Dolcezza next to the bus stop

On my way from Slipstream to a bus stop, I ran into yet another cafe!  As I mentioned, part of the rules of coffee travel is that if you see a real cafe, you have to go.  And so I went.

Dolcezza is a gelato bar and espresso shop.  It is spotlessly clean, and extremely cold inside.  All of the places in D.C. have some kind of air conditioning, but only here was I verging on uncomfortably cold.  As in, bring-a-jacket winter-is-coming cold.  but it was also a relief from the humid and hot outdoors, so it was bearable.

I had an espresso shot.  Unlike the rest of the country, all the esprsssos I got in D.C. were actually single shots- not double shots.  Typically in Boston/LA/SF I see an “espresso” being pulled as a double shot for americanos and espressos, but in D.C. they were all just single shots.

The shot was served in a brown, thick walled espresso cup with matching saucer.  Surprisingly, there was no sparkling water to go with it, although other people seemed to get some.  The coffee was very acidic, with a fruity finish and a sweet aftertaste- I think it was stumptown hair bender roast.


The interior

The cafe is laid out around a long bar with gelato and coffee.  A doorway protrudes into the space in the middle of the bar, creating to bays for small tables and chairs (pictured).  The floor is white tile and is quite clean.  Overall, it reminds me of a very clean ice cream parlor or train station.  The tables are marble-esque, and the chairs are stained red wood upholstered with red leather, or wood stained to match the chairs.  Both are comfortable enough.

I believe this is supposed to be an Italian styled place, and it does seem like it would be at home in the north end in Boston.  It does seem like a place where you could come and comfortably read the paper or meet up with someone, but I think the gelato (which I did not try) is their real strength, not coffee.  If I went back,  I would have to try it.

Northside Social


The approach to NoSo

Northside Social, or “NoSo” is out in what might be considered the suburbs of Washington D.C.  It is a huge building, boasting ample patio seating, a huge first floor, and a second floor which is a wine bar (with an espresso machine).  It is certainly the biggest coffee bar I visited on my trip, and it is open late because of the wine bar- this made it the ultimate destination for my day 1 trip, since I could arrive at just about any time and still expect the place to be open.

I had a cup of drip coffee, roasted by intelligentsia.  I may have been a little exhausted and buzzed at this point, but I would describe the coffee as smoky and acidic, with a fruity aftertaste.  It is worth noting that there are two options for drip coffee- a regular cup, and a “mug” of coffee which is two 10 oz mugs of coffee (one refill).  I am impressed by how considerate and innovative they are with this offering- this is the only place I have seen something like this on the menu, almost explicitly inviting you to stay for as long as possible.


2nd Floor/Wine Bar

The inside of the cafe is tastefully decorated in coffee-drip paintings of famous actors and personages.  The tables are wooden, and plentiful.  Towards the back of the cafe the tables get  little less uniform, but they is still a ton of seating.  The second floor wine bar is decorated with more paintings, and is furnished with light wood tables and bar stools.  If you look carefully, you can see Clint Eastwood in the photo above.

The wine bar was equally as inviting and as accommodating as the coffee bar.  I ordered a highly modified and delicious grilled cheese for dinner, while I made some notes on my trip so far (pictured above).




Slipstream was not on my original list, but as I was headed to compass coffee on day 2, I passed it.  One of the rules of coffee travel is that if you come across a decent looking cafe, you must go- so I went!

It turned out to be a great decision.  First off, I was hungry, and their breakfast food options were much better than any of the other coffee shops I visited that day.  Second, they have good coffee, as well as coffee cocktails-  not something you see everyday (or ever, in MA).  I was sorely tempted to try one of the coffee cocktails, but it was 8 A.M. and I had a long day of coffee ahead of me, so I opted for my gold standard of coffee comparison- a cup of black drip coffee.


toast for breakfast

The coffee is apparently roasted by “Madcap Coffee” and it is balanced between sweet and acidic.  It is not unlike el gallo blend, but it is balanced instead of acidic.  It was served in a notneutral lino coffee mug, which is actually a fairly normal looking white mug.

The bar stools and chairs are a light colored wood, while the tables are stained a dark walnut color.  I think this brings attention to the weighty tables, over the chairs, which are comfortable but unremarkable.


The back, under the skylights

The lighting is interesting and worth noting, since the place is a single large chamber that serves as both a brunch spot, a bar, and a coffee shop.  It is modern and clean, with lots of glass, wood, air and light.  Most of the light is provided by the floor-to ceiling windows at the front of the cafe, as well as the skylights at the back of the cafe.  The rest is rather dimly lit by reflected light from the outdoors, and more indirect lighting from large domed reflectors on the ceiling.  This means that there is little in the way of direct lighting, making the inside seem soft.  In the daytime this gives it a cool, shady feeling, and I imagine at night it gives it a nice bar ambiance.

I am very happy that I made the stop at slipstream.  I ended up with a full stomach and plenty of time left to explore the rest of the city.

Compass Coffee


Compass Coffee

Compass was my first planned coffee stop for the day.  The location I visited was just a few bus stops from the Dolcezza.  It is a single-story brick building packed to the gills with coffee products, seating, and what appears to be the compass coffee roasting operation.

I ordered a small drip coffee, which was made with their cardinal blend, and a saag-paneer filled pastry, similar to a bao.  The pastry dough was sweet, and the sag-paneer was spicy and bizarre, but in the best way.  The coffee was smoky and sweet, a little acidic but not very fruity.  The coffee was served in a paper cup.


Roasting operation

I sat at a bar in front of their coffee roasters.  Like slipstream, light was provided mainly by numerous skylights and windows rather than with artificial lighting.  This, combined with the brick, gives the place a warm glow.  The place was pretty packed, with a long line when I arrived.  But there was plenty of space inside, and I think pretty much anyone who wanted a seat got one.


