Cranium's Coffee & Collectibles
12301 Lake City Way
Seattle, Washington
Open every day from 7am to 6pm.

Cranium's is one of the world's greatest coffee shops. Run by a husband and wife team, it is the most important piece of the glorious Cranium's Empire, which started way back in 1991 as an antiques and collectibles shop. The operation has now expanded to include the cafe, an excellent rare music collection, and a fully fledged construction company.

The menu includes the standard selection of caffeine-enhanced beverages (all of high quality, and available at low low prices), as well as teas, italian sodas, and assorted cola products. For lunch, choose from their many sandwiches, all delicious, made fresh, and blessed with names that seem at first cute and clever, then stupid and contrived, then cute and clever again. If you make it there for breakfast (this noder rarely did, but then, I keep an unemployed geek's schedule) you can build your own egg-speriment. (Normally served with three vegetables of your choice, but they take pity on vegetarians and offer you more.) For those of you with a tight budget, the soup of the day is always a good choice. People with a bizarre low-caloric-intake fetish can opt for a salad.

Like the Matrix, the collectibles section of the store must be seen for oneself. Every toy you ever wanted as a pop-culture-overdosed child of the fifties through nineties is here. The music collection is equally daunting, and it is only the tip of the iceberg -- the expendable, more common records that ordinary jerks like you and me are allowed to paw over. If you're a serious collector, inquire about access to the good stuff.

Yes, as you've no doubt gathered, the food and drink are good, and a trip to the back room can quickly induce a severe nostalgia-related hit to your pocketbook; but what really makes Cranium's great is the people. After one or two visits, Nancy will remember not only your name, but whether you want havarti or swiss with that shemp, and roughly what is going on in your life. Leon often referred to Vruba, Pellik, and me as degenerates, and would yell "filthy hippies!" while speeding past us on his way to a construction gig. One time, he sat down to ask us a few computer-related questions, and ended up spontaneously reinventing many facets of what I consider to be good user interface design. Once we established ourselves as regulars, random free goodies started appearing at our table. They never complained about our habit of ordering a round of coffee, then staying for several hours, occupying multiple booths, and leaving bits of origami and word games strewn about the tables.

Experience it for yourself: Driving north out of Seattle along I-5, take the Lake City exit. Follow Lake City Way for roughly two miles. Drive past the Volvo, Dodge, and Toyota dealers with their giant inflatable rams and untrustworthy-looking car-toon mascots. Ignore the many inferior coffee stands. Don't even think about catching a bit of the continuous topless dancing at Rick's Nightclub. Drawing upon all your mighty reserves of will power and self-restraint, resist the temptation to overshoot your target and pull in at the nearby Dick's Drive-in. Stop (well, pull over and park first) when you get to the retina-stabbing purple and green building with the large "Cranium's" sign. Grab some coffee, a sandwich, and maybe a copy of Der Telefonanruf or a mint condition Cobra Commander. And hey, tell 'em Nick sent you.