The courtyard can also be accessed by way of a very nice, narrow alley. People walking up from Rainier Avenue appear in this alley, either heading home or coming to take part in this little part of our city. CHARLES MUDEDE

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