Sitting area

As you can see in the photo, they have pretty much every kind of cafe chair, ranging from various heights of 4-legged metal stools, to orange and white metal chairs.  The wood was mostly light colored pine and veneer, which was complemented by the white paint and tile.  The somewhat high ceiling and skylights give it an airy, clean, and open feeling.  this feeling conflicts somewhat with the general cramped mess and busyness of the floorplan.

Chinatown Coffee Company


The unassuming entrance

The CCC lacks the usual signage out front, but once you get inside, it is clear that it is a coffee shop.  They seem to serve intelligentsia coffee, but they also sell retail heart coffee.  As one would expect, the coffee is good. The coffee was balanced, with a smoky aftertaste.  It was served in an hourglass shaped diner mug, like the ones that Diesel sold before switching to intelligentsia-ware.


This shop is long!

The interior of the shop is long.  The grey bulkhead that comes out of the ceiling, the rail, and the long coffee bar all help make it seem even longer, emphasizing a far away vanishing point.  Their logo is three cups over two bars, which is similar to the flag of the District of Columbia.  Definitely clever.

On the left side, there are small four legged stools mixed with creamsicle chairs- white on the outside, orange on the seat.  These seats face each other over low spool tables.  In the front of the shop there is a bar at the window, and two very expensive looking tables with matching benches.  These feature a dark wood tabletops, metal frames and narrow benches.  It was a surprisingly comfortable spot to sip my coffee and read my book.

Peregrine Coffee



Peregrine next to NOT Peregrine (La Pain Quotidien)

Peregrine Coffee was the first stop on my coffee tour.  It seemed easy to get to form the Hirshhorn and it would be my only stop out on the east side of DC.  I arrived at about 4:00, drenched in sweat from my two-block walk over from the East Market stop on the Blue Line.  Say what you will about the heat on the west coast, but at least it is a dry heat!

This location is located right next to a non-peregrine cafe.  I was almost lured into buying coffee from them but the brew-o-matic and lack of coffee menu made me think twice, and check outside.  Sure enough, Peregrine was right next door.

Since it was about 90 degrees and humid, I opted for a smaller espresso instead of my usual small black coffee (the real standard for judging a coffee place).  I also ordered a ham and cheese pastry.

The pastry did not inspire any real confidence in me, with its single roll of ham and sparse cheese, but I devoured it anyway since I was hungry.  It was decent-edible but not a reason to come back.  Eventually my espresso was up (after a mix up that almost landed me with a macchiato).

The coffee on the other hand, was short- by that I mean it was a single shot of espresso.  One unusual thing I learned is that in DC, espresso is normally a single shot instead of the doubles you find in Boston and LA or SF.  Overall I was happy with the coffee.  It as fruity and the acid was fairly balanced.  They clearly have some idea of what they are doing over there with their machine and their counterculture coffee (they also have a house peregrine brand).  It was served in a standard white saucer/espresso cup/spoon, along side what I assume was supposed to be sparkling mineral water in a libbey druatuff glass.  Unfortunately this turned out to be lukewarm water, which was trumped by the free ice water they were also serving.


Pear Eh Grin

The decor was cute, but not in a way that stands out.  It felt like it was new and nice, and organized.  Inviting, but not too exciting.  They did have a funny rendition of their name on the wall (pictured above).  There is interior and exterior seating available.  The inside consists of a small square of tables in the front (about 4 people/table), a bar for seating for three, and another line of tables going back to the back of the cafe, each seating two.  Next to the line of tables is the coffee bar, including a pastry case, espresso machine, and retail area.  This cafe (like the rest of the ones in DC) also boasts a restroom.  Outdoors there are five tables that can probably seat three people each.


Nice, clean, but not exciting

The tables and chairs were a light blonde wood, probably pine.  The outdoor furniture is metal painted that rustoleum-lawn-furniture-green.  The counter echos this theme with a light wood and glass construction, giving the whole place a friendly (but not enlightening) interior.

Baked and Wired


Line for days!  If you want coffee, you can probably skip it

When I arrived at Baked and Wired, after a bus and a schlep down 30th street,  I was extremely unenthused to find a line out the door.  What I did not know was that Baked and Wired is one of “those places” where people queue outside in 85 degree heat to buy expensive and trendy pastries.  There is nothing wrong with that, but typically this is not my scene.  I typically prefer a spot where I can grab a quick cup of coffee and a seat and spend a few hours lost in a book, writing emails, or pretending to be productive in some other way.


The coffee bar, featuring finger

Once I was inside, I realized that it is actually that kind of place, or rather half the store is that kind of place.  There are actually two totally separate counters inside, one for coffee and one for baked goods, which form a delicious symbiosis.  From the bakery, I purchased a pistacio cupcake.  From the coffee bar, I bought a cup of coffee.

The coffee was acidic and a little fruity- a nice sharp note compared to the creamy sweetness of the cupcake.  And unlike most cupcakes, this one had little nut-nuggets in it to add a nice texture.  Together, the two of them made a lovely afternoon snack.  Alone, I think the coffee would have still been drinkable, but the cupcake certainly enhanced the experience.


Blurry, but you get the idea.  ft. finger

The decor could best be described as mixed.  The coffee bar area has no seating.  The bakery is standard contemporary-cute and displays cupcakes under glass beakers.  Down a few steps from the bakery, there is a massive shell-shaped couch that faces an american flag.



In the back, things get real weird.  Napinks are attached to napkins with baked and wired stickers in what must be a fire marshalls nightmare.  Somewhere under all the napkins, I am sure there is a wall with more napkins attached to it via stickers.  Each leaflet in the strata is marked with a thoughtful doodle or a few words.