Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and who better to outline the perfect date night than Capital Couple?! Don’t worry, coffee is definitely involved. Already have plans for the big day? Their suggestions would work for any date night (or day). So grab your sweetie and enjoy exploring one of the cutest neighborhoods in the area! And don’t forget to keep caffeinated!
Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, and if you’re anything like us, you’re probably really busy with life and haven’t planned anything yet! Honestly, you may be too late to get a reservation at that “hot” spot in DC – or maybe you just don’t want to deal with the hassle and expense of the crowds and menu prices at most of DC’s best eateries for an occasion like Valentine’s Day. Well, if you want some quality time with your beau or gal to celebrate V-day and (a little) less craziness, might we suggest a date night in Del Ray? Or if going out on a week night isn’t your thing, a date day in Del Ray over the weekend?
Nestled away near Potomac Yard and just north of Alexandria, Virginia, many of our D.C. followers have probably never even heard of this charming neighborhood. Del Ray consists of quiet streets lined with beautiful homes, spacious yards (by DC standards), dogs being walked, community fundraisers selling used books or Girl Scout cookies…it just feels like home. Walk or drive a few blocks in and you’ll find Del Ray’s “Main Street” – Mount Vernon Avenue, lined with bustling coffee shops, handfuls of popular restaurants, and cute little shops.
Del Ray is a popular neighborhood, but it’s likely you can still squeeze in a Valentine’s Day reservation if you act now. According to OpenTable, there are still spots available at several Del Ray favorites.
For dinner, there are several great options. Feeling a sushi date? Taylor is always down for a spicy tuna roll (or 2) at The Sushi Bar in Del-Ray, an adults-only sushi lounge. They even justify the no-kids rule “to create the perfect environment for…couples out on ‘date night.’” Last time we visited, we ate outside to enjoy the nice weather, but the inside offers a cozy respite to February’s cold.
Not a sushi fan? Taqueria el Poblano is a fun alternative with delicious margs and tacos to make for a boozy celebration!
Or for a more casual atmosphere, Pork Barrel BBQ serves up the best BBQ we’ve found in DC – truly a great place to have a few craft beers and some smoked meats. We’re both from down south, so you won’t hear us say it’s the best BBQ we’ve ever had, but it certainly gets the job done!
If you’re looking to eat somewhere a little nicer, check out Cheesetique, a gorgeous wine and cheese bar. Walk through the adorable wine shop to the bar and restaurant area in the back. Plus, Valentine’s Day falls on a Wine Down Wednesday, where you can get “wallet-friendly offerings by the glass.”
After dinner, grab a sweet treat at the Dairy Godmother, where you can grab a cup or cone of delicious frozen custard.
Don’t have a sweet tooth? Continue your dinner conversation over a cup of coffee or tea at St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub.
So you might be thinking going out on actual Valentine’s Day on a Wednesday night sounds like a hassle, so consider heading out to Del Ray on Saturday or Sunday to celebrate your love. Rather than a post-dinner cappuccino, head to St. Elmo’s for a latte and pastry to start your day. St. Elmo’s has a great vibe in the mornings – students studying, book clubs meeting, friends catching up.
St. Elmo’s serves up some tasty pastries, but Del Ray residents swear by Stomping Ground, a “down-home” coffee shop located just across the street from St. Elmo’s that serves “a biscuit that will change your life,” according to one Yelp reviewer. We’ve yet to withstand the constant long line out front of this uber-popular spot, but the crowds and reviews suggest you won’t be disappointed!
After you’ve had your daily dose of caffeine, walk around all of the cute shops up and down Mount Vernon Avenue.
Want to cook a nice Valentine’s Day dinner at home? Head to Market 2 Market to buy various local brews or pick up a new bottle of wine. We always enjoy picking from the local brew and wine selection.
Then head to Let’s Meat On The Avenue to pick up some meat to cook for dinner. There’s definitely no shortage of options – we’ve never seen so many types of meat at a butcher before!
