Tacoma Coffee – The Kickstand Cafe

Again on the search for good coffee in Tacoma, we come to the Kickstand Cafe. I’d insert a link to their website but they don’t have one-I think you know this frustrates and confuses me. Located near downtown Tacoma and Wright Park, the Kickstand is home to Tacoma’s growing crowd of hipsters (Seattle transplants or high schoolers who just don’t know any better). It was founded by a young couple, who about 2 years ago sold it and moved. The new owners have cleaned it up and tried to improve the service. They have managed to retain much of the old flavor of the place while making it a bit more welcoming to Tacoma’s diverse population.

Starting with the atmosphere, they’ve done a good job keeping it a comfortable but modern setting. There’s a mural on the wall that survived the change of hands as well as a rotating display of local art. Their back room, which went from a dark hole where no one went, was transformed under the new owners to a usable space with plenty of light and a great place for the local music and shows that are put on there, as well as a place to drink the selection of wine and beer they now offer.

They are currently using Caffe Vita coffee. Which is both a good and bad thing. I’m happy they are not using some of the local roasters (Fox Hollow and it’s ilk), but Vita just isn’t as good as some of the other Seattle roasters. The good thing about Caffe Vita, is the barista training that they offer to those who use their coffee. It might not be much, but any training on proper techniques is better than none.

Problem is, the baristas of the Kickstand are widely varied in their skills. I’ve been in and had either Chris (one of the owners), or another of his baristas make me and my wife a great pair of drinks, with great foam, and shots that were not over extracted with decent cr?me. But on a return visit on a Saturday evening, the barista was clearly inexperienced and made one of the worst Americao’s I’ve ever had, and my wife’s short latte was more a lukewarm steamed milk with no foam. Very disappointing.

They use a well worn La San Marco for their machine. It’s seen better days and has been repeatedly patched to keep it going, but it can produce good shots if you are patient (I myself put in a brief stint as a Kickstand barista).

The Kickstand, if you can get a good barista, is one of the better coffee experiences you will get in Tacoma. Decent to good Caffe Vita, with great atmosphere, and the bonus of theThe Grand Cinema next door, showing the latest indie films. My advice, carefully watch what the drinks of the people in front of you look like. If they’re sketchy, go for the drip, or a smoothie. You’ll be better off, and you’ll enjoy your experience more.

4 thoughts on “Tacoma Coffee – The Kickstand Cafe”

  1. Bri,
    Just a quick note to say I enjoyed your latest article on the Kickstand. I would comment on your above articles on the latest games etc..but you are talking another world from your dad.
    The coffee experience for me is not as refined as yours and Jess’s because American’s overall have a sweet tooth and/or are chocaholics. Therefore we hid the real coffee taste with flavors etc and still get the small caffine buzz. I only notice once in a while when I get a truly forgettable latte from some independant local shop however I am very seldom unhappy with a Starbucks “Black and White” machine….like Micky D’s…very consistent (maybe not great) but seldom surprised.
    Do you see the average American coffee drinker getting more discerning in proportion to the growth of the market? Is Starbuck’s too dominant in the market to allow a serious rival like a Ford vs GM etc?
    See you sometime over a cup of java to talk more.

  2. It may seem like I have a refined palete for coffee, but in general, I just want a cup of coffee that doesn’t make me cringe. I get Starbucks americano’s all the time because I know that they’ll be consistent, and I know that Jess and I when we travel, we tend to stop by Starbucks for our coffee because they are consistent like McD’s. The lattes and coffee coming out of stands and independents can vary widely and sometimes you want to err on the side of medeocre rather than bad.

    Do I see the American public becoming more discerning? Nope. In small markets maybe, and in small areas, but with the more things people add to their coffee drinks the less discerning I think they will be.

  3. I agree with the person that suggested the Firehouse Coffee Shop!!

    Also if you would like to try an excellent cup of coffee go to 38TH Street and try the Martin Henry coffe.

    I roast at home and have been to as many coffee houses that roast their own coffee and have to say that theirs is the best I’ve found so far.

    If you get a chance stop by grab a cup and enjoy!


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