Avelino Coffee in Bellingham Washington.http://www.espressoavellino.com/coffee.html
This is almost more a review of a concept than an actual coffee shop. On a trip to the pacific northwest many years ago, I was staying with relatives who made fine coffee, but not spectacular coffee and I decided to venture out to try to find great shots of espresso. I tried a few places without success and then I stumbled upon Avelino in Bellingham Washington down in the area they call Railroad.
They were pulling shots on an ancient and stunning two group lever machine that was just magical. It was a Gaggia they had rescued from an old hotel in San Francisco. The shots were so good that I realized that I was not getting the most out of my own lever machine, a Pavoni that I had at home. I had not realized it because I had not had great espresso locally since buying the Pavoni. This, however, was smooth and luscious, and had not bitter notes at all.
In some sense if you already have a Pavoni, you are already on the espresso journey, but in another sense this shot launched my newer journey. I realized there was so much more to it than I had realized before. I wanted more.
I started devouring not just espresso, but information about it and how to do it well. I visited blogs and message boards (what kind of sick person would go on coffee blogs?).
I also upgraded my grinder to a Macap M4. That did wonders. I had been using a $100 burr grinder and it was fine, but not in a league with the Macap (which in turn was not as good as the Super Jolly I was lucky enough to find used later).
In any event it was a great experience for me.
Sadly I went back this summer and the lever has been retired in its place is a very nice, but ubiquitous La Marzocco machine. I will never know if that magical shot I drank years ago was as amazing as I remember it or if it was just another really good shot now that my expectations of espresso are higher.
They continue to serve coffee well worth visiting for and that any town could be proud of, but some of the magic is gone with the romance of the machine.
Not all the magic is lost though, as she is still in the shop sitting over the door now serving as art and atmosphere, but not producing espresso.
ps I don't know if I have permission to take their photo of the machine, but if you want to see it you can by clicking here (they call here Stella)...http://www.espressoavellino.com/images/stella_cut.jpg