Lastly, head into Cheesetique for some cheese and prosciutto to make a Charcuterie board to enjoy before dinner. And maybe even pick up a nice cheese board or knife as a nice Valentine’s Day surprise!
Capital Couple is a couple of attorneys, Ethan & Taylor, living in our nation’s capital. We are your local guides to DC, showing you the best food, drinks, shopping, sights, and adventures the city has to offer. Follow along with @CapitalCouple on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and on CapitalCouple.com.
I (Lauren) met Candy back in March when she was at Duality Espresso & Whisky Bar officially launching Southeastern Roastery. Talking to her briefly (as she had many supporters in attendance), I was enthralled by her path to coffee and her enthusiasm for this new adventure. I knew her story was one District of Coffee should share, and who better to tell it than the woman herself?
In hindsight, it appears that I have been consciously crafting my coffee quest to create Southeastern Roastery, but this is not quite accurate. The reality is I can only vaguely pinpoint its beginnings let alone any intentional endeavors along the way.
My best guess is that I began preparing to enter the vast world of coffee in the summer of 1995, when I decided, clumsily, to start engineering school. Did I know what I was getting into at the time? No. But, math problems were my past-time jigsaw puzzles, I like chemistry, and I emotionally needed the follow-up security that the degree claimed to afford me. Four and a half years I spent toiling in labs, studying fluid flow theories, and sitting through what seemed like endless group meetings. I came away with a diploma noting my skills and put it to use in pulp and paper, oil, and controls design.
After graduation I came to know rural America well. Though beautiful, I experienced enough to know that I did not want to spent spend my adult youth aging there. Also, during this time, I realized that I lost the creative space allowed in learning engineering to the economically driven and controlled processes of industry. I soon became bored with the field in which I was working and needed a change.
The year was 2006 when I made the decision to enter graduate school. By this point, the industrial environment taught me that fields of engineering, and science in general, needed more human guidance. I had witnessed communities complain of industrial waste in water and soil and listened to companies battle with them for increased profits. I was fed-up with an itch for a switch from life in rural, industrial America. So, I registered for a program geared toward natural resource management with an international focus and moved to Central America. This is when I met Costa Rica.
The “rich coast,” with its mountainous islands and luscious rain forests, unwrapped my joy in sylvan pleasures that my adult self had boxed-up from childhood. In this plush landscape, I encountered coffee. Not just the roasted bean, but also its trees, fruit, growers, terrains, and climates – it’s ecosystem. It reminded me of home. As a child, I spent long hours with various family members plowing, planting, watering, and de-weeding gardens of green beans, cantaloupe, collard greens, kale, green peppers, squash, tomatoes, corn, and pumpkin. Nestled between the warm waters of the Pacific and the Caribbean, among frequent earth tremors, through coffee’s familiar yet foreign vegetative environment, I sensed a wider connection to the world that the U.S. alone did not afford me. What I was able to claim as the comforts of home had extended beyond its borders.
I was content with that notion then, and that emotion has stuck with me. It is in this connectivity of the roots of agriculture that I am drawn to coffee. With it, I am building cross-border relationships through this common ecosystem using what I have gained throughout my life. This opportunity is my gift from the universe, from which I am ever learning and ever growing. And, even at its tumultuous and unpredictable times, I compassionately accept and look forward to sharing its beauty.
If you are in the DC area, you can explore Southeastern Roastery locally crafted coffees at Songbyrd Record Cafe in Adam’s Morgan, Duality Espresso and Whiskey Bar at 1301 U St. NW, and Uptown Arthouse in Cleveland Park. Follow the roastery on Instagram – @southeasternroastery – for cuppings, tastings, and future happenings throughout DC, MD, and VA. Most of all, cup collectively and share lovingly!
