19 February 2015

The DC Caffeine Chronicles

UPDATE: I visited Washington again in February 2016, updated my DC coffee map and wrote reviews of some new coffee spots, including The Coffee Bar, M.E. Swing's, Maketto and Tryst. Please check out my blog post.

I spent under four days in DC but I managed to pack in a fair amount of caffeine chronicling. I did some coffee-shop research before I left and was pleased to find that a lot of the coffee bars on my list were fairly close to my two hotels near Logan Circle and near the White House. At Dulles Airport, on my way to California, I picked up the Jan/Feb issue of Washington Flyer magazine, which had a feature on DC's burgeoning craft coffee scene. We had obviously done some similar delving because most of the coffee bars I visited were also on their list.

I've listed the cafés I visited by neighbourhood, and because I was only in the city for a few days, I've also included the details of the other places I would have checked out if I had had more time. I also made a little map:

Logan Circle
Peregrine Espresso.  Only a few blocks from my hotel, Peregrine was the perfect stop-off on the way back from my morning run. It's pretty small inside—the few outdoor tables were deserted on such a wintry morning—but they serve pourovers with a choice of three coffees. I tried the Ethiopian Idido ($3.50), which had a nice fruity acidity and melted away my jetlag. The baristas are friendly and knowledgeable, and their key lime muffins are delish. 1718 14 Street bet. R & S St (other locations: Eastern Market and Union Market). Website. Twitter.

Slipstream. When I read on Slipstream's website that it was a top-notch coffee bar by day and served kick-ass cocktails by night, I knew I had to visit. Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to sample the cocktails, but the coffee was really good. I tried a single-origin Colombian pourover ($5), which was rich and flavoursome—just what I needed while I got used to the chilly DC climate. I was on a shoe-shopping mission and didn't have time to drink in, but the staff kept assuring me that I wouldn't have long to wait, which was sweet given that it took as long as a pourover normally takes to brew. Slipstream was just across the street from my hotel so I could see the transition to night-time through the windows—MacBooks shut down and candles come out. A lovely place. 1333 14 St nr Rhode Island Ave. Website. Twitter.

Compass Coffee. The Shaw neighbourhood is east of Logan Circle and northeast of the central downtown area. Compass is located on an otherwise unassuming block—you can't miss the red-brick building. They roast their own coffee on site and the owners, who used to be in the Marines, have done a great job with the industrial-chic cafe. As well as the usual espresso-based drinks (and a Nutella mocha, which I clearly missed!), you can choose one of three coffees to have brewed in a French press or as a pourover. I ordered a Bali pourover and a delicious, sugary brioche and took a seat at one of the tables and watched the baristas at work. The coffee is really good—if I wasn't heading on to California, I would have bought a bag of beans—and it's a cool place to hang out. The food all comes from local suppliers: the pastry chef, for example, is a local lawyer who works all day and then wakes up in the middle of the night to bake and deliver her goods. How awesome is that? 1535 7 St bet P & Q St. Website. Twitter.

Other options:
La Colombe. I've always had a great coffee at their New York branches. 924 Rear N St bet 9 & 10 St. Website. Twitter.

Mockingbird Hill. Coffee bar with a *huge* selection by day, sherry bar by night. 1843 7 St nr T St. Website. Twitter. [[Update Jan 2016: the coffee bar has now closed, although the bar is still open for tapas and sherry in the evenings.]]

Chinatown Coffee Co. I ducked in here out of the rain but the music and the coffee were both so good that I could have stayed much longer. I ordered an Intelligentsia Colombian pourover and took a seat near the bar. The coffee was rich and chocolatey, which I always think is perfect for when the weather is less than clement. If you're there later in the day, or don't have to work, they also serve absinthe, which is pretty darn cool. 475 H St nr 5 St. Website. Twitter.

Foggy Bottom
Filter. The first thing you notice about Filter is that they really like orange. That's OK: I quite like orange too, especially on grey mornings when I need cheering up. Their I Street branch is close to my second hotel so I went for breakfast after my run on my penultimate day. They serve a selection of pourovers (around $4) and I went for the Colombian (detecting a theme here?), which had notes of maple syrup, cocoa and cola. This went very nicely with my raspberry and peach muffin. The café itself is industrial-chic and pretty small downstairs, although there is also an upstairs area with more tables. NB, the Foggy Bottom branch is closed at the weekend. 1916 I St bet 20 & 19 St (other location: Dupont Circle). Website. Twitter.

Baked & Wired. I didn't have time for coffee in Georgetown, but my notes say, "Good coffee, great cakes, terrible puns". Make of that what you will, but it is supposed to be fab. 1052 Thomas Jefferson St bet M & L St. Website. Twitter.

Adams Morgan
The Wydown. 1924 14 St nr U St. Website. Twitter.

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