There’s only one thing better than a good book, and that’s reading it with good coffee and yummy pastries. And even though it’s been feeling like spring in the South Sound, you know we can still be guaranteed plenty of cool rainy days where a hot drink and a long book sounds appealing.
Luckily we have plenty of neighborhoods where you’ll find all three things – an independent bookstore plus a cafe with good java and delicious eats – within an easy walk. And with used books, the whole experience needn’t set you back more than $10. Here are seven picks to give you plenty of exploration material:
King’s Books (218 St. Helens Ave., 253-272-8801, kingsbookstore.com. Open daily until 7 p.m.)
Corina Bakery (510 Sixth Ave., 253-627-5070, corinabakery.com. Open Mondays through Saturdays until 7 p.m., and until 6 p.m. Sundays.)
King’s Books is such a feature of the Tacoma arts scene, it’s hard to imagine life without it. Large, not too dusty and with a big selection of local books plus general interest, King’s is a great place to find a hidden nook and read. Owner sweet pea Flaherty connects local artists, book clubs and events, making the store a community location.
“The strength of independent bookstores is our community focus,” Flaherty said. “All of King’s Books events seek to engage the community and start conversations.”
Once you have a book, it might be a longish walk down the hill to the corner of Sixth and Fawcett avenues, but newly expanded Corina Bakery is worth it. Smooth coffee and cakes (lavender, red velvet) plus pastries like the coconutty-caramel majestic bar are served in a stylish French interior. And there are always vegan choices.
Museum district choices: Meta Books (1916 Pacific Ave.), Hello Cupcake (1740 Pacific Ave.), and Renaissance Cafe (1746 Pacific Ave.)
TACOMA FERN HILL
Park Avenue Books (8304 S. Park Ave., 253-471-2099, parkavenuebooks.com. Closed Sundays.)
Little Jerry’s (8233 S. Park Ave., 253-474-2435. Closed Mondays.)
Fern Hill for books? You bet. Park Avenue Books has been going for nearly a decade now after two local bookstores merged in this historic South Tacoma district.
Now the unassuming red facade hides a glorious jumble of used books with a surprising number of specialties: Bibles, sci-fi, children’s, vintage mystery such as Ellery Queen. There’s plenty of dust, but plenty of friendliness too.
“It’s the best bookstore anywhere, including California,” said local Linda Cook. “And so helpful – they can never do enough for you.”
And Park Avenue’s books are cheap. “Our goal is to put books in the hands of people who want to read and also pay their rent,” says co-owner Linda Howell.
The cafe scene isn’t big in Fern Hill, but wander across the road to Little Jerry’s and you’ll get a big helping of Seinfeld-themed breakfast quick and fresh. The coffee’s bitter, but the French toast is fluffy and cutely egg-shaped, and so sweet you won’t need syrup. Plus you can read a 1980s Time magazine while you’re at it.
Culpepper Books (2521 N. Proctor St., 253-761-9000, culpepperbooks.com. Closed Sundays.)
Metropolitan Market (2420 N. Proctor St., 253-761-3663, metropolitan-market.com. Open daily.)
Shopping in Proctor’s boutique district is always fun, and Culpepper Books is part of that.
The tiny used-book shop has a good fiction and Northwest section, plus vintage and collectors editions and some good art books too.
Since Jubilee Cupcakes closed down, your only cafe choice other than Starbucks is Metropolitan Market – but its French pastry selection alone is worth the short walk.
Croissants, petit fours, macaroons, Nutella brioches – plus the usual cookies, brownies and even gelato can be found at the coffee bar.
The coffee’s good, but if it’s not warm enough to sit outside, you’ll have to perch at the tiny bar stool tables.
Orca Books (509 Fourth Ave. E., 360-352-0123, orcabooks.com. Open daily.)
Olympia Coffee Co. (108 Cherry St. N.E., 360-753-0066, olympiacoffee.com. Open daily.)
The Bread Peddler (222 N. Capitol Way, 360-352-1175, breadpeddler.com. Open daily.)
If King’s is Tacoma’s book institution, Orca Books is Olympia’s. For 18 years, it has been a stalwart presence on the edge of downtown, selling used and new with an enormous range in a spacious, blue-and-green space.
The children’s section is enough to fill a store on its own, with cheery murals. There always are plenty of Oly-focused tomes on sustainable gardening and ecosystems. Among the local teas, soups, magazines and stationery, there’s a whole rack of cards by Olympia artist Nikki McClure.
“We’re kind of a destination and community center,” said owner Linda Berentsen, citing the deluge of sympathy cards that came in recently after the death of the store cat, Henry, as an example of what the store means to South Sounders. Orca also sells e-books (though not for Kindle) and does a lot of online sales.
For coffee and treats, you have two terrific choices. Olympia Coffee Co. is kitty-corner from Orca on Cherry Street. It serves astonishingly fresh, delicious espresso sourced from organic, hand-picked farms. You can watch the roasters at work and enjoy local treats such as Left Bank croissants and macaroons, Bearded Lady cupcakes and gigantic biscotti from the San Francisco Street bakery. It has only a few tables though.