Written by Candy Schibli, Head Roaster, Southeastern Roastery
Today’s post is by guest writer Susannah Winters of Wheelys Cafe DC. For those who are unfamiliar with Wheelys, allow Susannah to share her story. She and her husband are the embodiment of the Walt Disney quote “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”
Before my husband and I met each other we both separately had dreams of owning a cafe. We wanted it to be a community hub with open mic nights and local art featured on the walls. We loved coffee and loved the idea. What we didn’t love was the idea of having a brick and mortar. Something about it felt like too much and wasn’t for us. Maybe because we both like the freedom to pick up and move on a whim.
Years later, after my husband had been in real estate for years and I worked for Lululemon for almost a decade, we decided it was time to do something different. I was on maternity leave when my husband approached me with the idea of buying a coffee cart bicycle…specifically, a Wheelys Cafe franchise. We have biked together since we met, whether it was beach cruiser pub crawls in San Diego (where we lived) or training for a ½ ironmans…so he sold me on the idea pretty easy. We packed up our toddler and two dogs, sold our house, I got a job transfer, and we made the move from San Diego to DC.
We chose DC because we wanted a densely populated area that loved coffee ✓ and bikes ✓. And boy does DC love their coffee and bikes!
Our mission is to inspire more people to ride bikes while serving the best cup of coffee possible off of a bike. We are committed to supporting local small businesses and creating an engaging and thoughtful experience for our customers.
Being pedal and solar powered makes us one of the most eco friendly cafes in the world. As we expand, our goal is to stay as eco friendly as possible by restocking our cafes by cargo bicycle (yuba El Mundo V5).
We became operational about 6 weeks ago and we’ve found quality partners since our launch. We’ve fallen in love with both Zeke’s Coffee Roasters and Swings Coffee and serve both from our bike. We hand pour every cup which is infused with love, because we believe it makes a difference. We also serve District Doughnuts, our newest partner.
Since our move to DC we’ve fallen hard for DC’s spacious bike lanes and plethora of coffee roasters and micro roasters. The coffee scene here easily rivals San Diego (although the craft beer scene needs work ← our other love).
We’ve been serving on the corner of 9th St. North and North Stuart Street in Arlington (in front of Dunkin Donuts), and we will be moving to another Arlington location in a few weeks. It’s a mini victory for us when we convert a Dunkin Donut’s customer to a fan of locally roasted organic coffee. You can always find our location on our insta @wheelyscafedc.
We also do weddings and events!
We are looking for permanent spots in DC proper. The beauty of being on a bike is we can fit most places! If you or someone you know wants a pedal powered cafe to serve up some deliciousness, shoot us a note on Instagram.
Huge thank you to Lauren for inviting me to write a guest blog on District of Coffee! I’m thrilled for the opportunity to share about Wheelys Cafe DC!
Written by Susannah Winters, Owner & Chief Culture Officer of Wheelys Cafe DC
Editor’s Note: We are thrilled to feature our first guest writer on District of Coffee! We’ve been following Leandro for as long as we’ve been into DMV Coffee and he did not disappoint on this thorough coverage of Baltimore Coffee (honestly we’re thinking of submitting it to Lonely Planet – it is certainly travel guide worthy)! For more witty writing, perfected restaurant/dinner photos, and the best food finds in the DMV see @foodnomad on Instagram / Twitter and on his blog. Enjoy his myriad of pictures and tried and tested Charm City finds!
Lauren and Danielle at District of Coffee asked me to write about which four or five coffee shops I would recommend in Charm City, maybe even pick them close enough together for a coffee bang-bang. I’m far from a coffee expert but I have been to my fair share of coffee shops and coffee is an essential part of my life. So, if volume of consumption and an addiction count for anything then they’ve come to the right place.
Yet I couldn’t pick four or five because I see Baltimore in somewhat of a coffee transition/revolution. Huh? Patience, grasshopper, patience. I couldn’t pick just four or five shops because, to me, Baltimore has three types of coffee shops: The OG’s (Original Gangstas), Neighborhood Nooks, and New Coffee.
