It has been well established on this blog (and my Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram…) that I am a huge “Gilmore Girls” fan. And this past weekend, my mom and I got to partake in something pretty special: the Gilmore … Continue reading
The following post is part of the “‘I Can’t Stop Drinking the Coffee’: Exploring DC’s Coffee Scene” series.
I popped into The Wydown one summer morning after spending a few hours at Slipstream. The weather wasn’t insufferably hot yet and, even though I had forgotten my sunglasses (a travesty!), I decided the walk from Logan Circle to U Street would be a nice addition to the day and also (hopefully) prepare me for my third round of coffee.
Upon spying the open garage door entrance, I was immediately a fan. I love these kinds of open spaces, which is probably why I’m such a fan of Qualia. For The Wydown, the open door helps brighten up the space, while also making it feel immeasurably larger. The space inside is a bit small–only a few communal tables and a couple of booths. The open door helps open up the space, while also making it more inviting. Not sure what the place is like in the winter, though–guess I’ll have to pop back by in a few months to see.
The barista behind the bar was immediately friendly and let me use my debit card, even though I didn’t meet the price point with my latte purchase. Win! We then shared a casual conversation on how the problem is not so much taking out cash (so then you have some for such occasions), but more so keeping the cash long enough to help you when faced with such situations.
Um, wow. The mind is incredible. I did not realize I had that memory until I started typing this post.
The place is very relaxed and trendy, without shoving their “cool” factor in your face. I love their mix of light wood and white furniture against the black walls and chalkboard like signs. To me, this combination is very fresh and inviting. Plus, their coffee stained art, while being très chic, adds a simple, original addition to the place. Plenty of people stopped in while I drank my latte and wrote, and many of them were clearly friends or regular customers. The barista making the drinks seemed to be somewhat of a celebrity, as several people spoke to him–and I mean actual conversations, not just “oh, the coffee looks great, thank you kind sir.” (Umhmm, me).
Lastly, I’ll add that a man that looked EXACTLY like Milo Ventimiglia drifted in at one point and I definitely stared at him for five minutes until I determined that it was, in fact, NOT Milo V and instead a stranger. He chatted with the popular barista for a bit before spending five minutes putting cream and sugar in his coffee. Okay, maybe my people watching has gotten a little out of control…
What I ordered: I ordered a latte, obvi.
Latte grade: The latte helped me understand why the barista is some kind of coffee celebrity–it was delicious and beautifully presented. The latte was hot upon arrival, which was a nice change from the sort-of-warm latte at Slipstream. The flavor was delectable, with the strong espresso flavor dominating the milk. Perfect combo, in my book! As an added bonus, the delicate heart design in the froth remained as I drank the latte, still present even halfway through! I was extremely impressed. Overall grade: A+
What I’ll get next time: I’ll probably try another coffee beverage, like a cappuccino or mocha, as the coffee flavor was so great. Maybe just even a regular coffee! I’m definitely interested in trying their flavored scones, and kind of wish I had sprung for one on my first visit. Oh well, next time!
Best time of day to go: I popped in around mid-morning and the tiny place was packed. Many people drifted in and out pretty quickly, but there definitely wasn’t a lull moment. Luckily, I missed the morning rush, which made the place a bit more relaxed while I was there. I’d say mid to late morning or early to mid-afternoon in order to miss the crowds.
The ambiance: As stated above, the place has a refreshing, trendy allure. The blend of light and dark makes The Wydown feel homey and comfortable. The friendly baristas and regular customers makes this place seem relaxed and welcoming, even for a first-time customer. The only downside is the close quarters–when a few others joined my communal table, I quickly left soon after because the accidental elbow-brushing and unintentionally overheard conversations made the spot a little uncomfortable.
Good for: As stated above, most people drifted in and out, only sitting for 15 or 20 minutes. There were only a couple more people working on their laptops, like me. The place definitely seems laptop friendly, but since it’s so small and popular, I can see the appeal of stopping by for just a few moments instead of camping out. I don’t think I would have stayed if the place had been any busier. I know some people don’t mind taking up space with their laptop when a place is packed, but it makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable. I’d recommend this place for a spot to grab coffee to go or catch up with a friend.
Will you need a jacket? Not in the summer when it was blazing hot. Probably now as it starts to cool…not ready to accept that Fall is almost here.
Other things to know: They had coffee, coffee makers, and other paraphernalia for sale. Nice touch! Also, no wifi.
What I did: I wrote for a little bit. The no wifi thing can be a huge bummer, but also helped me stay focused on what I actually needed to do…who woulda thunk!
I apologize for the pictures in this post, which don’t really portray the beautifulness of the coffee shop itself.
