After 17 years in the U District, Cafe Racer is about to begin a new era on Capitol Hill. After closing its original shop in 2020, the live music and coffee favorite has found a new location at 1510 11th Avenue. It will take over the space formerly occupied by nightlife destination Barça, husband and wife co-owners Jeff Ramsey and Cindy Anne recently announced. Ramsey tells Eater Seattle he plans to host some preview shows over the summer, with a goal to have an official grand opening September 10.
Cafe Racer was a much-loved hip neighborhood hangout over its time in the U District, serving espresso and a selection of local beer in a quirky space that had a kitsch-filled room called the Official Bad Art Museum of Art (OBAMA). Those elements — particularly OBAMA — will carry over to the new space, with a menu of snacks such as salads, sandwiches, and breakfast burritos, along with a full bar highlighting local distillers. Ramsey says the new spot will also carry a line of pot pies from Pot Pie Factory chef-owner Logan Niles, “fitting the vibe of comfort food,” and he intends to bring back the cafe’s popular brunch, but isn’t quite sure what that will look like yet.
As for the space itself, Ramsey promises that fans of the old Cafe Racer will still feel at home in the new location, even if the venue is a bit more expansive. “We realized if we wanted to truly support local artists, we needed to give them a bigger stage,” he says, noting that there will be a sizable mezzanine and a top-notch sound system.
In the interim period between closing last summer and preparing the new location, Cafe Racer has developed an online radio station with 40,000 tracks from more than 3,000 artists, several of which may be showing up to perform soon. The timing should be ideal, since large music venues — most recently the Neptune Theater in the U District — have announced some summer concerts at full capacity. By the time Cafe Racer gets up and running officially in the fall, it should have plenty of opportunities to ramp up live shows.
Despite the eager anticipation over the cafe’s revival, Ramsey says moving from the U District is bittersweet. He bought the business in 2017, five years after a gunman shot and killed four people inside the cafe. The owner at the time, Kurt Geissel, almost closed the venue for good afterwards, but the community rallied around Cafe Racer to keep it open.
“The neighborhood was like our extended family,” Ramsey says of his three-plus years operating the shop on Roosevelt Way. “But we’ll create a new family, and hopefully be a welcome addition on the Hill. Something more homey, less polished.”