Just some parameters first. I limited the scope to places close (well, close enough) to work which is right downtown. I didn’t choose any national chains, and my go-to drink is a latte, so when I’m referring to coffee, I’m generally talking about a latte. Alright, let’s do this…
I’ve always thought of Baltimore as the biggest little small town in the country. It’s intimate, it seems like everyone knows each other or at least knows someone who knows you and yours, and it’s proud of all things Baltimore. That’s how I view the first set of coffee shops. They’re like the crab cakes of the group. They’re delicious, they’re not overly complicated and they are definitely proudly Baltimore. All these places serve no-frills, unabashed coffee that screams out “Hon!” They’ve also been around for a little bit and thus ingrained in the fabric of B’more.
Cafe Latte da
Cafe Latte da
The king of Old School is Cafe Latte’ Da in Fells Point with a small, narrow storefront a few blocks up from the water away from most of the foot traffic. The decor reminds you of a John Waters movie, and when you walk out with a signature pink cup, people will know where you got your joe.
The Daily Grind
The Daily Grind
Down by the water is The Daily Grind which continues to dole out classic coffee despite the gentrifying landscape. When you walk in here, the coffee shop opens up into an whole new cityscape reminiscent of an early 1900’s alleyway. The variety of ways they make coffee here is plentiful, so make sure you know what you want before you walk in.
Spoons Cafe and Coffee Roasters
Hopping over to Federal Hill, you’ll find Spoons Cafe & Coffee Roasters smack dab in the middle of Cross Street. Spoons has been serving morning-after cures for residents for a few years now and is one of the few places that serves matcha in the city. They also offer a pretty decadent menu full of comfort food classics.
Drive down Key Highway for a bit and Koba Cafe is another place that has become a Riverside neighborhood institution. They serve some great breakfast staples along with a super cup of coffee. The inside is eclectic and the vibe would make any Baltimore row house denizen proud.
The most famous of the OG’s may be Zeke’s Coffee which may power half the restaurants in Baltimore and has grown into DC and Pittsburgh. Their first cafe is a little northeast of downtown in a hip community called Lauraville. The baristas all seem to have some B’more kook and style. The coffee is strong and flavorful just as you’d expect from Baltimore, hon. Go early and be patient, the crowd doesn’t let up in this gem.
Did it for the Nooky
There’s probably some overlap with these next few coffee shops and the OG’s. But, to me, these shops are a bit more than a coffee shop. They fulfill a nook or a niche for their neighborhood or have an identity that is closely tied to their location or a particular theme. These shops are also a little bit more concerned about their coffee stylings and like to make their cup not only strong but also pretty. It’s a mix of old and new, but all of them definitely have formed a distinct identity.
Spro Coffee in Hampden starts us off on our trip through the nooks. Spro is a little sliver of a coffee shop right on the Avenue that is reflective of the hip, creative, intellectually curious identity that Hampden evokes. The team is diligent about finding the best beans around the world and building strong relationships with the farmers they source from, and they’re curious about the various ways coffee can be prepared and enjoyed.
On the Hill
On the Hill
Drive down 83 a bit and you’ll run into Park Cafe & Coffee Bar and On the Hill Cafe. Both are within a couple blocks of each other and serve the artsy community fostered by MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) nearby. Park seems like the more sophisticated and refined sibling as evidenced by it’s sublime coffee art and well-curated food. On the Hill is the more ebullient and blue collar member of the family with no frills coffee and hearty comfort food on its menu.
Just a little ways from them is Dovecote Cafe, located on a sleepy tree-lined residential street near Druid HIll Park. They don’t serve espresso drinks but serve some slamming Brewklyn coffee and some of the best homemade pastries in town. Dovecote celebrates the best of Baltimore’s African American heritage and every month it helps promote a local chef by letting them take over their kitchen.