The following post is part of the “‘I Can’t Stop Drinking the Coffee’: Exploring DC’s Coffee Scene” series.
I’ll be honest in that I visited Slipstream almost two months ago. When I had more time on my hands, I knocked as many of the coffee shops off my list as I could. I metro’d into DC with Rahul one July morning and visited Slipstream and Wydown back to back, which made for a very jittery afternoon–so much coffee!
Luckily, I have an excellent memory (most of the time) and took some notes.
I was a bit nervous about visiting Slipstream, because it’s not “just a coffee shop,” and I’m always a bit nervous to visit these places with my laptop in tow, afraid I’ll be shunned for occupying a table by myself. Luckily, no shunning occurred. It was early enough that there were plenty of open tables and there were a few other laptop people, which put my mind at ease.
Slipstream’s space is long, providing an awesome variety of seating. The tables in the front face the street, natural light brightening the space. The coffee/drinks bar separates the front seating from the back, where tables rub up against abstract art work. There’s a little something for everyone here, table wise–two-person high tops, long communal tables, you name it. The place is polished and trendy without feeling too calculated or perfect. It’s not quite cozy, but it’s definitely comfortable enough to sit and chat/work for a few hours.
As far as their menu goes, the key terms are “experimental” and “thoughtful.” (I’m teaching key terms to my new English classes right now, so it makes sense that it would bleed over into my blogging). They offer classic food and drink, but with a twist. Many reviewers online have commented on their selection of food and drink being TOO wide (as in you can’t be a coffee shop AND a lunch spot AND a happy hour place, etc) but I don’t see that as an issue. If Tryst can do it, why can’t other places? Plus, their playful approach to coffee and cocktails will keep them on the map.
What I ordered: I ordered a latte and the poached egg on brioche bun (with bacon!) I felt rushed while ordering (not by the barista, but by my own awkwardness) and wish I had taken more time to explore the menu in full. I had read about their toasts online before visiting, and was confident that this would be my order. However, poached egg jumped out and me and I had to follow my instincts. I was not disappointed–while the bread was a bit much, the poached egg provided a delightful reason to literally wipe my plate clean. The bacon was thick and wonderful, which means a lot coming from me as I’m more “meh” about bacon than the rest of the Internet.
Just like with their seating options, the menu provides a little something for everyone–avocado toasts, experimental coffee cocktails, breakfast bowls, nitrogen infused coffee, cashew milk, and tons more. If you’re into experimental coffee and cocktails and you’re looking for something more than mimosas/Bloody Marys, I recommend this as a brunch spot.
Not that there’s anything wrong about those two drinks…after all, I love a good Bloody Mary with brunch.
Latte Grade: I loved the presentation of the latte, and that it was served in a glass instead of a mug. Delicious flavor, but was warm to begin with, which meant it was ice cold by the time I was done drinking. Normally I order my drinks extra hot, but on this coffee shop adventure, I’ve just been ordering “regular hot” (I don’t actually say that) to see what the temperature of their latte is to begin with. Next time I visit, I’ll definitely have to ask for a little more heat. To me, the good flavor eventually became overrun by the low temp. Overall grade: B+
What I’ll get next time: I’m SUPER INTERESTED in their coffee creations (espresso, lemon, and tonic water looks delicious and refreshing!), as well as their many cocktail options. Hoping to return for another visit when my timing is cocktail appropriate.
Best time of day to go: Like I said above, there was plenty of seating when I arrived, around 8 AM. I sat near the windows, which provided for some nice people watching and work distraction. The place was more crowded when I left, around 10 AM, and I’m sure is even more crowded in late afternoon/early evening. If you’re hoping for a window seat, I say the earlier, the better–most of them were occupied by the time I left. I will say, for how uncrowded it was, it took a little bit for my latte to arrive. The food service was speedy, however.
The ambience: As mentioned above, Slipstream is trendy and artistic. There was good music playing–a very “Chuck” like soundtrack–which I’m now listening to as I finish this. The noise level was manageable, and the service was friendly enough. I’ll say that it definitely did not seem like a neighborhood place, even though it in’s a prime location. Unlike other coffee shops, where I’ve overheard the baristas and customers chatting amicably, everyone here seemed to be minding their own business.
Good for: The majority of people were chatting with friends or conducting business meetings. Only a few other people were laptoppers like me. With the seating variety, it seems that this place is good for all three. However, I did visit very early on a weekday morning–I imagine it’s a completely different story on the weekends.
Will you need a jacket? IT WAS FREEZING.
Other things to know: They take care in selecting the best coffee, and rotate their blends.
What I did: I wrote on my laptop.
