Good DC Coffee Shops

Posted 19 Jun 2011 to dc, coffee and has Comments

I moved to DC about four months ago, and since then, my weekends have been frequently occupied with one quest: find the best DC coffee shop. When I was in Charleston, the answer used to to be easy (Kudu Coffee, if you’re wondering). In Baltimore, it was even easier (Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse). In The District, however, I’ve had a much harder time. There are many meretricious options to choose from, and few are real winners. There are quite a few convenience stores, bars, and restaurants that call themselves a “cafe” and really shouldn’t.

What’s a winner? Admittedly, it has a lot to do with a place that I can break out a laptop, drink some coffee, do some work, and be just distracted enough by nearby conversation that I don’t mind the fact that I’m working. Here are the metrics I take into consideration: * outdoor seating * free wifi * ample seating * power outlets * eavesdropping payoffs (audible interesting conversations, often philosophical in nature) * quality music or live performances * good collaborative space (big tables, etc) * proximity to public transportation

So here are some top performers on this list, with a final entry of what I believe to be the winner.

Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse

This is the first place I went to in DC. It’s right next to Union Station, so it’s quite accessible. I didn’t realize it at first, but this establishment is owned and operated by a Christian church. This, naturally, leads to a rather homogeneous clientele makeup, which often consists of small Bible study groups and prayer groups. Seating is generally available, the coffee is alright, and there is free timed wifi (with a purchase) - but don’t expect an interesting space, interesting characters, or any stimulating conversation.

Tryst

This place is more of a restaurant / cafe. It’s generally completely packed on the weekends with hungover college students looking for food and coffee. This is not a good work place, even if you decide to wait for a seat.

Big Bear Cafe

A great location with plenty of hits on my list of important qualities. There’s outdoor seating, free wifi, good collaborative space, great music, and more. The disadvantages are major, though - seating is impossible on the weekends and there’s no nearby metro stop.

Chinatown Coffee Co.

Excellent coffee can be found here. There’s generally enough seating, free wifi, and it’s right next to the Chinatown metro stop. You’re not likely to overhear any juicy conversations though, most stick to themselves at tables meant for one or two.

Filter Coffeehouse and Espresso Bar

Great coffee here, too, and it’s a short walk from the Dupont metro stop. There’s outdoor seating as well, though that and all of the few seats indoors are generally taken. With better seating options or fewer patrons, this place would be a real winner.

MidCity Caffe

The winner at this point is MidCity. They always have enough seating (though all seats are really close to each other, so you’ll probably make a friend), free wifi, great coffee, and excellent music. I’ve even seen a live performance or two there. It’s not too far from the U St metro stop. Another great thing about this place is the owners have made a special effort to put power strips everywhere.

There are plenty of mediocre places I’ve left off (Jolt n Bolt Coffee & Tea House, Windows Cafe & Market, and many more not worth mentioning), so this short list is by no means comprehensive. I’ll add to it if I find any other locations worth a plug.