UPDATE: When I visited on 9/22/12 there were signs plastered everywhere (and it is a small space) stating that your dog must be leashed at all times. This is no longer a place where you can have coffee while your dog plays with others. The coffee is average and the location not very good. I can go to a lot of places and sit with my dog on a leash while I drink coffee. This place is not longer special and I will not go back unless their policy changes. Sad.
I almost don’t want to tell you about this place. It feels like one of those little secret spots you want to keep to yourself so others don’t “ruin it” or it is not too crowded every time you go.
We went to Bark Espresso in North Seattle and I loved it!
What makes Bark Espresso special is that they have a dog play lounge where you can let your dog off-leash. Seattle has plenty of coffee shops where you can bring your dog inside but they have to be leashed. This means you have to juggle a leash, an excited dog, often small and shaky table and hot coffee all at the same time. It’s never a good combination or a fully relaxing experience.
The dog lounge is not actually inside of Bark Espresso (dogs aren’t allowed inside of the coffee shop proper). It is attached to it with an ordering window in between the two. To get into the dog lounge you walk up onto their porch, turn left and enter through the nondescript screen door.
Be warned, or rather prepared, about the bathroom situation though. The bathroom is next door inside of the espresso shop and you can’t leave your dog unattended to go use it. You can either bring a friend to watch your dog for those situations, convince a stranger to keep an eye on them (if you are comfortable with that) or tie them up outside using one of the carabiners on the porch.
The dog lounge is small. There are maybe 10 seats (and that might leave someone sitting on the couch smushed up against a stranger) and would accommodate probably 15 dogs max. The furniture is not “nice” and some chairs are even a little rickety – clearly trampled by a lot of dogs. The good part is that you don’t have to worry about your dog destroying it.
It did smell a little like dog urine when we got there. After a couple of minutes I didn’t notice though. If you are sensitive to that kind of thing you might want to reconsider going. I know some people with very sensitive noses that can’t stand even the faintest smell.
I think the urine smell could be helped if they had the equipment to properly clean it up. All they had was one roll of those brown, school-like paper towels that don’t really soak up anything. It would be great if they had a bottle of spray cleaner and real paper towels. Hand sanitizer for the people would be nice too. I am considering donating some supplies on my next visit.
In my opinion, the unique, compelling reason to visit this place is for the dog lounge alone. However, I am going to assume that you are also going for some coffee and maybe need some breakfast or a little snack. Personally, I would not feel right going there to use their lounge and NOT ordering something. I am not even sure if they would allow it.
They have a small, café-type menu that goes a bit beyond the basic coffee and smoothie choices of most coffee shops. Some highlights of their menu are: they serve Vita Coffee – roasted right here in Seattle since 1995; they have Skydottir vegan, gluten-free chocolate chip cookies (also made in Seattle) that actually taste pretty close to the real thing; they serve fresh cinnamon rolls on Saturday that are made in house by their own Jack Devine; they serve a made-in-house fancy macaroni and cheese; and you can get a peanut butter latte for you pooch.
A couple of other things of note are that they have free wi-fi, there are a few parking spots on the north end of the building but most of it is along the road and Great Dog Daycare/dog training, and an associated pet store, are next door.
Also of significance to me is, unlike the KISS Café, they didn’t mind barking dogs. The dogs had barking fits several times and the barista just smiled at us through the window. Paranoid from the KISS Café experience, I apologized to her before we left. She said no problem at all and they were glad to have us there.
We are so lucky to have something like this in Seattle! I am not a big coffee drinker but I look forward to going back and trying their smoothies. This just might be my new favorite dog-friendly hang out!
UPDATE: I WENT BACK THERE A SECOND TIME AND IT DID NOT SMELL LIKE DOG PEE. LOOKS LIKE IT DEPENDS ON THE DAY.