Stupid thing I read online: I can’t remember, but I can speak to the stupid things I’ve read this week, which mostly revolve around the Nicki Minaj/Miley Cyrus thing. I could care less about this feud, yet I somehow continue to read articles on it…
The following post is part of the “‘I Can’t Stop Drinking the Coffee’: Exploring DC’s Coffee Scene” series. Number seven on DC Eater’s “25 Essential D.C. Coffee Shops” is Peregrine Espresso. I’ve visited Peregrine Espresso a few times, at both 14th … Continue reading
Oh, man! I kept meaning to post this review and then kept forgetting. Life! I’m in the middle of a fast-paced six week summer course and the grading is for real. So today I took a mini-break to post this and order some audiobooks so I can cancel my Audible subscription (too expensive and also Lena Dunham’s book was way more boring than I expected).
A few other life updates:
- Saw Magic Mike XXL and then overheard a conversation where someone was trying to explain the first movie from an intellectual POV. Like, really? Such a DC move. Let’s just all be honest and admit that Magic Mike is not a movie you watch when you want to expand your mind or grow as a person. It’s a movie you watch when you want to turn off your brain and hear other women in the theater ooh and ahh to Channing Tatum.
- Rahul and I crossed some big wedding stuff of our to-do list: finished our registry, ordered our invitations, ordered his suit, etc. Plus we’re now less than 100 days away!! AHHH!
- Summer is somehow almost over…what?? School starts back in one month! How did this happen? Time to do some last minute summer things…I’m dying to go to the beach, just need to find the time to make it happen!
- My runs have gotten a lot better! I’ve found the magic secret to productive runs in the stupid, stupid summer heat: running indoors! OK, I know that’s not a new idea, but it is for me. I’ve always hated running on treadmills because it’s so BORING. But I’ve discovered that “Parks & Recreation” comes on TV weekday mornings at 10, which works great with my afternoon teaching schedule. Watching that show while running has finally gotten me through up to 4 miles without stopping, and on a pretty good pace too, considering I had a fractured leg earlier this year. Pretty ironic that “Parks & Rec” is the show that saved my runs, considering what I wrote a few weeks ago. Other things work too: Crazy, Stupid, Love got me through 6 miles on Sunday. About halfway through half marathon training and I’m finally pretty good about it, finally!
- I made a few additions to the apartment, namely a new chair and lamp to our desk that has reinvigorated my interest to sit there.
I’m in love with the chair. Plus, the view’s not bad either:
Next home improvement: a new piece of wall art for above the bed. Any suggestions for places to look? I’ve browsed Society 6 and some of the free downloads on Pinterest, but haven’t found anything I’m absolutely in love with.
Okay, now on to the coffee.
The following post is part of the “‘I Can’t Stop Drinking the Coffee’: Exploring DC’s Coffee Scene” series.
I’ve visited Qualia Coffee once before, and always meant to go back. You know what happens when you “always” mean to do something…it never happens. In any case, I live a little closer to the place now, so might try to stop by more regularly. WE’LL SEE. It was an easy drive, so that was a plus, and I scored a parking spot right across the street. Double plus. The place is within walking distance of the Georgia Ave metro, which also helps.
I loved Qualia when I first went (in 2011! ahh) because the barista was super friendly, talked to me about the different coffee options, and didn’t make me feel rushed as I ordered. It probably helped that I showed up so early that there was hardly any one else inside. I also remember liking the space and feeling productive because of the warm atmosphere. I wasn’t let down on my second visit. Even though they had more people inside, I didn’t feel rushed as I ordered, and the staff seemed friendly. They have GREAT coffee (as evidenced in my last visit), which I believe they roast in house.
What I ordered: I ordered just a latte, even though I was tempted by their snacks. I went to Qualia on a very hot Tuesday morning and was already a bit frazzled from a terrible, terrible run earlier in the day, followed by my apartment’s water being shut off for maintenance (which I knew was happening, but still annoying). In any case, all I could focus on ordering was the coffee, and I was almost too hot to even drink that.
Latte Grade: The art on the latte was so-so, and I even overheard the barista talking about how his latte art is always a bit shoddy. I think that’s okay, dude, because latte art can probably only get you so far in life. The latte itself was hot and delicious, which was no surprise. As I said above, I’ve visited Qualia once before and their coffee was AMAZING then and is still amazing, as evidenced by the great latte flavor. You definitely get a strong coffee taste, which I love. Again, another place with a good mix of coffee and milk. Overall grade: A.
What I’ll get next time: They had a wide selection of cookies, which I wish I paid more attention to when I was there. I mean, peanut butter, dark chocolate, white chocolate cranberry…yes, please! I’ll also probably get the iced coffee, as I overheard a bunch of people ordering it. It’s either really good, or it was just freakin hot, or a combo of both.
