A Guide To Great Coffee in DC
Washington DC is a city known mostly for its political minds, overly ambitious interns, and roads with pot-holes so horrible, you will need to borrow the Mars Rover to traverse the streets safely. Bickering, bickering on an unpaid basis, and road infrastructure issues aside, DC is also home to a vibrant yet dark side – Sumatra. (And every other delicious blend of coffee.)
As an area native and amateur coffee enthusiast, I set out to explore the great (and somewhat obscure) coffee joints for the city most in need of chemical rebalancing. Full disclosure, a few of the places I’m reviewing will be just outside the city limits.
If you just want a genuinely great cup of artisan coffee for a reasonable price, head to the corner of 22nd street and Virginia Ave in Northwest located conveniently on the campus of the George Washington University and you’ll find a line to Sammy’s Coffee Cart. (I don’t think it’s a proper noun, because this is literally a cart, and Sammy is in there making genius coffee concoctions on request.) You pay about 2 to 3 bucks for any kind and size of coffee drink that you want and Sammy works with you to please any individual taste – and it seriously does not matter how long your drink takes because Sammy will get it right and even make suggestions if you get up there and have no idea where to begin. If you lack patience and can exist on Maxwell House (because, evidently, you’ve been recently released from a prison) then you probably will not tolerate the wait for the perfection Sammy offers. However, if you do have some time and an insatiable quest for coffee perfection, see Sammy – but be sure you’re there during the work week because he closes up shop over the weekends.
On to the pricier options…there is Filter on I Street between 19th and 20th, which is known mostly for being a trendy, trend-setting, place to be seen by a lot of corporate finance hipsters -World Bank employees. While you don’t need to get paid like most of the world owes you money, you will need to shell out almost $3 for a small coffee. In their defense, the coffee really is one of the best that I have had – no bitter aftertaste, and a fresh, light aroma. On the walk back to my office, I started to have paranoid thoughts that maybe this was the prohibitively expensive fabled cat-poop coffee from Indonesia. I guess it says a lot for the quality of their product that even the thought of drinking cat crap didn’t stop me from enjoying the entire cup.
NOTEWORTHY: Filter is also about the size of a panic room or what I image a typical panic room would be like. A few tables and a tiny loft with a dangerous staircase – perfect for attempting to navigate with a boiling cup of coffee in your hand. So, if you love danger and good coffee, you can find both here!
Northside Social is a coffee joint just outside the DC limits (but totally metro accessible) which has been a café for several years – changing its name and gimmick every few to match the feel of the area. Now that it’s catering to a million special dietary restrictions, Northside Social is one of the few places where you can find all kinds of organic, farm-to-table, and locally produced goods to suit any palate. (Did you want milk from a cow? Or maybe you’d prefer unicorn milk?) The place is exceedingly busy on the weekends and you have to share your table with a bunch of strangers, so it’s really good for the socially ambitious, or kidnappers (probably). The coffee here is about as expensive as Filter, a small cup with one refill runs just under $3, but it was so bitter that I decided not to try another round. Since I had to ask a stranger, who happened to be a regular, to take the pictures for this article, he informed me that there was no way Filter, was better than Northside Social. In conclusion, to each his own!