Food Review: Dino’s Coffee Bar

A small coffee company has been growing in reputation on Olympia’s west side: Dino’s Coffee Bar, owned by Andy Cronin and Joel Hart.

The small blue building stands on Harrison Avenue, with the smell of coffee drifting out onto the street. Except for one sign on the side of the building, the coffee bar is nearly unmarked.

Inside, the warm coffee smell is stronger. The typical patrons can usually be found inside visiting, doing homework, using Wi-Fi, reading and so on.

A friendly barista called over the indie rock music playing as I entered, “One wink of a turtle’s eye, one otter somersault, and I’ll be with you!”

He went back to preparing coffee, cracking jokes and laughing with customers and coworkers. A Batman mask hung from a coffee machine, and old video game characters, movie actors and figurines sat on a display above some packaged coffee. Batman was a recurring theme throughout the coffee bar.

Local art adorns the wall. The iconic profile of the owner’s dog, Dino, hung on a far wall. A barista rocking a Batman apron offered some coffee or food. She handed me a paper menu, predominantly filled with sandwich and brunch choices.

As I browsed the menu, Hart sat across from me. According to him, he is the “empirically more attractive of the two owners.” Soon after, Cronin joined us, bringing with him many years of coffee roasting and brewing experience.

Cronin started his career in coffee at age 16 in Nebraska. Soon after, he traveled to England where he learned the methods and history of the coffee trade. After a while of doing pretty much every job in the coffee industry, short of growing the beans, Cronin joined Hart as the roaster for Dino’s Coffee Company.

“In a year and half we’ve become a coffee roaster; we run a full breakfast and lunch menu,” said Hart, up from a three-person, family-owned coffee and pastry operation.

The menu was full of locally sourced food, nearly all organic. Hart said he insists on quality, saying they change vendors if one stops meeting their standards. Pointing to the kitchen in the back, he said, “We make our soups every morning fresh. Today we’re running an organic root vegetable soup with wild porcini mushrooms. The mushrooms are picked here locally; there is actually a guy who forages for them and brings them to us.”

After talking about the business, the shop and the roaster, Cronin brought out the coffee, dark and steaming in a black mug, which displayed the proud profile of the Great Dane on its side.

I am a casual partaker of coffee, and tend to stay away from anything stronger than the standard Starbucks coffees. Yet, this bold brew was delicious.

I ordered one item from each of their menus: the eggs Benedict and the Reuben sandwich.

Dino’s Coffee Bar emblem is of the owners’ great dane, Dino. Photo by Sebastian Herrera

Dino’s Coffee Bar emblem is of the owners’ great dane, Dino.
Photo by Sebastian Herrera

I started with the eggs Benedict. The yolk spilled out the moment I cut into it, quickly soaking the round English muffin underneath. The warm ham provided a perfect balance to the sweet, tart taste of the hollandaise sauce. The dish was topped with fresh parsley, providing an additional crisp taste and beautiful garnish.

This makes an amazingly sweet and filling breakfast that one cannot wolf down. Joel said, “The eggs Benedict is the best in town.” I can hardly find room to argue with him.

At first bite, all the flavors of the Reuben blended in an explosion of sweet, spicy and sour flavors that lasted long after I stopped to sip more of the coffee. Its sauerkraut, a perfect mixture between sour and sweet, coupled with the spice from the meat, forced me to take another bite. To my surprise, the soft toasted bread managed to stay together throughout the ordeal; it seemed light enough to fall apart while gripping the sandwich. The Reuben may seem like just a sandwich, but it was surprisingly filling; I nearly left the last bites on the plate.

When I took the first bite of oganic stew that accompanies the Reuben, the sweet vegetables fell apart in my mouth. The bittersweet spike of flavor from the coffee perfectly countered the smooth texture and taste of the stew. It is rare such a great stew could be found in a tiny cafe whose major gig is still, and will forever remain to be, coffee.

I left Dino’s full and happy, knowing for certain I will be back. I recommend this place to eat, relax, drink coffee and hang out with friends, or even to just talk with the staff.

Dino’s Coffee Bar is open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.