Best time of day to go: They have a lot of seating options–two patios, indoor seating, and an upstairs too, I believe (although I could be making that up). Point is, there seems to be plenty of seating, and the space inside was pretty sparse while I was there, but the back patio seemed to be hopping. Again, I would say a safe rule of thumb is in the morning or early afternoon, before people descend upon the place post-work or school.
The ambience: One thing I really liked about my second visit to Qualia was how open the space was. When I visited the first time, way back in 2011, it was a bit colder, although, according to my blog post, they had the door open then too, so I guess it’s a thing they do? IN ANY CASE, I really loved how the open door made the space seem super open and welcoming and airy. While the inside space is rather small, the open door space helped quite a lot. Right when you walk up, you spot people chatting on the front patio, a chalk board sign welcoming you, the whole nine yards. It seems to be a neighborhood joint, as I overheard several people who knew the baristas (I am such an OBVIOUS people watcher, it must be the writer in me), and I would definitely make this my neighborhood spot if I lived in Petworth. It’s quick, accommodating, and welcoming. Plus, as added bonuses, they had art for sale on the walls and free condoms in the bathroom. So, hey, anything goes.
Good for: Again, another place that seems accommodating for all things. I sat at the communal bar (again) and was sitting right next to another girl working on her computer. I visited Qualia the day after TCB–at TCB, I asked someone to watch my computer and at Qualia, I got asked to watch a computer. I don’t really know the purpose of this story other than to say not all people are jerks? I don’t know. In any case, they have a variety of seating, including some couches.
Will you need a jacket? Um, no. I actually realized on the way over there that I had forgotten a sweater, which I realized I did not need at all. They had the front and back doors open, so it was pretty steamy inside. Let’s just say I was sweatin’ a bit. BUT the open doors made for a nice, open space, as discussed above.
Other things to know: Fresh off the Roast brews and sales their own coffee here, in drinkable form or in coffee bean to-go form. Several people came in while I was there just to buy coffee beans. Also, as discussed above, they seem to have an open door policy (as in the doors were open), so it might get pretty humid and hot during these summer days.
What I did: I worked on a story I’m trying to write–key word is TRYING. It’s going pretty well, though. (knocks on wood)
Update on this: it stopped going well. UGH! My current plan is to reread my MFA thesis and finish writing it. I know I can do it!
Stupid thing I read online: I don’t remember, but I loved this post where Buzzfeed edited Katy Perry’s nonsensical tweet, even though I found the whole Katy Perry-Taylor Swift-Nicki Minaj debacle to be SO DUMB. At the end of the day, you are all successful artists, so GET OVER yourselves.
I will say that Taylor Swift seems like someone I would NOT want to be friends with. You’d have to watch everything you say and do around her in an attempt to not offend or upset her! No thank you.
My reaction to how often the radio show people talked about this “fight” on the air:
I was too distracted by how much I loved this place to take a picture of the outside…oops!
I’ve known about Soho Tea & Coffee for a while, but only visited for the first time on this very visit. Upon entering the place, I knew immediately that I was going to love the place. Not only was it not packed, which was a treat in and of itself, it has the very obvious appeal of being created over time. While some of the coffee shops I’ve visited are very clearly crafted to give off a certain aesthetic (cough cough La Colombe), Soho seems to be a place that has evolved over time, and has let itself evolve in whatever direction the wind has taken it. Of course, this is all based on my impression and not on actual knowledge, but based on the mix of colorful art, mismatch of tables (some with lamps, which I love), college flags, and lottery machine, it seems that this place chose to be whatever the hell it wanted to be, instead of one calculated thing. And the thing that place turned out to be was a combination of coffee shop, lottery ticket taker, college hang-out, lunch spot, and drinks. I love this effortless combination; it’s a place that has just kind of fallen together, producing a great result.
Soho is located in between Dupont Circle and Rock Creek Park and is equally drivable and metroable. It seems to attract an assortment of people, ranging from college kids (who all somehow knew each other?) to families to working professionals. For the twoish hours I was there, the following people sat next to or near me: a mom and college-aged son, a middle-aged man working on his laptop, a middle-aged woman working on her laptop, a couple college kids on their laptops, you get the picture. Basically, a lot of laptops.
What I ordered: I ordered a latte and an oatmeal raisin cookie. I ate the cookie over the span of two days (I know, weird), but I drank the latte in house.
