Hola neighbors! There is a brand new cafe in Wallingford/Tangletown: Olé Café. What singles Olé Café out from the many coffee shops mushrooming all over the neighborhood is that it is the first Spanish-speaking only venue in Seattle; they are a café and tapas bar, serving a limited menu of authentic Spanish drinks and dishes; they also lead Spanish classes for adults inside the space through the owner, Amanda Reichert’s other company, Vámonos Spanish Center.
A native Seattleite, Amanda was drawn to the lyrical Spanish language when she was all of 12 years old and graduated with a degree in it. After dabbling in teaching in Seattle and a stint in Spain, where she experienced the vibrant culture first-hand, she opened her own school – the Vámonos Spanish Center in 2014. She noticed that students would breeze into class with a cup of coffee and make plans after class to get a glass of wine together. She felt the need for a socially-vibrant space where people could just hang out, nosh on some tapas (or churros!) and polish their speaking skills.
The idea for Olé Café came to Amanda just by the power of observation, and it culminated organically into a whole new business. Circa 5 years, and for Amanda, the cafe was a natural next step as it combines her love of Spanish culture and language with a strong sense of community.
We met up with the charming Amanda Reichert to know more about Olé Café and her plans for it…
1. Could you tell me a little about your growing-up days and background?
I grew up in Seattle and started learning Spanish at the age of 12. After graduating with a degree in the Spanish language, I lived in Mexico for a year, where I taught English. Upon returning to Seattle, I started teaching at an immersion school in Wallingford, which I did for 3 years, before doing another year abroad, this time in Spain. I lived in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, which is where my love and passion for the Spanish culture grew and is what inspired me to make Olé Café Spanish themed. I returned from Spain in 2012 and worked for 2 years teaching middle school Spanish, but ultimately decided that I was ready to branch out from the public-school system, which is why I opened my own school, Vámonos Spanish Center, in 2014. The school has progressively grown via word of mouth, and 5 years later is booming!
2. How did the idea for Olé Café come to you?
As Vámonos Spanish Center grew, so did the need for our students to have a place where they could practice speaking. The vision to create Olé Café came about in order to create a space for students to meet peers and native speakers in a real-life setting.
3. How do the speaking classes work in harmony with the café space?
There is a designated classroom space that is closed during lessons so that the front of the café is available to patrons; so far, the flow has worked perfectly! Outside of classroom hours, it is additional café seating.
4. What is a unique feature of the space?
Seattle’s 1st Spanish-only Speaking café! We are a gathering space to bring people together, promote Spanish culture and offer a way for students of Spanish to practice with each other and native speakers.
5. Being the first-of-its-kind Spanish-speaking café in Seattle, how was your experience striking a chord with the community at large?
After reaching our one-month mark of being open, I can say that we have been well received by the community. Many people who live in the neighborhood speak Spanish, and they have been very excited to come in and order or chat with other patrons. Overall there has been a positive vibe, especially from students learning Spanish or native speakers. From the non-Spanish speaking patrons, it has been a mix of curiosity, confusion, and at times resistance. However, that was as I expected, and while I hope to make the café an inclusive place, maintaining the concept is much more important to me, and it’s ok that it’s not a fit for everyone.
6. What are must-try dishes at the cafe? Do you train your chef/cooks yourself?
We prepare some tapas in house, and serve others from an amazing restaurant in Mill Creek—Tablas Woodstone Taverna, by chef Clara Gutierrez. While we aren’t a restaurant, we offer a good selection of savory and sweet tapas. The favorites so far have been the tortilla española and churros con chocolate.
7. What are your future goals and plans for this space?
I am excited as the café grows to expand the variety of events that we will host, such as live flamenco music, dancing classes, workshops and more. I will also experiment with adding different tapas occasionally to spice up the menu.
8. What is your connection to Spain?
I lived in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia in 2011. I went to teach English, and while doing so was immersed in the culture—the food, music, language, etc. That is where my love for Spanish culture originated. Since then, I have stayed in contact with several Spanish friends, attended many events in Seattle to celebrate the culture, and now get to enjoy it daily through Olé Café.
9. What are the different events that you host here?
So far during our first month, we have hosted many conversation meetups, game nights, and trivia. We will soon have a karaoke night, as well as a “tapas tasting.” All of our events are promoted on Facebook and our website, as well as through our meetup group, Olé Café Spanish Language Meetup Group.