Steve's Strata featured on the menu at Blue Steele Coffee Company.

5 Reasons I Visit an Inconvenient Coffee Shop – and You Should Too

I pass several coffee shops and kiosks on the way to my favorite one. Certainly I could save a little time and mileage by stopping at one of those, but going the extra mile is worth it to me.

What makes Blue Steele Coffee Company worth the longer drive? In fact, how do folks know Blue Steele exists? They don’t do much marketing beyond social media postings on Facebook. Thanks to word-of-mouth advertising, they’re known for several things including their coffee, their service, and their history.

Personal Service

They bring me my food and drink. (They don’t make me listen for my order to be called the way fast food places and some coffee shops do.) That’s a big deal to me, especially if I’m meeting someone.

I remember a job posting, looking for someone that would “exude technical excellence.” Isn’t exude a great word? It’s also great for a coffee shop to exude personal service.

Great Food and Coffee

Coffee has been around for centuries, so the brew itself is nothing new. However, you may have found that the quality can range from battery acid to ethereal. At Blue Steele, they start with good beans, and they know how to use them.

Food (and their special vanilla syrup) is made in-house. The baristas draw espresso shots by hand rather than by pressing a button.

Special Orders Don’t Upset Us

Mocha latte' in a mug and cinnamon raisin bagel on a plate with a knife and napkins at Blue Steele Coffee Company.
Mocha latte’ and a cinnamon raisin bagel

Actually, that line is from Burger King‘s old Have It Your Way jingle, but it applies here too. They’ve made special latte / coffee concoctions on my birthday, holidays, and even on Friday the 13th.

They nearly stopped ordering cinnamon raisin bagels because demand was low, but they decided to keep getting them because they know I like them.

Sometimes I have a brainstorm and want to try sometime especially novel. One notable experiment was to make oatmeal with coffee. (It seemed more efficient than alternating between drinking coffee and eating oatmeal, but it didn’t work out very well.) On the other hand, making oatmeal with steamed milk rather than adding the milk to the oatmeal actually works.

Feedback Taken Seriously

They switched from paper punch cards to a punchcard app so customers wouldn’t need to carry (and potentially lose) the physical card. The baristas transferred punches from paper cards into the new system to make sure customers didn’t lose a single punch.

As it turned-out, the app wasn’t very well received by customers, so Blue Steele responded to customer feedback by switching back to paper punch cards. Again, they manually transferred the “punches” to new paper punch cards to make sure nobody lost a punch. It was a hassle for all concerned, but it was a great example of putting customers first.

Steve’s Strata

Steve's Egg Strata in a small casserole dish and a latte' in a mug at Blue Steele Coffee Company, south of Tacoma, Washington.
Steve’s Strata and a latte’ at Blue Steele Coffee Company

Remember how your mother sometimes wanted to “try something” on you? Sometimes a barista will want to try an experiment, and I’m happy to play along.

I was a beta tester for the egg strata when Blue Steele expanded their bistro menu. (Who knew it could be so tricky to make sure it was done in the middle without getting crunchy on the outside?) Somehow this resulted in the dish being dubbed Steve’s Strata on the menu – an honor previously reserved for family members.

No guarantee they’ll name a menu item after you, but they treat everyone well, and their regulars like family.

Fine Print

Just for the record, I don’t have any financial or business interest in Blue Steele. I just really like the place and wanted to brag on them. Of course if other coffee shops and bistros decide to follow their lead, that would be great too.

What is your favorite hang-out like, and is it worth going the extra mile for?

7 thoughts on “5 Reasons I Visit an Inconvenient Coffee Shop – and You Should Too”

  1. Great post, Steve! Kudos to local places like Blue Steele who not only has quality food + drink, but truly appreciates their customers. More businesses can learn from their example of always going the extra mile! Wishing them continued success and can’t wait to try them when I visit Seattle!

  2. I love this, I’m such a big fan of unique coffee shops. I used to go out of my way to one, but they did something that upset me (but I can understand why).

    They covered all of their power outlets.

    I understand why coffee shops have to do this to deal with Wi-Fi freeloaders. What are your thoughts about this?

    1. Dave, I am sympathetic to the challenge of “Wi-Fi freeloaders” but I’m not sure that covering the outlets is a good way to deal with them. Those coffee shops seem to be starting with the assumption that anyone who would want to use an outlet is up to no good. That doesn’t sound like my kind of coffee shop. I hope you find another unique coffee shop that doesn’t discourage folks from staying for a while if they’re so inclined. Of course it also helps if customers show their appreciation by buying something else if they stay for over an hour. It’s also considerate to help accommodate fellow customers if they’re looking for power or a place to sit.

  3. I agree 100 percent. I love Blue Steele. Thanks to Steve, I went there a lot a few years back. I would travel from Kent. Great shop and people.

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