Latte Grade: I loved the presentation of the latte. The glass jar was a nice touch, and the lack of design seemed fitting with the place. The coffee is straightforward, no fuss. The latte was hot for about half the drinking time and probably would have been for the whole drinking time if I had drank it really fast, but I wasn’t in the mood for an intense coffee drinking session. Overall grade: A/A-
What I’ll get next time: If I go back for coffee, I’m getting the Sami’s Choo Choo. I don’t really know what it is, but if it really tastes like a peanut butter cup, as the menu promises, then I KNOW I WILL LOVE IT. If I go back for food, I’ll probably try the chicken salad, as the sign outside the shop spoke of its deliciousness.
Best time of day to go: I arrived around 10 on a Thursday morning and there was plenty of seating. The place filled up a bit near lunch, but there was still plenty of seating and I didn’t feel like I was annoying anyone by taking up a two-seater table, as there are plenty of them. It does seem that the place is a favorite college hang-out, as it’s 1) close to GW and Georgetown and 2) I saw mostly college kids while I was there, so I imagine it can get busy during the school year, or exam crunch time.
The ambience: As I said above, the place has clearly evolved over time instead of being carefully crafted, which I love. They played some GREAT music—Bohemian Rhapsody and then a bunch of songs I only know because of movies, like this song from Pitch Perfect, this song from Mamma Mia (I guess technically it’s from ABBA), and this song from The Family Stone. What can I say, I’m a movie person. In any case, the fun music gave the place a nice upbeat feel to it, which I loved. I didn’t love when one of the employees turned on the TV, because it was loud and the local TV was talking about a body pulled out of the Tidal Basin, which was too “Scandal” for me. I’d prefer not to live in Olivia Pope’s Washington, D.C.
Good for: The majority of people there were working on their laptops. With the mix of tables, and large selection of seating, meant I actually got to sit at a real table!! I was very excited about this. With the many tables and other computer-goers, I’d say visit this place if you want to go somewhere where you’re not going to get rushed out.
Will you need a jacket? Another day of me forgetting a jacket, another day of me not needing it.
Other things to know: The place did get sort of loud when more people started showing up close to lunchtime. Also, with the arrival of more people meant momentarily losing wifi, which was annoying, but not a dealbreaker.
What I did: I worked on a story and sent some emails. I also looked up the body being found in the Tidal Basin after hearing that on the TV…yikes.
Stupid thing I read online: I’m pretty sure I looked up Pitch Perfect trivia after hearing the song they performed in their first movie. Another example of Katherine filling her brain with useless shit that does not help her in anyway. In any case, I loved this scene from the second movie, especially 1:47-2 minutes.
The fourth coffee shop on the list, Tryst, holds a special place in my heart. When I did a “study abroad” semester in DC in undergrad, one of my classmates discovered Tryst. How, I can’t remember. All I know is that we visited this coffee shop at least a handful of times to write, drink coffee, and people watch. My god, was this a fun place to people watch as a 20-21 year older. Since most of us in my journalism program were from small, religious based schools, we found the people that visited Tryst, especially at night, SO entertaining. Now, 7 years later (wow, time flies), I’ve come to understand that most of what we were seeing was normal DC Adams Morgan nightlife (aka, lots of drinking and loud noises). However, I’ll never forgot the time Ashley (my program and real life best friend) and I got stuck in a giggling fit after watching a very drunk couple sloppily make out at the bar, go outside to smoke and continue to make out, before returning back inside to, you guessed it, make out some more. At the time, we thought this was hilarious and also appalling.
BUT this story does ring true with this description of Tryst I found on another “coffee shops in DC” list: “They’re as welcoming to the dude that drops 50 bucks on cocktails and dinner as they are to a single cup-buying law student who plans to camp out for as long as it took to film The Firm.” So true, as my program friends and I would visit at night to work on our homework, all the whiles real adults drank and fraternized. At night, it’s an interesting mix of characters and activities.
This time around, my mom and I visited Tryst on a humid June morning, when it’s definitely still packed, but with a different crowd. Most people were on their computers and the place had a steady stream of customers come to get drinks to go.
What I ordered: I ordered a latte and the savory ham & cheddar waffle. OH MY GOD that waffle was freakin’ amazing. The waffle itself was spiced with basil, chives, scallions, thyme, rosemary, and mint. Um, what!?!?!? I did not previously know such a delicious creation could exist. The description alone was enough to entice me, but the dish itself put me over the moon. The waffle alone was delicious and would have made a fine breakfast (the spices added a wonderful flavor and were not overwhelmed by the waffle batter itself, if that makes sense), but the addition of the ham/cheddar/arugula really pumped up the flavor. It was so good that I felt eating the fruit was cheating the dish.
My mom ordered an Irish coffee and the ham & cheddar croissant. The waitress misheard her and brought a large coffee, which my mom happily drank even though it was sans whiskey. The croissant sandwich was delicious as well, but not as good as the one we love at Politics & Prose. She said an egg would have made the croissant sandwich better, but that it was also fine without it.
