Coffee Shops in Washington, DC
Big Bear Cafe would be noteworthy anywhere in DC, but it's impossible to separate Big Bear from its actual location -- a section of Bloomingdale/Eckington, just off North Capitol, that remains under-served by most businesses. If you live nearby, it's a safe bet that you already frequent Big Bear. But even if you don't, there are many reasons to go out of your way for a visit. The space is comfortable and welcoming, with a patio and small garden. Coffee is by Counter Culture, and there are salads and sandwiches made with fresh ingredients sourced from the Sunday farmer's market that takes place just outside. The milk is organic and tasty, but full-fat only (or soy for the dairy-free). Big Bear recently received a liquor license and is experimenting with later hours a few nights a week.
Many locals believe Georgetown's Baked & Wired serves the best cupcake in DC. And if amazing baked goods aren't enough reason to visit, there's also coffee from Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Intelligentsia Coffee, organic milk from a creamery in Pennsylvania, and a good-sized menu of hot and iced black, green, and herbal teas. The space is somewhat small, with a casual atmosphere and hippie-meets-hipster vibe. The staff takes its coffee seriously, for better (great coffee) or worse (the attitude to go with it). Dessert and coffee orders take place at separate counters, but trust us, you'll want both!
Most people have a vision of their perfect coffeehouse. Ours includes a sunny front window with a window seat, a back room with comfortable mismatched furniture, art on the walls, a feeling of quiet welcome, and a local owner full of community spirit. And, while we're at it, maybe a cozy wine bar upstairs. As it happens, that vision is fulfilled exactly in H Street's Sova Espresso and Wine. Sova may lack the aggressive attitude of some other indie coffeehouses, but its Intelligentsia beans stand up to even the most discriminating coffee snob. Wifi is available, just ask the barista for a password.
Qualia Coffee is not one of the best-known names among DC coffee drinkers. It's relatively new and occupies an out-of-the-way spot in a row house on Georgia Avenue in Petworth. But ask a coffee connoisseur where to find a great cup of joe, and the name Qualia comes up again and again. Owner Joel Finkelstein (the self-described "roastmonkey") takes his coffee very, very seriously. He micro-roasts each batch and can tell you the exact origin of every bean that passes through his roaster. The beans are roasted lightly, lacking the bitterness and burned flavors that creep into too many coffees. Seating is comfortable but limited; a patio expands the options in warm weather.
Old Town Alexandria has its share of serious coffee joints, but Misha's, on Route 1 just off King Street, is the king of them all. The space is open, sunny and colorful, and full of neighborhood regulars. Misha's coffee beans are roasted daily in small batches, in a drum roaster right in the shop. A few basic options are kept ready by the pot, or you can special order any of Misha's two-dozen varieties by the cup. Pastries are provided by several local businesses, including cupcakes by the award-winning Buzz Bakery and gluten-free treats from Out of the Box. There's a small metered parking lot in back.