The only thing better than a cafe that serves wine? A cafe that serves cheap wine. Empire Espresso, a cafe in the heart of Columbia City and at the corner of one of the best-designed new buildings in the area (Columbia City Live Aboves, by the firm Arellano/Christofides, which is behind a number of the new low-income units in Rainier Valley and the marvelously modern Leschi Residence), sells cheap wine. A whole bottle of Inama Vin Soave, for example, is yours for just $15! That's five good pours! That's $3 a pour! And the wine has a pretty label and is entirely respectable. Here is We Speak Wine's rather florid description of it: "Floral, high-pitched aromas of stone fruits and fresh herbs on the clean, enticing nose. Shows very good balance and energy to its flavors of lemon icing, green apple, pear, and herbs. Richer on the palate than I expected, with lovely concentration and length; this is a very serious entry-level Soave and one of the best versions from Inama in years. Very well done." Very well said. But I have to be honest, I'm one of the few lovers of wine who never sticks his nose into a wine glass. In my thinking, sniffing is fine for a dog or a cat or any animal that still finds olfactory information meaningful, but not for a human. We long ago traded the senses of the nose for the glory of tricolor vision.
Empire Espresso also serves a mimosa at the reasonable price of $5—it's in a huge glass, and the champagne is Trader Joe's world-famous blanc de blancs. My server was obviously very generous with the bubbly and stingy with the juice, as one glass of the mimosa got me drunk—it was around noon on a rainy day. All of the tables in the cafe were taken (a futuristic row of laptops), the music flowing out of the iPod was BadBadNotGood's beautiful jazz cover of A Tribe Called Quest's "Electric Relaxation," and on the TV, a teenage bomber was on the run from the law (his aunt, uncle, and father were saying things I could not hear; his brother was spending his first day in death). When I finished the mimosa, everything in me yelled: Have another. But I was already no longer sober and still had to provide my job five more hours of work.