Latte Grade: Their coffee is great, which was evidenced in both the latte and the actual coffee. It has real coffee flavor, and you can tell it’s brewed by people who know what they’re doing. The latte itself was delicious. Not only was it pretty on top, but the strong coffee flavor shined through, making for a great mix of coffee and milk. The latte stayed warm for about half of the drinking time, which is passable in my book. Overall grade: A
What I’ll get next time: There are so many options, it’s hard to choose! I’m definitely interested in trying a sweet waffle next time (maybe with nutella?). I also think I’d try the banana, strawberry, and pineapple smoothie, as this is the smoothie I’m constantly making myself. Might be kind of nice to see how the flavor holds up when it’s made by someone else!
Best time of day to go: From past experience, I know this place can stay full any time of the day, but especially at night, when it doubles as a coffee shop and a restaurant/drinking place. My mom and I got there around 8:30 AM on a Thursday and found plenty of open tables and seating. They have a good mix of 2-4 person tables, as well as communal tables and couches. I’d say the morning is a safe bet for this place, especially if you’re not in the mood to fight for seating.
The ambience: Tryst is a balanced hodge-podge of mismatched tables, colorful artwork, furniture, books, and wall art. The lighting is low, so everything kind of blends it together instead of overwhelming the senses. It has the feel of an eclectic place that is also organized and functional, which I love. Even though the place was full of people, the volume (in the AM, at least) was manageable and enjoyable. Plus, it’s a bonus that you can visit this place anytime of the day for coffee, drinks, food, you name it.
Good for: Most everyone there the morning my mom and I visited was working on their computer. However, there have been other times I’ve gone when there’s more people there chatting and catching up with a friend (read about a past experience here). The good thing is if you go in the mornings, when the place isn’t packed yet, you can spread out and talk without worrying that you’re bothering anyone there trying to get some work done. Again, since they have a really good mix of tables, this is the perfect place to individually get some work done, or to meet up with a friend over a cup of coffee.
Will you need a jacket? I was fine in a 3/4 sleeves shirt and shorts.
Other things to know: They sell their own coffee and packaged tea, which is awesome.
What I did: My mom and I were together, so we chatted over breakfast. I told her some stories of visiting the place in 2008 when I lived in DC as a student and she nicely obliged and listened. : )
I was nervous about going to La Colombe Coffee. The fact that they have no wifi, coupled with a review on Yelp that stated the place was better to grab coffee to go, left me a bit wary of visiting. If it takes me more than 20 minutes to get somewhere, I’m not just going to grab the coffee to-go. And I know this whole visiting the coffee shops was my idea, but the rule still stands. A few weeks ago, I finally sucked up the courage to visit the place, with a back-up plan of walking to Macy’s (which I still did anyway) if the place was packed.
From the minute I entered to the moment I left, I kept thinking the same thing over and over: I don’t belong here I don’t belong here I don’t belong here.
Don’t get me wrong, La Colombe is a very nice coffee shop. It has a clean aesthetic, with small, simple tables, large art work, and a barista station that stretches almost the entire length of the place. The two-person tables are placed next to a wall of windows (which seem to be an old garage door), which gives the tiny space an airy and spacious look. The place has a perfect balance of well-brewed coffee, well-placed decor, and well-good intentions (I know that doesn’t make sense, but I wanted to keep the “well” thing going). The balance was too perfect, though. While I got a great cup of coffee, and got some writing done, I felt as if the whole place might come crashing to the ground if pushed too hard. It felt like a well-oiled facade.
What I ordered: I ordered a latte. Surprise, surprise!
Latte Grade: The latte was tasty and warm, not hot. This made for great drinkability for the first few minutes, and then quick drinkability so I could soak up the latte’s flavor before it got too cold. The design on the top was pretty, but I unfortunately did not get to drink the latte in one of their pretty cups. When I ordered, there were no seats available, and the awkward “I don’t belong here” took over. Anyway, the coffee was good, despite the kitschy tagline on the coffee cup. Overall grade: B+
What I’ll get next time: I’ll probably try some of their home-brewed coffee to see if the taste really does trump the novelty.
Best time of day to go: I should have listened to the Yelp reviews. The place is busy all day. Luckily, there was a steady stream of people leaving, so spots opened up. I, once again, ended up at the communal table because a suit-wearing DCer didn’t hear me/ignored me when I asked if he was leaving his table. OK, this post is starting to turn into a gripe about the DCness of it all…I do really like living in this city, but the type-A personalities can sometimes be too much. I know it’s not the coffeeshop’s fault.
