At Seattle’s new Olé Café, you’re not only encouraged to speak Spanish, you are required.
“We are maintaining the ‘no English zone’ and we’ll let people know this is just for Spanish only,” said owner Amanda Reichert. “They’re welcome to sit outside [and speak English] but we’re keeping this a non-English zone inside the cafe.”
After years of teaching Spanish to adults, Reichert wished her students had a place to go to fully immerse themselves in the language in a real life setting. So, she opened what she believes is the country’s only Spanish language cafe.
The menu board includes Spanish phrases to help with ordering, and lots of pictures so someone can point to what they’d like. The baristas are extremely friendly, patient, helpful, and encouraging.
“We want it to be really easy for anybody to order,” said Reichert. “Even if you don’t speak Spanish, you’re welcome to come in and try and order something. We’re not looking for perfection, we’re looking for an attempt.”
Olé Café is all about conversation and melting the Seattle Freeze. It’s not a place to work on your laptop, and if a staff member hears you speaking English, they’ll come over and playfully chastise you by having you read a Spanish tongue twister.
Reichert organizes Spanish speaking game nights, trivia, karaoke and conversation groups.
“I think it’s great that you come in here and order in Spanish,” said Linda Tatta, who sat in the back of Olé Café, practicing her Spanish with a group of speakers of varying levels. “It’s an immersion experience to be in here.”
Vicki Anderson is trying to get back into Spanish after years of not speaking the language.
“It definitely changes your brain,” she described. “It’s really hard at first, and after an hour it’s just so much easier — I noticed a big transition. They’re very welcoming. The baristas are wonderful, speaking slowly, and explaining what they said in a different way until I understand it.”
Olé Café serves Spanish style coffee and food, like tortilla Española, a potato, onion, and egg dish, churros y chocolate, and Tarta de Santiago, a dense, citrus-kissed almond cake I fell in love with while walking a section of Spain’s Camino de Santiago. I haven’t seen it anywhere else in Seattle.
“Tarta de Santiago from Galicia is very special,” Reichert agreed.
Sometimes people walk in off the street and are confused by the concept. They get flustered by the idea of ordering in Spanish.
“It’s not going to be for everybody,” Reichert noted. “Not everybody has an interest in learning or speaking Spanish or being pushed out of their comfort zone. The idea behind Olé Café is to create a space that didn’t exist to speak Spanish. Meanwhile, we have many coffee shops [in the area] so I don’t feel that it’s excluding others. I feel like they’re welcome to come in.”
Olé Café is located at 5421 Meridian Avenue N in Seattle.
This content was originally published here.