Wed 28 Jul 2010
Jennifer Weiner, an insanely talented and successful novelist, once described her daily writing routine: A nanny comes to her home in Philadelphia every day to watch her daughter while Weiner walks around the corner to her favorite coffeeshop to write for about 4 straight hours. End workday. As soon as I heard her describe this my head snapped up and I said to myself “that’s what I want.” There is a lot implied with this type of workday. First of all, she’s successful enough to write full time, not squeeze it around a 40+ hour desk jockey work week like most writers I know. Secondly, she can afford regular help based on her writing income. And, perhaps most notable to food and coffee devotees, she lives within walking distance of a coffeeshop that is awesome enough to draw her in every single day.
Regardless of one’s career aspirations, that third piece really hits home for a lot of us. An area isn’t a neighborhood unless there is a destination-worthy coffeehouse nestled around some corner. I challenge you to name a great neighborhood in DC that doesn’t have a coffee shop of pride. Eastern Market? Peregrine. Clarendon? Northside Social. DuPont? Teaism. H St NE? Take your pick of Sidamo, Sova, or Ebenezers.
Lately we’ve been exploring what other neighborhoods have to offer so no matter where you go, you’ll be able to caffeinate yourself at a moment’s notice.
Tryst – Adam’s Morgan
Let me hook my thumbs into my suspenders and remind you that back in myyyy day, Tryst was just about the only coffee/lounge game in town unless you considered Starbucks or its cousins an option. Tryst is the grandaddy of the DC coffeehouse scene. Like a hipster church, you can mark your weekly calendar by the Sunday morning gathering of young urbanites sipping coffee and enjoying a pastry along with their free wi-fi. Some of them may have even been there the previous evening, when Tryst turns from Friends-style coffehouse to casual lounge with cocktails and light food on the menu. Service can struggle at times – not surprising considering the ebb and flow of the crowd – but Tryst continues to serve as a happy starting point for many an epic night out in Adam’s Morgan.
Three more coffeehouses after the jump.
St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub – Del Ray
Del Ray is the kind of neighborhood where wealthy people pay a fortune to look middle class. Or maybe where wealthy people go to become middle class after taking on that insane mortgage for a 2br 2ba bungalow with no yard. (Oh, am I still a little bitter after our house hunting in the DC area? Maybe.) Regardless, it is a damn cute neighborhood with all the amenities someone living a comfortable life needs – an amazing specialty cheese boutique featuring a wine bar, an organic dog food supply store, a butcher trumpeting local meats, yoga galore, dinner options, and St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub. The use of pub here is perfect – a public space welcoming to all. St. Elmo’s is divided into two rooms. The front is a more traditional sun-drenched coffee house environment opening up to the larger back space offering plentiful seating and tables to spread out with projects, laptops, or conversation. With seats on the sidewalk to people/dog watch, a friendly staff, plenty of indoor seating, and coffee available to take and brew in your magazine worthy kitchen, St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub is a staple of the good life in Del Ray.
Misha’s – Old Town
The sight of young tattooed women behind a coffee bar is calming to me. Perhaps its the vibe that they will take no shit from self-important customers ordering in Starbuckese. More likely it’ s a throwback to my high school, pre-fake ID days when social time with friends was either in someone’s parents’ basement (it’s a midwestern thing) or a Muddy’s Coffeehouse* in Kansas City, which had the double bonus of being near two college campuses. So, you know, maybe one of those college boys would mistake my Catcher in the Rye for a freshman lit text. Anyway, Misha’s reminds me of Muddy’s but all grown up. Those skinny college boys I ogled? Are now adult urban types tapping away on their computers in one of Misha’s sun-drenched rooms while the owner roasts coffee around the corner. Coffee now comes with a side of yoga mat (seriously, the place was crawling with yogis. There’s a studio next door.) in lieu of Marlboros and chess. But the young tattoed women are still there. Still looking like they know everyone and have way cooler plans for this Thursday than you ever will. And I take an odd comfort in that.
Perk Up – South Alexandria
There’s an odd retail oasis as you leave Old Town and head south toward Mount Vernon on the George Washington Parkway. They’ve got a pizza place, a local bar, and a hardware store, sure…but they’ve also got a Williams-Sonoma and a Jos. A Banks. It was here that we found Perk Up, a total throwback to the early ’90s coffee culture. Everything from the punny name to the mismatched furniture to the chalk-written menu boards feels like it’s been holding on since the final episode of “Friends,” but they deliver a well-roasted cup of coffee that’s none too bitter but plenty strong. Hungry for a pastry or a small bite to go with it? Perk Up has you covered with baked goods and sandwiches from Bread & Chocolate. The location pretty much requires a strong neighborhood following (it’s not exactly on the beaten path in Old Town), and they deliver with fast, friendly service and a welcoming environment.