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Capitol Hill food+drink | After 12 years, Cafe Solstice returning to Broadway

Sowers and Wood working the Cafe Solstice cart in front of the current Jai Thai space, circa 1994. (Image: Picture of picture from Joel Wood)

Sowers and Wood working the Cafe Solstice cart in front of the current Jai Thai space, circa 1994. (Image: Picture of picture from Joel Wood)

During the 1990s, the Cafe Solstice coffee cart was one of the defining local, independent ventures that made Broadway the hub of Capitol Hill street life. With Broadway’s end-of-century decline, the coffee sellers left for greener, bigger, and indoor pastures, relocating to their current space on The Ave in the University District. Now, Cafe Solstice is coming home.

Solstice owner’s Joel Wood and Doug Sowers confirmed to CHS they are opening a second Cafe Solstice inside the Lyric building at 10th and Thomas.

“We’ve always wanted to be on the Hill with a cafe,” Sowers told CHS inside his U-District coffee shop.

Solstice will occupy the entire 10th Ave commercial space and wrap around part of Thomas., Sowers said. The owners plan to launch a website for the new location soon, and hope to be open for business by the end of the year.

The addition of the local, independent coffee shop to the area may come as uplifting news to those bemoaning national chain Office Max moving into the same building. CHS reported on the Office Max plans Monday.


(Image: Cafe Solstice)

Lo-Shan Sun, who owned properties demolished to make way for 230 Broadway, now owns some of the commercial space in the new building. According to Sowers, Sun is the landlord for Solstice as well as Office Max.

“They were really happy to see our interest in the space,” Sowers said. “I think its an asset for the people who live there to have a coffee shop downstairs.”

Sowers, who came to Seattle in 1991 with his Spokane rock band, said the Office Max opening is just representative of the upheavals already taking place across the neighborhood. He said he’s happy to be on the backside of the building where the cafe will be tucked away for a more “neighborhood feel.”

While he and Wood are returning to a very different Capitol Hill, Sowers said the mix of musicians, artists, and gay scene are still big draws.

Wood started the Cafe Solstice cart in 1993. Sowers joined him one year later and the two have operated Solstice together ever since. In 2001 they left the Hill to move into their spacious, vaulted-ceiling cafe at 42nd and University Way.

Solstice’s open, inviting atmosphere on The Ave is a favorite among college students who hunker down for long study sessions on rainy evenings. Wood said the concept at the new location will be similar. When asked what they hope to add to the already potent coffee shop mix on Capitol Hill, Wood said he’s not trying to reinvent the wheel.

“We’re an old school coffee shop,” Wood said. “We like having a comfortable place for people to hang out.”

Sowers noted that Solstice will fill a food gap on Broadway as an informal place to grab a quick soup, salad, or sandwich. In addition to Lighthouse Coffee brewed drinks, the owners said they will expand their current craft beer and wine selections in the new location.

You can learn more on the Cafe Solstice Facebook page.
Capitol Hill food+drink notes by jseattle

(Image: CDNews)

(Image: CDNews)

"last (kitchen) call at the highline Capitol Hill, Seattle" (Image: davamoore via Flickr)

“last (kitchen) call at the highline Capitol Hill, Seattle” (Image: davamoore via Flickr)


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11 thoughts on “Capitol Hill food+drink | After 12 years, Cafe Solstice returning to Broadway

  1. Wonderful news about Solstice! It will be very nice to see Doug and Joel’s presence up on the Hill again. I was a loyal customer back in the days of their cart!

  2. It is not possible that Cafe Solstice is moving into Lyric as the greedy developers only design for and allow corporate chains into their nouveau Capitol Hill retail nightmares.

    Welcome, Solstice. I’m sure more than a few former students who graduated to the hill and now have some income are looking forward to patronizing your new location.

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