EDMONDS — It’s a dreary, chilly Wednesday afternoon, the kind that makes it clear the joys of Western Washington summer are firmly in the past.
Trampling through shallow parking lot puddles, traffic on Highway 99 splashing a fine mist of muddy water into the air, it would have been easy to let the weather get me down. I love the rain, don’t get me wrong — why else would I have moved to the greater Seattle area? — but there’s something profoundly melancholy about knowing another summer has gone by. Maybe it’s lingering dread from my back-to-school days. Or maybe it’s just the annual onset of seasonal depression.
But as I stepped into the airy dining room of Our Place Dessert Cafe, I was transported into a sun-dappled Austrian coffeehouse, and all my pre-winter woes melted away.
Okay, so Our Place is maybe not quite so ornate or stuffy as its baroque European counterparts, but I’ve never been to Vienna, so it’s close enough for me. The café opened this summer in Edmonds, blending modern Korean-style coffee and desserts with a refined, minimalist atmosphere that makes a quick espresso stop feel like a high-end luxury. You’ll stop by the Highway 99 location for feathery-light layered coffee drinks, icy treats and decadent pastries, but I’m willing to bet you’ll find yourself lingering cat-like in a sunbeam at your table — if you’re lucky enough to be around for a break in the clouds, that is.
Tucked next to a Korean barbecue joint, an Ethiopian grocery, accountants’ offices and a bikini coffee stand, Our Place looks nondescript from the road. Only the gauzy white curtains, knotted artfully to let in stray sunbeams, offer any hint as to the casual elegance that awaits when you step inside.
The dining area, decorated in shades of ivory and white, feels spacious, yet it would be hard to describe the handful of patrons in the café as anything but cozy. In one corner, a vintage-looking glass lamp warmly illuminated two people catching up over coffee as a baby in a carseat rocked happily on the fuzzy rug next to them. A sprawling monstera plant shielded another table where a customer sat working at their laptop, looking for all the world like the perfect pinned post for your favorite lifestyle blogger’s Instagram.
Behind the counter, two employees busily steamed milk and delicately garnished mugs with sprigs of lavender and thyme. A glass case full of gorgeous desserts was the first thing to catch my eye, a cute neon sign encouraging me to “Treat Yourself” to a slice of cheesecake ($7) or a to-go clamshell of tiramisu, available in matcha and raspberry renditions as well as the original espresso flavor. Another case on the counter holds delicious-looking salted cream cupcakes ($4.50) and loaves of nekopan ($8), fluffy Japanese milk bread adorably baked in the shape of a cat’s head.
The inventive baked goods at Our Place come courtesy of local “micro-bakery” Salt & Creme. The creations meld French-inspired recipes familiar to the average café-goer with flavors that give you pause in the best way. Raspberry-grape is not a combination I’m used to seeing in a pastry case, but the pint-sized snack cakes ($19) filled with scratch-made raspberry curd and studded with juicy red grapes in the fresh cream frosting tempted me to order one for the road.
If it had been a little warmer outside, I might have leaned more toward one of their rainbow-colored “fruit-ades” ($6) in flavors such as lychee lemon and pink galaxy. Or maybe a cup of bingsu ($10), Korean shaved ice, flavored with mango, taro or sweet corn.
But one can’t survive off ethereal, sugary creations alone — you also need caffeine to fortify you for the winter ahead. I ordered an einspanner, which, depending on your Google Translate results, is either a one-man, horse-drawn carriage or a gorgeous drink made with layers of pillowy whipped cream atop espresso. Both, coincidentally, were at one time popular in the Viennese coffee scene.
The einspanner has gained popularity in Korean cafés in recent years for its infinite customizability, and it seems to be an Our Place specialty; I watched a server carry no fewer than four of the drinks out to customers as I agonized over my order, each in a different, over-the-top flavor: Biscoff cookie, ube, pistachio and Oreo. I chose the black sesame einspanner ($7), and despite the damp weather, I ordered it iced since I knew I’d never have the patience to wait for my beautiful drink to cool before slurping it down.
And to make it a balanced breakfast, I turned to the menu of croffles on offer. The croissant-waffle hybrids come topped with fresh strawberries, dusted with matcha powder or crushed Oreos, or topped with sweet red beans and glutinous rice cakes to mimic injeolmi, a popular Korean snack. I chose the banana Nutella version ($9), which arrived steaming hot and fragrant with the scent of buttery pastry.
My einspanner was a perfect balance of sweet and savory, the generous dusting of black sesame powder on top and the layers of unsweetened espresso lending a nutty, pleasantly bitter counterpoint to the fluffy, rich cream layers. It arrived on its own little wooden tray, accompanied by a tiny teaspoon (for scraping up the last bits of foamy deliciousness) and a miniature print of a vintage travel poster. It was eminently Instagrammable, but more importantly, it was delicious — luxurious without feeling overwhelming, but a little more special than your everyday cup of joe.
There was nothing subtle about the croffle, however, and I mean that as a compliment. Piled high with fresh whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate to an almost obscene extent, it’s definitely better suited for dessert than breakfast — but who’s to say you can’t start the day with dessert? The waffle base combines the best aspects of pain au chocolat — rich, barely-sweet and tender — with the crisp, craggy, caramelized edges of a Belgian waffle, and it’s a match made in heaven. And with a whole sliced banana crowning the plate, it’s practically a health food!
If I’d remembered to bring my laptop, I could have hung around Our Place all day. It’s my platonic ideal of a café to work in, the ambient noise of espresso machines and quiet conversations nicely tempered by the soothing jazz playing in the background.
I’m prone to distraction when I’m working, and I have to admit I’ve often spent long minutes staring off into space and thinking about ordering a second latte in nearly every coffee shop I’ve set up in. Here, my eye was drawn to the beautiful Matisse prints and vintage postcards on the walls. They give the space an air of being from another time and place — not distracting as you mull over your very modern problems but offering a sort of grounding influence.
Someone in Seoul is probably enjoying an einspanner in the very same moment that you are here in Edmonds, just as the Austrian intellectuals did over cigars and philosophy a century ago.
And right in the middle of it all, there you are. Take a second to luxuriate.
Our Place Dessert Cafe, 23830 Highway 99 #119A, Edmonds. Open every day from noon to 10 p.m. Find them on Instagram @OurPlaceDessertCafe.