Coffee, Croissants, Community & more at new Convivial Café

August 11, 2018 | by Naomi Tomky

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The Convivial Cafe team – left to right: Rumi Ohnui, Spencer Rickman, Joel Wachs, and Amanda Aquino

Convivial, the long-awaited bakery cafe, officially opened in Mercer Island’s Town Center on August 10th. It arrives with freshly baked breads, pastries, coffee, and big plans. Owner Joel Wachs, profiled here, has built out the space in the Islandia Shopping Center (just a few doors down from Island Books) into an inviting, modern cafe, with high hopes to create a community gathering spot.

Crisp blue and bright white décor frame light wood furniture, which offers 50 seats in a variety of formats for all types of customers. Directly in front of the entrance, a grand community table welcomes, with a line of smaller tables line one wall. Two relaxed areas offer comfy chairs and banquettes, and a community room in the back, decorated with art by local artists, is reservable for students working on group projects, board meetings, or other gatherings.

But the biggest ambition isn’t the floor plan, it’s the food and beverage. While Wachs and his team are starting with a simple, refined coffee menu, both coffee manager Spencer C. Rickman and assistant coffee manager Amanda Aquino come from the specialty coffee world and hope to introduce specialty coffee—single-estate roasts and pourovers—to the island. Meanwhile, the focus is on quality drinks, starting with those brewed with Elm Coffee Roasters beans, as well as teas by both the mug and pot, including a house-brewed chai.

Beyond the coffee equipment, the enormous kitchen runs the length of the room, with peek-a-boo windows running down the hall toward the restrooms, so customers can watch the pastry team in action. That team is led by Rumi Ohnui, a 10-year veteran of the industry who worked at Seattle gem Cassis and has run her own company, Firebird Sweets. The pastry case will brim with her baked goods, including a focus on croissants (her own favorite is the chocolate one) and quick breads, including muffins, biscuits, coffee cake, and loaf slices (banana, apple, and pumpkin).

For a hot breakfast, she plans oatmeal, French toast, and biscuits and gravy, moving into savory offerings as the day goes on, such as soups (chicken and dumplings and gumbo are on her rotating list), and pizza-like focaccias in flavors like ham and cheese or spinach and feta. Later in the day, Convivial unveils its sweeter side, offering cakes, puddings, and mousses. Ohnui also looks forward to showing off her Japanese-style strawberry shortcake and chocolate mousse.

If watching all that roll out of the kitchen sparks an interest, stay tuned – Wachs hopes to eventually add some pastry and cooking classes to Convivial’s long roster of assets. In the meantime, he and his ace staff will be welcoming customers to the inviting space and planning for a Grand Opening (likely in September). Stop by and say hello – you’ll discover that Convivial Cafe was well worth the wait.

Convivial Cafe is open Wednesday through Sunday, 7 am to 8 pm, and is located at 3020 78th Avenue SE, Mercer Island, WA. Learn more at