Balancing the Scales: Café Presse

By Joseph Schell

Our reflection flickered in the rain streaked café windows as my mother and I walked down the sidewalk. From outside I see an industrial sized clock hanging over the bar, the kind you would expect to see in a train station. As we walked to the door I look skyward, halfway up the storefront a small square yellow sign with a red quill emblem protrudes, reading “Presse”.

Now I’ve been to Café Presse several times. The one detail of this often noisy and crowded café that has always impressed me is it seamlessly maintains a high degree of sophistication. A complexity upheld through certain elegance; soft earth tone atmosphere and gracefully simple culinary expression.

A traditional French Café/Bar, Presse offers a very affordable menu along with a full bar and reasonable French wine list. In South Capital Hill just off of Madison on 12th, Presse is the second joint venture of Le Pichet owners Joanne Herron and Jim Drohman.  In this endeavor the duo created a bustling hot spot with the perfect balance of a neighborhood café and vogue French bistro. On one hand you have convenience and relaxed ambiance anchored by an espresso machine, world soccer matches on the weekend and huge stand of diverse magazines and newspapers (from 52 countries). On the other you have subtle refinement; an ample wine rack, walls of chic exposed concrete and rough checkered brick, complimented by steel girds, a lathe ceiling and a refreshing Parisian menu. A juxtaposition that in theory is hard to pull off, one Presse does effortlessly.

The layout of the restaurant is complete with a bar and small table dining in the front room. The café is separated by a hallway and the kitchen and in the back is an adjoining room with larger tables lining the aft wall. The backroom is graced with large windows facing west, a great spot to catch the afternoon sun.

We waited a few minutes to get a table for two; service was prompt and courteous. We started off with a cheese platter (4 different cheese and bread) and a couple glasses of a smooth French red wine. For my entrée I ordered the Huîtres à la Breton, a plate of six local oysters served on the half shell in a bed of rock salt and the Betterave, noix et bleu (highly recommended, excellent), a small beet salad with pecans and bleu cheese. My mother ordered the Omelette au choix, a two egg with choice of herbs, mushrooms or Comté cheese.

Everything was prepared well and we ended our dinner over another glass of wine and left without feeling rushed out the door even though there was a crowd of people waiting.

With dinner for two and drinks for under fifty bucks, this cafe should be one every ones to-do list, if not just to get out of the autumn rain. With coffee, wine and free WiFi this is one place you’ll never have to leave.


1117 12th Ave.
Seattle, WA 98122
Phone: 206-709-7674
HYPERLINK “” Web site
HYPERLINK “” Maps & directions

Hours: 7 a.m.-2 a.m. daily;
limited breakfast menu 7-9 a.m.;
full menu available 9 a.m.-1:30 a.m.


After 10 p.m.


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