PNW Profiles: Lama G’s Cafe (and chai)

I don’t know where exactly Lama G’s Cafe fits in between old and new Fremont, I’m just glad I found it. Karma (or Lama G, he doesn’t mind either way) owns the place, and his laid-back, welcoming attitude sets the scene for his cafe. I haven’t met any other former Buddhist monks, so I’m not sure if Karma has always been easy-going,  or whether Buddhism and his Bhutanese roots played a role. I suspect all three.

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Karma, Lama G’s Cafe.

If you ever find yourself in limbo or charting a new course, I recommend finding a coffee shop run by a former Buddhist monk. It has been a great place to grab coffee and a sandwich while I mull over whether I can make a go of photojournalism. I’m a little old to be jumping into what many people would describe as a dying industry. While I don’t think it’s dying, journalism has been turned on its head. But I think there will always be a place for compelling, informative journalism, and I think there will always be an appetite for visual story-telling. I’d like to see if I can find a way to contribute. Could be a disaster; time will tell. When I mentioned my concern to Karma, he replied that one is never too old to try something new. We read inspiring notes like that all the time on greeting cards or social media posts. It sounds a lot more sincere and convincing from Karma.

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Lama G’s Cafe, Fremont, Seattle.

I walked by Lama G’s several times on quests for coffee before giving it a shot. People are not lying when they tell you that it rains a lot in Seattle and that you can find good coffee everywhere. Fremont/Wallingford has several good cafes, but I always find myself returning to Lama G’s. A creature of habit, I went about a month just ordering the americano and the lettuce, tomato, cheese, and mustard sandwich on multi-grain. But the neighborhood regulars raved about the chai and the lentil soup. I might have had chai once before, now I’m hooked.

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Egg sandwich, coffee. Lama G’s Cafe.

I asked Karma what his secret was for the chai. He smiled and said, “There’s no secret. It’s just fresh, authentic Indian chai. Fresh ginger, good tea, and a lot of love. No secret, just what you put into it, love and passion.”

Karma was a Buddhist monk for 25 years and reached the level of Lama. In 2003, Karma agreed to help his childhood friend set up the Buddhist center at Nalanda West. He realized that he and the other community members at the center didn’t have a convenient place to get coffee, so in 2010 he decided to open the cafe.

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Photos of Myanmar by WL Ross, Lama G’s Cafe.

Despite that link to Nalanda West, Lama G’s is first and foremost a coffee shop. Many of the regulars know Karma from Nalanda West, but most of the customers live or work in the neighborhood and come in for a quiet place for food, coffee, and conversation. Karma has some Bhutanese handicrafts for sale, and he’s more than happy to offer advice about visiting Bhutan, but his main concern is serving up great coffee, chai, and food. If you visit, say hello to Dawa.

Lama G’s Cafe

1060 N 39th Street, Seattle,WA 98103

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