The ambience: As mentioned above, the space is lovely and spacious, but also feels too perfectly balanced. The ambience can be summed up by the pictures provided and the two thoughts I had while there: 1) Nice, but feels like hipster nonsense and 2) I don’t know if I’m qualified to drink coffee here…
Good for: The tables are small and there’s no wifi, so it’s better suited for drinking coffee with friends or with a book. There were a handful of other people working on their computers, like me, but most people were there to grab a jolt and meet a friend.
Will you need a jacket? I wore 3/4 sleeves and was doing OK.
Other things to know: Hipster nonsense, hipster nonsense, hipster nonsense! I really want to like this place, but there’s a too-perfect sheen to the whole coffeeshop. I felt like I should have taken a crash-course to hipster language and counterculture coffee (which also seems like nonsense, to be honest*) before visiting this place. BUT the coffee was great. Also, it’s located down an alley, which is part cool, part best-location-they-could-find-for-the-price-they-wanted, part HIPSTER NONSENSE.
What I did: I worked on a story I’m writing.
Stupid thing I read online: Nothing. Thanks, no wi-fi!
*I also think the phrase “counterculture coffee” has become something it isn’t, based on the small amount of research I did when writing this post. I had no idea that it was actually a company. I think the phrase has been appropriated by many to mean something else, but that’s all conjecture on my part. I probably have no idea what I’m talking about.
Just like Compass Coffee, The Coffee Bar has a very straightforward approach to their coffee and the coffee shop itself. They make good coffee, and don’t need to attach any bells or whistles to make it special or any better than it already is. Just like with Compass Coffee, I like this approach, as it keeps the focus on the coffee and not the extras that many coffee shops rely on. This line from their website encompasses this approach: “We want to make specialty coffee accessible to everyone, from your average Joe to the coffee connoisseur.”
They also believe coffee should be its own food group, which I’m totally on board with.
The coffee shop is in the shadow of U Street, but is not nearly as busy or loud. TCB is tucked away a few blocks over, but is clearly a neighborhood favorite. In the few hours that I was there, I witnessed several regulars come through, as well as groups of people using the coffee shop as a place to gab or do business. In fact, the girls sitting next to me were talking shop about some kind of business or blog or something they were in charge of. I know this because they were very loud.
What I ordered: I ordered a latte and an everything bagel with cream cheese. Very basic, I know, but also delicious. As I said, TCB seems to have an no-frills-needed approach to their coffee and food, which makes ordering very simple. At the same time, you’re not cheated with what you get. I love everything bagels, so this was a great way to start my morning. Plus, added bonus, their bagels are from Bethesda Bagels, which I’ve been told are some of the best bagels in the area.
I say it this way because this was my first time trying their bagels. My thoughts: delicious, but you’d have to work really hard to make a bad bagel, right?
Latte Grade: The latte was warm, had great coffee flavor (good coffee/milk ratio), and was decorated with a simple and pretty heart. As I said above, they make good coffee, and it showed in the latte. The coffee flavor shined (shone? my English is failing me) through as I enjoyed the drink. Overall grade: A.
What I’ll get next time: I’m interested in the London Fog or dirty chai, both drinks I’ve heard of before but have never ordered. I’m a fan of earl grey tea, so having it in latte form is sure to be delicious. Plus, I’m very curious as to what chai tastes like with espresso. I could see it being either delicious or disgusting. Let’s be honest, it sounds like a drink a tired and poor student made up because espresso and chai is all they had in their dorm room at the time.
Best time of day to go: I got there at 8:45 and it was already brimming with people.The space inside is sort of limited, with only an options of sofas or communal tables. I ended up sitting at the communal bar, which was fine until the chatty girls made an appearance. The advantage and disadvantage of the communal bar is that you are near people ordering. Good for people watching, bad for doing work. A steady stream of people wondered through and the place stayed busy the entire time I was there, which I’m sure is representative of the whole day. However, since the space inside is limited, and it’s a stupid swamp town outside (where is the Leslie Knope gif for this? Someone please make one.), I would go in the morning to avoid having to sit outside if all the spaces inside are taken.
The ambience: TCB has coffee-related quotes written on the chalkboard behind the counter, which I love. The place seems equal parts relaxed, and fun-loving, as evidenced by the chill attitude of most people in there and the 80s music. 80s music! I love it. There were a lot of familiar songs, but my favorites? “Jenny,” which I love because 1) I have a cousin named Jenny that we used to sing this to and 2) 5 of the number’s 7 digits were the copy code for my first job at UMD, which I always found hilarious. “99 Luftballoons” was the other favorite, which my dad did NOT realize was IN GERMAN until my best friend and I told him when we were in high school.