Baby’s on Fire
Baby’s on Fire
Moving on down to Mount Vernon, you’ll find Baby’s On Fire, named after a Brian Eno song, that doubles as a record shop. They use Stumptown for their coffee and their pastry game is as strong as Dovecote’s. If roadies ever opened up a refined espresso cafe, this is what you’d get.
A little bit down Saint Paul’s is The Room which doubles as a coffee shop by day and a bar by night. The multi-colored ceiling will take your breath away while the coffee will keep you coming back. I love that the tables are also chess boards, and I’m a big fan of places that pour their coffee in clear mugs.
3 Bean Coffee
3 Bean Coffee
Down in Federal Hill is 3 Bean Coffee. If ever a coffee shop is reflective of its neighborhood, it’s 3 Bean. Beautiful exposed brick in an industrial space. It even has a refurbished farm door. 3 bean is right at the base (close enough!) of Federal Hill itself with a great view of the Inner Harbor. The coffee is from Counter Culture and the craftsmanship is spot on. It’s also my go-to place for a matcha latte, cold or hot. 3 Bean isn’t necessarily what Baltimore is right now but it sure is what Baltimore is becoming, at least in terms of food & caffeine.
The final stops in the great Baltimore Coffee Tour of 2016 are what I consider the new wave of curated, fancy, disciplined, and refined coffee shops hitting my hometown. These places are obsessed with all facets of detail in performing their craft. They make sure the aesthetics and flavors of their coffee drinks and food are impeccable and irresistible. The coffee is flavorful, the people are pretty, and the settings are sleek and styled.
Ceremony Coffee Roasters
Ceremony Coffee Roasters
The granddaddy of the neo-coff’s is Ceremony Coffee in Mount Vernon. This may be the largest of all coffee shops in Baltimore. It’s got a massive food prep and coffee bar area, and it even has it’s own cupping lab. Ceremony hails from Annapolis, MD, but has definitely staked out its claim in Baltimore with this beautiful bright sun-drenched space. They of course serve all the espresso staples that you love but also produce several creative coffee drinks from Shakeratos to Coffee Root Beer Floats. The staff is impressive in its meticulousness and the food is treated with the same kind of love.
Next on the list is Spike Gjerde’s foray into the coffee scene. Powered by Counter Culture, Artifact Coffee is housed in a old mill building in Woodberry on the Hampden side of the river (I don’t actually know it’s a mill, but I figure it’s safe to say since all the new places popping up in Baltimore are in old mill buildings). The space evokes warmth and comfort only found in all brick restyled industrial places, and the turntable playing old school vinyl classics doesn’t hurt. The coffee offerings are solid and the overall experience is totally worth the visit.
Order & Chaos Coffee
Order & Chaos Coffee
The baby of these coffee shops is Order&Chaos Coffee in Riverside right off of Key Highway. It’s just under a month old as of this writing, but already making waves with its unique beginnings. Order&Chaos was created as a coffee shop within the Planit Advertising Agency so it could provide some creative fuel for its workers. The space is as expected: sleek, hip, stylish, and tongue-in-cheek. The mugs with the shop’s logo already look like a collector’s item worth stealing…um…buying. The coffee is, surprisingly, reasonably priced, and it looks like this place is already a favorite for Baltimore coffee addicts.
I’ve been saying for a while now that Charm City’s food offerings have improved greatly in recent years; the coffee scene has undergone a similar transformation. There are still those old school shops that speak to the heart of Baltimore. We’ve got those coffee nooks that identify with more than just good coffee. Finally, there’s a new, sleek, modern wave of coffee shops that pride themselves on amazing aesthetics and refined coffee. Baltimore has come a long way in just my lifetime when it comes to coffee, and I’m stoked to see what comes next.
~ Food Nomad
(Writing and Photos by Food Nomad; Edited by District of Coffee)