Filter Cafe was second on my “outliers” tour. It was near a train stop, but one that was relatively out of the way- Dupont Circle on the red line. After a lovely train ride and eventual departure from the air conditioned bliss that is the D.C. metro, I hoofed it a few blocks to Filter Cafe which is situated in what amounts to a back alley off of the main street. It is bizzare street- just back entrances to buisnesses (dry cleaners and the like) with people smoking on them, then a small coffee shop.
Filter Cafe would be at home on Newbury Street in Boston. It shares a lot of architectural themes that you find at places like Wired Puppy or Sofa Cafe, which is to say it is a garden level shop with a few patio tables out front, with a long, brick lined interior containing few tables. It even has a bay window as an entrance. Unlike Boston, it was still insanely humid and hot and I arrived to find it full of people seeking air conditioned asylum there, so I had to sit outside. Also, Newbury street is not a back alley.
Since I got there in the afternoon, I was compelled to order a pour over (no drip coffee is available in the afternoon). Like Newbury street, this was expensive. I opted for what I hoped would be a fruity African blend, which was served in a small cup with the Filter logo silkscreened onto it. It was black on the outside, with orange enamel on the inside. The coffee was acidic and smoky, without much fruityness to balance it out. It had a lingering minty aftertaste, but your milage may vary. Overall not a bad cup of coffee, just not my favorite flavor.
Since all thirteen indoor seats were taken, and I didn’t want to sit on a windowsill, I ended up sitting outside pondering the insanity of drinking 10 ounces of hot coffee in the brutal DC heat. Fortunately, this gave me a chance to assess the patio situation. The options were two faux-cedar folding tables accompanied by pop-orange plastic molded chairs, or a weathered white oak bench. I opted for a chair at an empty table, and hoped that someone left the inside before I finished my coffee.
At some point, I noticed few people leaving so I swooped in and took their seat in the refreshing air-conditioned room. The indoors is your typical long brick room, on the right there is seating, including a bench with five tables and five chairs (10 seats), as well as a small 3 seat bar with stools. The left is occupied by the coffee counter, including pour over station, espresso, and pastry area.
The chairs are red, which matches their custom printed vinyl-wrapped La Marzocco, and the bricks. The rest of the place is made of various kinds of wood stained in slightly mismatched walnut colors. The low ceiling, air conditioning, and dark wood give it a cool, underground feeling, although I bet in the winter this turns into a cozy, warm space quite easily.
The lighting was dim, contributing to the cool cave-like feel, but the upside-down glass light shades projected crazy (but totally static) patterns on the walls. The light temperature was warm from bouncing off all of the walls, which definitely put some points in the warm/cozy column.
I think one of my favorite parts was a printed poster (on plain A4 paper) that declared “My body is like a filter, coffee goes in and sarcasm comes out”. That and they also have a bathroom (possibly a legal requirement in DC).
On the way back to the train I stopped at “Tabletop” to pick up a new notebook- I had filled up my last page and I needed more space for the rest of the shops!