Neighborhood Crawl: Dupont Circle

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Oh Dupont Circle! Home of the High Heeled Race, weekend chess games, and turn-of-the-century rowhouses. It was my first introduction to Washington DC as an adult (well, twenty-something college student) and while so much has stayed the same in 13 years (2 a.m. empañada shops and getting lost in Kramer Books), there have been welcome additions to the area as well.

It would be overly ambitious to name all the places worth a visit next time you’re in Dupont Circle but let us take you to a few places worthy of your taste buds and a feast for your eyes.

1. Begin your stroll by popping into DGS Delicatessen where Colony Club is hosting the pop-up/collaboration, “Sadie’s Weekdays.” DGS Deli pays homage to the District Grocery Stores that adorned the corners of the District early in the 20th century, and the architecture and design will tug on your nostalgia strings. Grab your Bullfrog breakfast bagel and a beautifully crafted specialty coffee drink in this inviting space to start out your day. {Note: if you’re coming by after 11 or on weekends we also really enjoy En je ne sais Quoi a few doors up – while more a bakery than a coffee-focused cafe, the croissants and other specialty baked goods are serious business).

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2. Walk northwest along Connecticut Avenue to Dupont Circle. Fact: the fountain itself was designed by the same duo who designed the Lincoln Memorial, Henry Bacon and Daniel Chester French. On weekends you are sure to find entertaining chess games along the outer rim of the park but one guide suggested bringing your own board games if that suited better! [Has anyone else noticed a surge of “Settlers of Catan” games going down around town??] While the water is not currently on, there is plenty of life around the fountain and great people watching opportunities. Or sit and read the paper on the grass for a while and place bets on which squirrels are the boldest.

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3. If you are there on a Sunday stop into the Dupont Circle Farmer’s Market. A great opportunity to purchase a bag of Zeke’s coffee to take home with you as well as some pickles and a plant and whatever else might be on your list!

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4. Walk over to the Phillips Collection (“America’s First Museum of Modern Art) and experience the most intimate way to view a Van Gogh or Georgia O’Keefe in the city. Walking through the building itself is worth its admission price (check out their website for pricing as it varies by time and circumstance) although the rotating exhibitions always aim to impress. [Note: the main house will be closed for renovations beginning 23 May so head over there quickly or you’ll have to wait until 2018!]

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5. Two blocks directly south will find you at Emissary. A basement cafe that opened last fall, it serves light bites and bar drinks at night, and during the day it’s a third wave coffeeshop begging for you to meet up with a friend on the terrace or read a book over their marble design.

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Note: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible opportunity to visit some embassies in the area this weekend and over the next several weeks – more info here and here. Filter Coffee and Glen’s Garden Market are mere steps from each other on 20th St NW – both absolutely worth the tiny detour from Connecticut Ave. And the National Geographic Museum is next on my list, also just a stone’s throw from Dupont. Lastly- Dupont Underground!!!! Do some googling and get out there, folks.

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What are some other favorites in and around Dupont Circle? Please share in the comments!

Stay Grounded,

Daniëlle

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Croissants and Cortados

People often ask us what our favorite cafe is. It’s hard to say, because there are so many elements that go into making a cafe special. Some of the top contenders though for me (Daniëlle), are coffee (obviously), seating options, and pastry selection.

Sometimes I look forward to that cortado like nobody’s business, I can almost taste it on my way to a cafe. That first sip can turn my day around.

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I grew up in Europe so my standards for a croissant are extremely high (at 7-Elevens in Sweden, for example, croissants are baked on the premises each morning. No individually-bagged, week-old dry croissants, even at the corner store). I love being able to pull the flaky layers apart one by one, savoring each buttery bite.

And seating, that’s an obvious choice. If I want my coffee to go, I generally just make some at home. If I can afford the luxury of time, I love to linger and sink into a seat at a cafe and stay a while. People-watch, read the local section of the paper, get some work done in the company of others.

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Great coffee, a comfortable place to sit, and a soft croissant.

When those three ‘needs’ are met, you will likely see me time and again, getting lost in a good book or catching up with a friend.

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[Point of clarification: There are certain pastry flavors (think blueberry or cinnamon) that can really complement coffee, but more often than not I go with a simple savory bite – I relish the occasional sweet treat but I also like to stay balanced and not waste my workouts 🙂 Plus, Lauren and I are suckers for alliteration so croissants and cortados were the obvious choice!]

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Do you have your favorite pastry vendors and their partner cafes memorized like I do? What is your perfect trifecta and where do you find it?

Stay grounded,

Daniëlle

Favorite digs in the District

Do you have a favorite coffee shop in DC?

I was recently reading a blogpost about what it takes to make your coffee shop stand apart from the rest, and it made me wonder what my cafe would look like if I had one. What is it that draws me back in, time after time? What are the factors that are important to us when evaluating coffee shops? Skim over the categories or look more in depth about some DC digs:

  • Coffee taste. Is it consistent- do you generally get the same great cup every time? Places like Filter Coffee and Chinatown Coffee Co always deliver for me.
  • Size. Are you always counting your lucky stars when you find a table? Do you like sharing a couch with someone and partaking in your community? Colony Club always seems to have options and that little couch area is big enough to carve out your own space or cozy enough to chat with your seat mates.
  • Space. Natural light? Couches or chairs? Stand-up bar? Not too hot, not too cold? Compass Coffee has made great choices with their sky light and have stand up bars at a few locations too.
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    A perfect pour over at Chinatown Coffee Co.
  • Decor. This one is tricky. Do you like it homey or modern? Woodsy or clean? Full of personal decorations that make it unique, or uncluttered and ready to have you get to work? Grace St Coffee has a clean modern look, yet reclaimed wood for their tables – the best of both worlds. Qualia and The Coffee Bar (S St) are like hanging out in my friend’s living room.
  • Menu (drinks). Do you like a cafe that transitions to a bar at night? Do you like a cafe that experiments with coffee drinks and creates unique concoctions or are you a purist? Do they have alternate dairy options? Home made syrups? Lots of cafes played around with fall favorites in the area – places like Swing’s also got creative for the holidays. Tryst and Slipstream turn boozy, and The Wydown recently followed suit.
  • Menu (food). I often judge my cafes by their pastries. Nothing ruins my day like a dry croissant! Philz sources their munch options from different vendors so there is always variety. Some bake in-house like The Wydown. Do you like cafes that offer sandwiches beyond the standard pastry? A full menu like Maketto?

