18 February 2016

DC Coffee Guide: 2016 Edition

I visited Washington DC this time last year for work but managed to take a couple of days' holiday in order to explore the city and its caffeine scene. Earlier this month, I went back to DC for a conference but I had a day off in the city at the start of my trip, which I spent coffee-shop-hopping, and I was able to find a couple of good cafes near the conference venue in Woodley Park.

I wrote a DC coffee guide and produced an accompanying map last year, but I've now updated the map to include some of the new coffee bars I discovered on this trip. Read on for more details!

Dupont Circle
The Coffee Bar. This petite but perfectly formed cafe is located just a couple of blocks from my first DC hotel, which was convenient because it was top of the list of coffee bars I wanted to check out while I was in town. The Coffee Bar combines great coffee from a range of national roasters with gorgeous stylings: the mint-green tiled coffee bar is a thing of beauty, but I also loved the typography of the hand-drawn menu boards and the neon sign on the wall.

There are only a handful of seats and it gets really busy during the morning rush, which is why they only serve pourovers (brewed with a Kalita Wave dripper) after 11 am, but the kind barista made an exception for me when I explained that I had come all the way from London. I tried a Guatemalan La Esperanza coffee from California-based roaster Verve, which was $4 and expertly brewed with rich, cherry notes. On another day, I got a macchiato ($3) to go, and it too was very well prepared with great latte art. The staff are very friendly, despite the huge queues, and it's also a fun place to people-watch. The Coffee Bar has rapidly propelled itself into my top three DC cafes, fending off some very tough competition.

The Coffee Bar is located at 1200 17 St, near M St (M–F only); the original location at 1201 S St near 21 St is also open at the weekend. Website. Twitter.

Foggy Bottom
Swing's. I headed straight from The Coffee Bar to M.E. Swing's, located on G Street right near the White House, but despite their proximity, these two DC coffee joints are fairly different. Swing's has been roasting coffee since 1916 and celebrates its centenary this year. The G Street cafe is a little newer — it opened in 1994 — but is still a real DC institution. Long and lean, the cafe was bustling when I arrived mid-morning on a sunny Friday. With its smart red La Marzocco and mahogany-panelled coffee bar, Swing's is certainly very dapper. The menu is also rather extensive — so extensive, in fact, that I only noticed the separate brew bar after I had ordered my macchiato. The macchiato ($3) was very good though: rich, dark and smooth.

If I hadn't had other coffee bars to visit, I totally would have stayed for a pourover: there were five different single-origin coffees on offer, including a decaf option. The Ecuador Hakuna Makata sounded particularly good. Swing's is open Monday to Friday, with pourovers on offer from 10–4. If you're out in Alexandria, there is a cafe there too.

Swing's is located at 1702 G St, near 17 St. Website. Twitter.

H Street Corridor
Maketto. This new H Street venue isn't just a coffee shop: it's also a restaurant, bar and fashion store. But these separate elements — spread over two storeys of a bright, airy building — are united by both style and substance. When I arrived at Maketto, I headed straight to the restaurant, but afterwards it was coffee time. The cafe takes up much of the upper floor of Maketto and it's a gorgeous space: monochrome, industrial-chic interiors accented with light-wood furniture. Even the coffee-kit-for-sale is immaculately styled.

The drinks menu is varied, with the usual espresso-based drinks, alongside cold brew, pourover and siphon options. There was also something called The Beckham, which is apparently an Earl Grey hot chocolate — interesting, but not my thing. I ordered a pourover, selecting an Indonesian variety ($4) from local DC roaster Vigilante Coffee. I also took a chocolate chip cookie ($2.25) from a selection of tempting sweet treats. The coffee was very well prepared: fruity and flavoursome. The presentation was also delightful: the coffee was served in a Japanese pottery mug, resting on small wooden tray with a mini-biscuit and a shot of fizzy water. Maketto's cafe is a great place to work and to hang out and relax. It's very light upstairs, especially on a sunny day, and if you are feeling hungry, you can order south-east Asian food from the restaurant downstairs.

Maketto is located at 1351 H St NE, between 13 & 14 St. Website. Twitter.

Adams Morgan
Tryst. Before I arrived in DC, I had pre-identified Tryst as the best coffee option within walking distance of my Woodley Park conference and I wasn't disappointed. Tryst is located on a bustling, quirky stretch of 19th Street in the lovely Adams Morgan neighbourhood. I stopped by a couple of times while I was in town. At 8 am on a weekday morning, the cafe was already bustling. I didn't have time to stop for breakfast so I grabbed a maple-pecan muffin and ordered a Colombian Los Rosales coffee from Counter Culture, brewed with the Aeropress ($4). The coffee was a little hot but soon cooled off in the wintry weather, allowing the rich cherry-chocolate notes to shine through.

I went back another day for waffles and a cortado ($3.25); the coffee was well-prepared, although with the richness of the waffles, I wish I had gone for a macchiato instead. Tryst is a popular weekend breakfast and brunch spot and by 9 am, it was hard to find a free table, even though the cafe is pretty big (they also turn off the wifi at the weekend). Tryst combines cosy decor with bright pops of colour from the local art displayed on the walls. They serve food all day and beer, wine and cocktails in the evenings. There is often live music in the evenings too. In other words, Tryst is the kind of neighbourhood cafe-bar that you wish was located in your neighbourhood.

Tryst is located on 2459 18 St, just south of Columbia Road. Website. Twitter.

Woodley Park
Open City. I didn't have time to go Tryst every day while I was at my conference, so it was lucky that one of its sister venues, Open City, is located just a few steps from the hotel. Open City is open all day for coffee, food and drink. Its weekend brunches are very popular so be prepared to wait in line. I ate dinner there one night (the food was good and reasonably priced) but stopped by for coffee most days. The macchiatos ($3) and cortados ($3.25) were consistently good — the coffee is from Tryst, and so are the cakes and pastries that lie temptingly in the window.

Open City is located at 2331 Calvert St, between 24 St and Connecticut Ave. Website. Twitter.

For reviews of Peregrine Espresso, Slipstream, Compass Coffee, Chinatown Coffee Co and Filter, check out my 2015 DC coffee guide. Still on my to-do list for next time are: The Wydown (14 Street), La Colombe (Shaw) and Baked & Wired (Georgetown), among others.

Brian of Brian's Coffee Spot also has some more detailed reviews of some of these coffee spots, and will, I'm sure, be adding some more after his US trip this month.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Bex,

    Thanks for the link! I have indeed added a couple more DC Coffee Spots, Compass and La Colombe, although I've still got a long way to go before I catch up with you!