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Capitol Hill escapism? Escape room company making plans for game-filled E Pike cafe

A sketch of what could be ahead for Q Cafe

By Audrey Frigon, CHS Intern

Mirror-glazed cake, anyone?

How about a little pandemic-era Capitol Hill escapism? Literally, escapism. Quest Factor, a local escape room events company, is making pans for a Capitol Hill cafe dedicated to steampunk design, interactive games, and shiny desserts.

Plans for the Q Cafe are in the works for upper E Pike.

“Our goal is always to bring people together, to pull them away from their screens and get them to connect,” said Sasha Portnova, one of Q Cafe’s owners alongside her husband Sergey Fahreev and their friend and business partner George Albantov.

It’s difficult to say what plans and ideas will survive the current COVID-19 shutdown. Quest operates four escape room locations around Seattle. Each is currently shuttered, of course, due to the social distancing restrictions in place to slow the spread of the virus.

But Q Cafe says it has a location lined up in the high concept and super green Solis apartment building at 13th and Pike that has already made the move to transition from condominiums.

Q Cafe hopes to join the Capitol Hill neighborhood on E Pike and 13th. “It is one of the busiest parts of Seattle and fits our demographic,” said Portnova.

The Q Cafe vision is a venue of secret rooms and entrances, puzzle tables, and other moving elements that are very reminiscent of the owners’ escape room background. Designs include Harry Potter-esque portraits with moving scenes or figures. A customer can order on the main floor and expect their food or drink to meet them on the mezzanine, brought up by special mechanical creations.


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As Q Cafe looks to stand out from other coffee shops in Seattle, the coffee capital of the world, with a unique theme and experience, Portnova wanted to create something cozy for her customers.

“I never understood why everyone is obsessed with the white tile design,” she said, “it’s not cozy. We want to create a space where you want to feel like you can stay for a while. The steampunk element of the design where things are constantly moving fit nicely into the interactive narrative and the Victorian furniture really gives you that coziness,” Portnova said.

Unique desserts will also be a draw. Quest Factor are partnering with From V with Love pastry chef Valeria Koulikova for her visions of mirror-glaze cakes, shiny cakes made by pouring chocolate sugar glaze over the cake, creating a mirror-like finish. .

“I always had a dream of opening a bakery and I thought maybe this was how I could realize that dream,” Koulikova says.

(Image: Q Cafe)

Koulikova will be bringing her signature mousse and mirror-glaze cakes to the menu at Q Cafe alongside other traditional European dessert items and an all-day breakfast menu. The cafe’s steampunk theme will be incorporated into its food. Koulikova is most excited about her petit gâteau, or chocolate fondant cakes, themed as a deconstructed clock.

The kitchen will include a viewing window for visitors to watch the mirror-glazing in action.

Quest Factor began in 2016 when George Albantov pitched the idea of building escape rooms to friend Sergey Fahreev. Using Fahreev’s construction background and Albantov’s IT skills, the pair designed and created their first escape room. Four years later, the pair were joined by Fahreev’s wife, Sasha Portnova, and have since brought twelve unique escape room experiences to the Seattle area.

The cafe owners have set out on an ambitious path in the realm of interactive experiences — let alone a time when the social fabric of going out to bars, restaurants, and cafes is undergoing such major changes. They also plan to open another Q Cafe location in Issaquah by the end of the year and have hopes for larger endeavours ahead.

But it’s a challenging time for big dreams. The Q Cafe owners chose to use an Indiegogo campaign to fund a portion of their venture including kitchen equipment, interior design, and capital. Backers of the campaign can expect rewards from free desserts to escape room games. It has so far raised just over $5,000 — far from their goal.

“It is our way of trying to engage the public, for them to feel that they also co-founded this space, keep in that theme of interactivity, and get them excited,” Portnova said.

Q Cafe is planned for the Solis building at 1300 E Pike. You can learn more and help fund the project here.


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