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    Homemade scones at The Wydown
  • Baristas. Does someone greet you when you first come in (sincerely not because they’re forced to?) If you go regularly do they know your name, or more importantly, your go-to drink? At Grace St I always see people get greeted like old friends.
  • Wi-fi. Are you here to work? Or do you grin when you see the no wi-fi sign reminding you to connect with people face-to-face again? On that note, outlets?! Commonwealth Joe offers a few separate areas – with outlets and without.
  • Location. Obviously convenience to your work or home, but also, is there parking? Is it feasible during a snowstorm? Is it next door to Trader Joe’s so you can run a few errands while you’re at it? Filter in Brookland is connected to a bike shop if your spandex is stretched out!
  • Outdoor space. Patio? Terrace? Shade via umbrellas or plants? Big Bear Cafe is a summer favorite with their vine-y canopy.

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    Green terrace at Big Bear Cafe
  • Brew methods. Pour over, french press, Aeropress, espresso drinks, nitro, drip. For a while I was on a pour over kick but lately I’m into cappuccinos again. For an Aeropress I head over to Zeke’s or Vigilante and for a cappuccino I found a hidden gem at Society Fair in Alexandria.
  • Hours. Do they open early before you have to get to the office? Stay open late for that coffee date or study session?
  • Roaster. Do you like the hum of the roaster and the toasty fragrance wafting over? Does your cafe sell bags of beans? Do they sell smaller samples so you can try different coffees at home? At Qualia they’ll weigh out smaller portions for you during non-rush times.
  • Multiple locations. You know what you like and you want it when you want it. Does your favorite cafe have multiple locations? I know I can get an amazing cortado at The Coffee Bar when I’m shopping near S St, and when I’m working near Dupont Circle.

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    Foolproof cortado at The Coffee Bar
  • Coffee with a cause. Do you know if your cafe supports a specific cause or charity? As a veteran I love Dog Tag’s non profit mission, and Ebenezers is operated by a community church. Some cafes feel strongly about certain causes and donate proceeds or put on events. Bourbon Coffee only works with small lot farmers in Rwanda.
  • Music. Jazz to help you study? Hip Hop to keep you energized? Live music nights? Not too loud that you can still catch up with your friends?
  • Affordability. Are the standard coffees and offerings reasonably priced? If steep, is there a justifiable reason like premium ingredients and local sourcing and sustainability? Do they offer refills on drip coffee? Vigilante just came out with a premium Kona bean that runs higher than most but it’s a gem. Most cafes source local dairy.
  • Activities. Do they sell the weekend paper or are their copies available for perusing? If you’re tracking your tykes in with you, is a kids play area important to you? Open City at the National Cathedral has activity kits for kids by the entrance, and Buzz Bakeshop in Alexandria has a whole kids section.
  • Non-snobbery. Are you comfortable chatting with your barista about your coffee? I read somewhere that 80 % of baristas are obsessed with coffee (I’m sure that’s a reliable fact, haha) and therefore you’d assume they love talking shop. My most interesting coffee conversations usually happen at The Coffee Bar (and sadly, at Caffe Aficionado before they closed).
  • Instagrammability. I mentioned light before, but are you pretty guaranteed to get some pretty latte art? A cute mug that will kill the composition of your shot? A pretty background? Does the cafe give props when you post, or even regram customer shots? Some people love the unique serving ware at La Colombe, and you can’t get a bad shot at Pineapple and Pearls. There is a window table at La Mano that makes me pull out my camera phone every time.

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    Well-lit marble table at La Mano
  • Caffeination education. Do they host cuppings, or classes and workshops? Tastings to help refine your palette? Vigilante, Peregrine, and the Counter Culture lab offer classes while lots of cafes have weekly tastings and cuppings.
  • Spirit. Do they get festive for any and all occasions? Decorate pumpkins and don ugly sweaters during the holidays?
  • Technology. Do they offer pre-ordering or have an app?
  • Rewards. Do they punch your card and hook you up with a free bevy after 10 lattes? All the Tryst cafes do. Participate in programs like the Indy Coffee Passport (so sad they’re not running that this year)?
  • Gear. Do they sell filters when you’re in desperate need, and equipment for when you’re ready to treat yourself? Do they have coffee shop swag with fabulous branding? Most specialty shops in the area sell gear- The Wydown has a very impressive collection of brewing equipment.
  • Professionalism. Can you pick the barista out of a crowd? Do barista aprons tickle your fancy?

The list is long and I haven’t found that one cafe that scores in every.single.category but it is a pretty demanding checklist. I am highly satisfied with my neighborhood cafe (especially since they switched their pastry vendor 🙂 and who knows, maybe one day I’ll get to build my own lego cafe in real life.

What are some of your favorite coffee shops? What are your criteria that you evaluate cafes on? We want to hear from you!

Stay grounded,

Daniëlle