The glory of coffee shops: top five D.C. cafes

Disclaimer: this post is not for the decaffeinated of heart as it’s dedicated to my love of coffee and coffee shops. So if you’re not a coffee drinker/lover feel free to move right along.

In the past month or so, I’ve been frequenting many many  cafes in the D.C. metropolitan area. When my cousin Lois was here in April, we went cafe hunting. Lois is like me in the sense that we get our work done the best in cafes, with a little hum of mugs and silver clinking, the steady stream of chatter like a bubbling brook to our ears– it’s the sense that you’re part of the world and a part of these strangers’ lives in some way. There are others, who on the contrary despise working in the cafe environment as the soft noise I described is more a cacophony of clangs and bangs. Among these unfortunate souls is my husband, which is why I was delighted when my cousin desperately wanted to find the perfect cafe to make her study place.

So I’m going to list a countdown of about 5 great cafes I have been to up to the one we both deemed our favorite. Here we go:

#5 Spork – Eastern Market station


++ This cafe has the most delicious and healthy array of sandwiches, salads and drinks. I would say it has a bit of a market deli feel. My favorite were the stuffed grape leaves. scrumptious!

— The ambience is less study oriented, doesn’t have the best seating and feels more like an in-out. However, the cafe is placed snuggly among many other shops, right next door to the cutest most wonderful in the attic bookstore and is right across the street of the well-known Eastern Market. The market is a place that needs a post of its own, so I won’t go into details, but I would go to this cafe on Sundays from AM-4pm (which is when the Market is running).

#4 M.E. Swing Co.-Foggy Bottom


Number 4 on our list is M.E. Swing Co.

++I really liked this place because there are few good coffee shops in the business district area with the old-timey saloon feel. I didn’t try the coffee but I love the decor, sit-down area and general welcoming feel where you know the barista won’t bother you for a good few hours.

— A bit dark for any good studying to happen but I would definitely come here to do some reading.

#3 Smithsonian Cafe – Gallery Chinatown Metro station

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Number 3. Oh, how glorious.

++The Smithsonian cafe is inside the art museum and is a courtyard between two parts of the museum. I felt instantly transported to another place when I walked in here. The fountain, echo, dancing shadows make it a wonderful place to relax and enjoy a cup a tea with a good friend. I also discovered that this is the meeting place of a meetup group of philosophers. I would be too intimidated to join, but you know this will be a great place to stop by.

— The weather that day was a bit humid like in the 70s and the cafe isn’t very well-ventilated. I’m not sure how long I would stay to read.

#2 Filter –

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Number 2

++I love this cafe because this is first time I felt like I walked into a bar on a Saturday night and have a few shots of espresso. The noise level in that place is amazing. It really does exceed the hertz level of even the loudest cafe I’ve been–like I said bar noise level. As a need to study seeker, it’s definitely a downside but what I loved was that when Lois and I stepped inside and realized we couldn’t study, we sat down and proceeded to have the most intense discussion of the faulty of Darwinism. In a way it’s the best place to bring out geek in you. The energy of the place is great. It’s a tiny location that resembles a loft apartment, where many professionals come into network or grab a cup during their lunch break. I saw a lot of people in trenchcoats.

— They actually have a sign upstairs where they discourage labtop use, but in a nice friendly way so that I would probably do it anyway if there it weren’t so crowded and loud.

#1 The Cafe Bar (TCB) – U St. Metro Station


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And first prize goes to TBC- the holy grail of all cafes. I absolutely love this place. First of all, amazing coffee. I’ve come here maybe about ten times and most of those times, I got the cortado, pictured above. It’s a creamy cappuccino with the ratio of espresso to milk somewhat different from a regular cappuccino, mabye there’s some water in there? I don’t know, but it’s great. There are high tables, low tables, a sitting area, wi-fi, and there’s that perfect blend of coffee-making and chatter that I love. It’s a couple blocks from U.St Metro (and trader joe’s by the way) and in a great neighborhood. Also, there’s seating outside.

— no negatives

By the way, since we’re talking about cafes, there are a few additional cafes that are not in D.C. but that I really love and wish were closer to me:

Kaldi’s –Silver Spring, MD *Owned by a french-ethiopian couple, this place has great architecture and decor. They also have the best macaroons and chai tea latte I’ve had.

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Subrosa Richmond, VA The variety of bread, drip coffee and decor of the place makes you melt inside. Also it’s in Churchhill, VA, which is home to me in a way.

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And Light Well, in Orange, VA.  I loved this place because not only is it a restaurant bar but they run the place as casual as a coffee shop. They call it a kitchen/tavern/coffee place. Plus, they pay homage to Audrey Hepburn. I love that.




I think the best part about discovering these cafes were that I felt like I was getting to know the city a little better. D.C. in particular can be an unfeeling place, especially the metro which I’m on for at least an hour and half everyday. You kind of and want to blend in with everyone else. It’s a great feeling to walk into a I’m a step closer to calling it my city. I hope the next time you visit, you can stop by one of these places and tell me about it. Or better yet, call me up and I’ll meet you there. I’m curious, which cafe is your favorite?


5 Comments Add yours

  1. jsk says:

    i absolutely adored this post!
    it’s so curious how both you and moozie are paired with non-coffee-drinkers… but that makes your delight all the more acute i think!

    I have to say that the smithsonian cafe is just so beautiful that I a partial to it! but those little flaky goods at subrosa looks really good, and your description alone of the drinks at every other place makes me want to check it out!

  2. Inock Kim says:

    This post should be linked to a website for D.C. travelers, which would be very helpful to taste the city. It would be a nice surprise if you find a cafe like TCB as a stranger in the city.

  3. Christine says:

    Yes what a great post! I can’t wait to check out some of these cafés with you.

  4. saena says:

    ohmy. i don’t drink coffee but this makes me almost want to start! love that you did a top 5 thing, maybe start a series of top 5 of DC? restaurants next??? 🙂 miss you eunice!

    1. aventuramare says:

      Thanks, Saena. That’s a great idea. I’ll work on it:) I love reading your blog and the fun things to do in NYC. I need to make up there more often!

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