If you don’t mind a six-block walk back to Capitol Way, go to The Bread Peddler. Filled with warmth and delicious bready aromas, the capacious breakfast-lunch venue offers French bread sandwiches, quiches and soups as well as divine treats such as the fruity Frangipane tart, almond cake and savory gougeres.
GIG HARBOR HISTORIC DOWNTOWN
Bayside Book Company (3226 Harborview Drive, 253-432-1573. Closed Mondays.)
Mostly Books (3126 Harborview Drive, 253-851-3219, mostlybooks.com. Open daily, closes 4 p.m. Sundays.)
No Dearth of Books (7803 Pioneer Way, 253-853-3355, nodearthofbooks.com. Open noon-5 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays-Sundays.)
Suzanne’s Bakery (3411 Harborview Drive, 253-853-6220)
Kelly’s Cafe (7806 Pioneer Way, 253-851-8697. Open daily.)
If you’re not a local, you might never have known that historic waterfront Gig Harbor is home not only to boats and restaurants, but no less than three indie bookstores and two cafes. Here’s the low-down, starting from the west end of Harborview Drive:
Suzanne’s Bakery serves resh bread and to-die-for puffy eclairs (among other things) in a sunny yellow cafe where locals sit quietly working on laptops. Outside tables catch the afternoon sun.
Two blocks down, Bayside Book Company hides a delightful array of used and vintage books behind a periwinkle blue exterior (the entry is through a side door off the parking lot). Owners Pat (a News Tribune page designer) and Margie McCoid stock a full range of books, with extra attention to kids’ art books, homeschooling resources, cooking and travel, with a rug and table in the children’s section (2 p.m. Saturday storytime) and tables for both free and $2 books just outside.
Mostly Books blends mostly new with some used books in an elegant set of dark-wood aisles dotted with rocking chairs. Handmade journals and cards complement Northwest authors, local travel and maritime, with a good variety of everything else.
“We’ve lost some people to e-books, but others prefer the warmth of a real book,” said owner Jo Graffe, who’s run the store for 15 of its 40-plus years. “I think there’s a need. But whether we’ll survive the transition (of the book industry), we’ll see.”
Around the corner on Pioneer Way, Kelly’s Cafe, home to the biggest, stickiest, sweetest cinnamon roll ever, and No Dearth of Books, which offers a maritime-heavy range of used and new, face each other across the street. Now comes the hard part – choosing...
A Good Book (1014 Main St., 253-891-9692, facebook.com/agoodbookcafe. Closed Sundays and Mondays.)
Berryland Cafe (1101 Main St., 253-863-4567, sumnerdowntown.com. Open until 3 p.m., closed Sundays.)
Sorci’s Italian Cafe (1012 Ryan Ave., 253-891-8400, sorcisitaliancafe.com. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturdays.)
The only downside to exploring books, coffee and pastries in Sumner is that you can’t do it on Sundays or Mondays. But go any other day and you’ll have a great choice.
A Good Book combines friendly staff, a beautifully clean and inviting space with white shelves and exposed brick walls, and a brilliant selection of books. Downstairs, you’ll find nonfiction, Christian, adult fiction and a few racks of videos and comics. Upstairs is the skylit kids section, complete with train table, toys, sofas and one of the best ranges anywhere (plus a lovely view over the balcony).
In business 14 years, A Good Book owes its success to moving with the times as well as being the only bookstore in the area. It sells through amazon.com, offers free shipping and isn’t afraid of e-books.
“This is the time for independent bookstores to step up and say, here we are,” said the aptly-named employee Paige Mitchell. “Do I like e-books? No, but you can’t just sit and whine.”
Just across the street amid the many gift and antique stores that make Sumner so adorable is Berryland Cafe. If you can stick out the excessively gingham-and-ducky decor long enough to order one of the rhubarb and berry pies, you’ll be glad you did: squidgy, fruity deliciousness on a plate, and a lot of it.
Much better coffee – and Italian pastries such as canoli to boot – are found just one block along and around to the left on Ryan Street, where Sorci’s Italian Cafe dishes up a European atmosphere along with authentic food and gelato.
A Novel Idea (116 S. Meridian Ave., 253-840-2665, anovelideawa.com. Open daily, closes 4 p.m. Sundays.)
Anthem Coffee and Tea (210 W. Pioneer Ave., 253-881-1445, anthemcoffeeandtea.com. Open daily.)
Historic Puyallup is coming along in the world of galleries and farmers’ markets, and you can enjoy books and coffee there too.
Start your exploration on South Meridian at A Novel Idea, where the small but pleasant store holds a fairly good range of used books at reasonable prices, along with comfortable chairs and locally made jewelry and scarves.
Then head around the corner across Pioneer Park to Anthem Coffee and Tea, which last year turned a bland Forza into a hipster hangout with groovy music, plug-ins, a fireplace and edgy espresso.
They offer the usual chain-cafe range of pastries, but you’ll want to get a locally made Wanna Cupcake cake pop, a mouthful of incredibly fudgy goodness (especially the coconut). If you’re there on a Saturday, you also can try the market in Pioneer Park Pavilion for extra treats.