First Cafe

Upper Queen Anne Caffe Ladro's original sign from its first cafeFirst Cafe

Beginnings are exciting! We’re thinking back to the early days of Ladro’s first cafe. The start any endeavor holds a heightened sense of expectation that lives in memories. Think back to your first days of school or of a new job, and you’ll remember the anticipation, the giddiness, and the pride you felt. As we approach our 25th anniversary, we’re taking a look back. If you have stories to share, we’d love to read them in the comments or have you share them on our contact form.

This new cafe was exciting for Jack Kelly. This new store was his baby. After leaving his partnership at Uptown Espresso, Kelly found the perfect spot on the top of Queen Anne hill for his new venture. He didn’t worry about all the competition near him because he was bent on quality and craft. The coffee he would offer would be excellent. The customer service would bring people back to be come part of the Ladro family.

Caffe Ladro

With just 840 square feet (including the back deck), Kelly built Caffe Ladro and opened April 24th, 1994. Kelly’s desire to offer excellent coffee and create a place people would feel they belonged came to life. He set about hiring and training staff. He and his team pulled excellent espresso, delivered with smiles and the perfect two minute conversation to begin the day. Kelly offered special in-store pastry delivery options–tossed behind his back, behind the back and through the window pane hanging above the bar, or the old fashioned way, on a plate. On one such toss, Kelly overshot his mark and hit Doris Thomas’ coffee on a nearby table. It making quite a mess, and a funny memory. (We’re saddened that Doris is no longer with us–RIP Doris.)

Caffe Ladro weekend breakfast menu from 1995 at the first cafeOn Weekends

Back in ’95, on weekends, Caffe Ladro offered a short breakfast menu. During the week, Ladro served baked goods made in the tiniest bakery space you can conceive. If you’ve visited, the the Upper Caffe Ladro, you know this space. In your minds-eye it is west of the espresso machines and bakery case. If you don’t know the space, picture an open closet of 75 sf and you have the original Ladro bakery in mind. We wish we could still offer the Eggs Benedict, Italian Scrambled Eggs, and French Toast. We just don’t have kitchens that are suited to breakfasts at any cafes. We do offer a wider variety of pastries, quiches, and treats. One of the items that still remains on the Ladro menu is our house-made granola.

The Ladro Team

A tight-knit team formed that prided itself on waking people up at 5am to start the day and putting people to bed with their last coffee or treat at 11pm. To celebrate the holidays in 1995, the team members drew names and made gifts for one another. One of those gifts lives at the Caffe Ladro business office. It is a painting titled, “11 Little Elves,” and it was a gift from Eric the Elf to Jack that year. Three of these elves contineue to make Ladro run–Jack (CEO), Bob (CFO), and Holly (Office Manager). Cam has her own cafe in West Seattle. Meg has three cafes, a bakery, and a roaster in Philadelphia, PA.

Painting of 11 Caffe Ladro baristas named "11 Little Elves"



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Showing 8 comments
  • Lorri McDole

    My husband and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary (13 years ago now!) by staying at the Marqueen Hotel on Lower Queen Anne. Caffe Ladro, of course, is right next door, and that was our first time drinking your delicious coffee! The last morning, my husband picked a little cookie up at the register and popped it in his mouth, not knowing it was a dog biscuit (for all those dog lovers on Queen Anne!) Long story short, I’m a writer so I did what writers do…turned it into a story that expanded into a kind of meditation on love and how it feels to revisit your old neighborhood (I lived on Queen Anne after college) and realize you’re not quite as hip as you used to be. I published it in a magazine called The Rambler (now defunct) and then it was picked up by an anthology called “A Cup of Comfort for Couples.” So there it is: OUR anniversary story in celebration of YOURS!

    • Ladro Roasting

      Thank you so much for sharing your memory and the story! We’ll work to track down your story in publication, as well.

  • Meg Hagele

    Thank you Caffe Ladro! You were formative for me, to say the least. Our Ladro family was special because YOU made it special. My shops in Mt Airy Philadelphia are tiny little Caffe Ladro time capsules. I know in the coffee Mecca you can’t stay your old self, but I loved our old selves. From Foam Charts and Foam Balls to Jam & Ching & “HOT CHOWDER”. Milk Stones and even the occasional “D’Angelo Flop” (though I’m the only who calls it that), 25 years later I still think, “what would Jack & Bob do?” The home you made is one I strive every day to provide for my staff. I love you and I miss you! Thanks for everything!

  • eric hildebrandt

    omg that painting. those were some great (crazy) years. jack was the best boss ever. xoxo

    • Ladro Roasting

      Eric–one of the elves! Thank you for visiting and we’ll be sure Jack sees your kind words.

  • Ladro Roasting

    Hi Meg! Thank you so much for the kindness and the memories.

pingbacks / trackbacks
  • […] now stories. If you are curious to learn more about Ladro’s history, you can read about our first cafe, how Ladro grew, and about our bakery […]

  • […] after he signed the lease on top of Queen Anne. “We were talking about what we would call the new café.  It was like naming a baby.  Avalon was a serious contender.  But Caffe Ladro, the Coffee […]

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