Thu 17 Mar 2011
I passed the storefront countless times: heading to CVS, picking up my dry cleaning, depositing a check. Each time, I found myself staring in the window and wondering what was going on behind the brown paper. I found out last week, and as of Monday Pound Coffee’s new location is officially open. And not a moment too soon, it turns out.
Pound the Hill, as they’re calling their new digs, was meant to be the second space for one of NOMA’s earliest arrivals. The plan was to keep the original open, get the new space up and running, and maybe even look ahead to another location when the time was right. On Monday, Eater DC reported that the NOMA shop was closing for good, the victim of a landlord dispute and fortunate timing.
We stopped by to take a First Look around the Capitol Hill space just over a week ago, and the reports of early crowds come as no surprise. The coffee has always been a hit – Pound is the only coffee shop on the East Coast carrying Kickap00 Coffee, Roast Magazine’s 2010 Roaster of the Year and purveyor of “organic, fair trade, artisan-roasted,” and their Nutella latte has a rabid following. Couple that with the welcoming space we found when we visited and you’ve got the makings of a new neighborhood destination.
We’ve got more pictures, an overview of what visitors can expect, and some big news for Hill staffers after the jump.
The team behind Pound describe themselves as purists, not elitists. They’re passionate about coffee…they enjoy geeking out over roasting minutiae and proper pouring technique. And they channel that enthusiasm into their products. That Nutella latte? They created it a year ago, going so far as to invent their own Nutella syrup to get the flavor just right.
In renovating this space, they’ve made an effort to preserve the historical charms of the structure. They’ve cleaned and exposed timbers, touched up brick walls and even restored tin ceiling panels. The goal was to create a coffee shop with personality that neighbors could embrace as their local hangout. “We want to become the Cheers of coffee houses,” says part-owner Karl Johnson. There are plans for movie showings and trivia nights, and the bookshelf at the back of the space is full of travel books to share with the public.
And why choose Capitol Hill for their new location? For Johnson, “It was a no-brainer. I was out walking my dog one day – I live three blocks away from here – and I saw the sign for the space.” Now he sees it as a place where book clubs can gather, local organizations can meet and possibly even a venue for small groups’ fundraisers.
Pound isn’t just about coffee, either. Every day, the kitchen turns out one hot dish at lunch and dinner. Focusing on one dish each day allows them to keep to that high standard of quality with fresh ingredients and attention to detail. “The food is a big part of our concept,” said Johnson. “We’ve been inspired by our travels and we love the flavors in a wide range of ethnic and regional cuisines.”
The dishes have global influences, though the recipes are uniquely Executive Chef and partner Khalil Ghannam’s. One day could see an Athens-style Gyro (with french fries tucked into the pita), while another will bring Louisiana chicken and sausage jambalaya. The full menu for the month is always available online. Lunch portions run roughly $9, and dinners about $12.
When I spoke to Johnson, he told me about something that is bound to appeal to Congressional staffers. Pound has plans to cater to the needs of the Hill in more ways than one. Sure, you can order their food for your next big meeting or event, but staffers will also be able to order Pound’s entree of the day online and have it delivered hot to a pre-determined distribution point just outside the Congressional office buildings.
With warmer weather just around the corner, Johnson is looking forward to opening up an outdoor patio space that should appeal to Hill-dwellers looking for a secluded space to relax. Whether bringing a book or an iPad (like the ones used as an integrated ordering and payment system up front), you’ll be able to sit back with a hot beverage and a tasty meal. It may not just be Capitol Hill that gets to enjoy Pound for too long. Johnson has no immediate plans to expand, but he said he feels they have a good concept and approach and he would be open to moving into other neighborhoods if the right opportunity opened up like it did on the Hill.