Good for: As I said earlier, there were plenty of people talking with friends or doing business, as well as people working on their computers–like me! The communal spaces provide a perfect place for both, as evidenced by the communal bar where I was sitting. On my right was another man working on his computer; on my left were the three girls doing business. One of them watched my computer when I went to the bathroom, which was a plus, but then she also let her phone receive texts full volume and sang along (OUT LOUD) to one of the songs, which was a big, big negative. In addition to those of us inside, there was a steady stream of people grabbing things to go. It did start to get loud midday when more people showed up, which was my cue to leave.
Will you need a jacket? It’s so effing hot outside that a jacket, even inside, is unnecessary right now.
Other things to know: They love coffee, which makes me love them! This is definitely a place I could see myself easily returning to a second or third time.
Did they spell Katherine with a K or C: WITH A K! Yay.
What I did: I had a typical Monday morning: I caught up on emails and worked on blog stuff. I also read some of 12 Years a Slave, which I’m reading for a job I start in a few days.
Stupid thing I read online: I read about celebrity dads and what they tweet, which was actually kind of cute. My favorites: #12 and 18.
On Friday, I’ll share my thoughts on La Colombe, the third coffee shop on the list.
The first coffee shop on the D.C. Eater’s List of 25 Essential D.C. Coffee Shops list was Compass Coffee. I visited this place on a very warm Thursday morning and the place was hopping. Compass Coffee is located in the Shaw area of D.C. and is both metro and parking accessible.
The website advertises simplicity as part of the coffee shop’s mantra, and it shows. The place is spacious and sticks to the essentials: tables & chairs, coffee beans for sale, minimal wall art. Even the menu is straightforward and, well, simple. I like this–instead of overwhelming customers with a 1,000 different options, complicating the entire process of simply ordering a cup of coffee, Compass Coffee seems to acknowledge that making and selling good coffee doesn’t have to be a complicated process.
But let me be clear here. They DO sell good coffee. This was clearly evidenced by the hoards of people coming in and out of the place the entire time I was there, as well as the deliciousness of the coffee I drank.
What I ordered: a medium latte and a croissant. The latte had a lovely leaf design on the top and stayed warm for 75% of drinking time, which is a win in my book. Like I established in the last post, I’m pretty simple when it comes to my coffee, especially in the morning. The croissant was flaky and delicious because you have to really work hard to screw up a croissant. However, it was the last one when I ordered it, so guessing they have limited supply of some bakery items.
Latte Grade: As I said above, the latte stayed warm for 75% of drinking time, which is a remarkable feat, if you ask me. I didn’t even have to ask for extra hot! Plus, the latte had a great, full coffee flavor instead of being overwhelmed by milk. Overall grade: A
What I’ll get next time: I’m definitely interested in the nutella mocha, so would try this if I were in a mood for something sweet. They also had PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES, which is always a win in my book.
Best time of day to go: I read online that this place gets packed, and that was no joke. I got there around 10:30, thinking that would still be early enough to beat a crowd. Yeahhhh, that was straight up wrong. The place was already packed, but I was lucky enough to score a seat at one of the bar-like tables near the front door. Sitting at communal tables always makes me feel a little nervous—I hate feeling like I’m taking up too much space—but it worked out just fine. I think the answer here is “right when it opens,” or just be prepared to sit at a communal table or bar. As far as seating competitiveness goes, be prepared to pounce when a table opens up. The place emptied out a bit around lunch time, but I’m sure it picks back up in the afternoon.
The ambience: The décor is pretty minimal and not distracting—displays of their coffee beans, big bags of coffee in the book, with drawings of the countries their coffee comes from on the walls. Because the décor is minimal, it feels spacious, even with the loads of people packed inside. There’s a “community bookshelf” feature, which would be nice to take advantage of if you live close by. Their soundtrack was very similar to Pandora playlists I’ve listened to before, with songs by Miike Snow, Grizzly Bear, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I.e., fun to listen to, but not distracting or too loud (looking at you, Starbucks).
Good for: There was a mixed crowd here of people working on their laptops, friends meeting up, business meetings…so really, a variety of options.
Will you need a jacket? It was blazing hot when I first arrived and then cooled down. So, yes.
Other things to know: They make their own coffee blends, which are for sale at the coffee shop! Definitely grabbing some next time I visit.
Did they spell Katherine with a K or C: Catherine. Dammit.
What I did: I worked on a story I’m trying to write and sent some emails.
Stupid thing I read online: The Katy Perry-Taylor Swift feud. I literally felt my brain cells dying as I read this.
Come back next week to read a review of coffee shop #2, The Coffee Bar.