Lifestyle & Culture

20 Coffee Shops With Character

October 16, 2016


Tout de Sweet

Don’t miss the macarons at Bethesda’s Tout de Sweet.

CRISP AUTUMN days make us want to go for long walks with pals and then tuck into a place where we can linger over a perfectly timed pour-over or a decadent dessert. Which is why we thought it was a fine time to rerun our list of favorite local coffee shops and cafes. Thanks to contributor Alexa Mergen and MyLittleBird staffers for sampling and compiling.

Baked by Yael

Baked by Yael

Baked by Yael
3000-F Connecticut Ave. NW
Sunday – Thursday 8 a.m. – 7 p.m., Fri.- Sat. 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

A cheerful place popular with kiddies for the cake pops.

The small neighborhood bakery also offers simple, fresh coffee. Grown-ups will appreciate the raspberry bars, available in a vegan version. Sit outside or near the big window and observe National Zoo visitors coming and going from the main entrance right across the street.

Bakers and Baristas

Bakers and Baristas

Bakers & Baristas
501 7th St. NW
Monday – Friday 7 a.m. – 11 p.m., Sat. – Sun. 9 a.m. – 11 p.m.

At $2.15 for a small drip, you can afford a few minutes to catch up on email or meet up with a colleague at Bakers & Baristas in Penn Quarter. Add a Viennese-inspired pastry or personal-sized quiche to your order and make it a meal.

Bayou Bakery
901 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
Monday-Friday 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

“It’s not exactly like all the others,” says long-time Capitol Hill resident Lynn McDonald on a visit to Bayou Bakery. Ample and comfy seating is distributed throughout the cafe’s restored carriage house and garden. This is a place for a mother-daughter outing or for lingering with a good friend.  And, try the branch in Arlington at 1515 Courthouse Rd.

Bayou Bakery

Bayou Bakery

Bread & Chocolate
5542 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Monday-Thursday 7 a.m.- 7 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday 7 a.m.-6 p.m.

Is that Chris and Kathleen Matthews having a bite at the counter at the Connecticut Avenue Bread & Chocolate on Saturday afternoon? Yes, but the crowd, mostly local, pays no mind. They also don’t mind the dated decor. Service is gracious; you don’t even have to ask for water. Tables are spaced far enough apart so a private conversation stays that way.


Bread Furst’s slice of outdoor patio on Connecticut Avenue.

Bread Furst
4434 Connecticut Ave. NW
Monday – Friday  7a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday  8 a.m.- 6 p.m., Sunday  8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The covered patio here is a coveted place for sipping lattes and/or taking a lunch break in the Van Ness neighborhood. The fresh baguettes can’t be beat nor can the classic chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies.

Buzz Bakeshop
818 N. Quincy Street (enter on Wilson Blvd)
Monday-Thursday 7 a.m.-9 p.m., 7 a.m.-10 p.m., 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 8 a.m.- 9 p.m. Sunday

The mix of cozy and contemporary decor, Ceremony coffee, Devi and Damman Freres tea, outstanding baked goods, make Buzz a friendly stop in the high-rise-dominated Ballston area. Dog lovers will appreciate the free pet-treats samples at the check-out counter.

Cafe Sorriso 
2311 Calvert Street NW
Tuesday-Friday 10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Saturday-Sunday 9:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

Homesick for la dolce vita? Come Saturday morning late breakfast and you’re likely to find the owner glued to TV watching soccer at the next table while you’re chatting and imbibing heart-stopping espresso Toscana from Counter Culture coffee. This friendly, sunny place, aptly named sorriso, which means smile in Italian, serves up Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread) toast and homemade focaccia.

Coffee Nature
4224 Fessenden St. NW
Monday – Saturday 7:30 a.m. -6 p.m.

“I walked in and really liked the vibe,” says barista Kirstyn Rowen, “We get a lot of regulars.”  Such a down-to-earth feel is uncommon in the nation’s capital. Homemade flyers announcing music shows and writing groups flutter in the breeze of the open door.


Filter’s patio makes a good hangout, especially during early fall days.

1726 20th St. NW
Monday–Friday 7 a.m.– 7 p.m., Saturday–Sunday 8 a.m.–7 p.m.

“We have high-quality coffee and people appreciate that,” says barista Ben Phillips.  Split a pot of French press with a friend on the small brick patio after a trip to the Dupont Circle farmer’s market. Or power up with an espresso while lined up on a stool tapping at your laptop. Phillips adds, “We have a lot of regulars and we know them by name.”

Jolt ‘N Bolt
1918 18th St. NW
Monday – Friday 7 a.m.–8:30 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m.–9 p.m., Sunday  7 a.m.–8:30 p.m.

In business since 1994, this unassuming spot predates Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts as well as more refined choices. Hide out at a small table in the clean alleyway with a generous piece of coconut cake.

Leopold’s Kafe Konditorei
3315 Cady’s Alley NW
Sunday-Tuesday 8 a.m.- 10 p.m., Wednesday -Thursday 8 a.m.-11 p.m., Friday -Saturday 8 a.m. – midnight

What better way to begin a spring or any other day than sitting on Kafe Leopold’s fountain-adorned patio protected by a canopy of umbrellas. But an inside table at this minimalist yet somehow cozy cafe is also a desirable location to launch or assess the purchases from a Georgetown shopping expedition. Meet friends for a morning espresso and delectable almond croissant or schmooze over a Sacher torte and cappuccino late afternoon.

Little Red Fox
5035 Connecticut Ave. NW
Tuesday – Sunday 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.

In addition to the city’s best apple pie, Little Red Fox cooks up a variety of fresh soups, salads and sandwiches to satisfy all. Charge up with a snack and caffeine while you ponder questions for author readings a few doors up at Politics & Prose.

Lourdes Bakery Coffee Shop
3419 14th St. NW
Hours vary

A visit to Lourdes Bakery and Coffee Shop in Columbia Heights is a Saturday morning breakfast ritual for John Sanchez, who sits outside on the patio to read the newspaper. “I come from Maryland,” he says. “It’s good for a healthy breakfast.” Enjoy fresh sandwiches on homemade bread, like hot ham and cheese with peppers, tomato and onion, as well as Salvadoran pastries. Basic coffee conjures nostalgia with its styrofoam cup.

Misha’s Coffee
102 S Patrick St.
Monday – Saturday 6 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sunday 6:30 a.m.- 8 p.m.

In a city where just about everything changes, it’s nice to know some things don’t.  The laid-back decor of Misha’s hasn’t budged since the late 198os, nor has the reliable flavor of the coffee that’s roasted daily in Old Town.

Open City
2331 Calvert St. NW
Sunday – Thursday 6 a.m.–12 a.m., Friday – Saturday 6 a.m.–1 a.m.

From dawn past dusk, Open City welcomes locals and tourists alike. It’s a great place to people watch and to strike up a conversation. Dog lovers appreciate outdoor benches, bowls of clean water and dog biscuits. Buy a pound of coffee and get a cup to go on the house.

Patisserie Poupon
1645 Wisconsin Avenue NW
Tuesday-Friday 8:30 a.m.- 6 p.m, Saturday 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Tucked in among the art galleries and interior design and antiques shops on upper Wisconsin, Patisserie Poupon’s French-press coffee and chocolat chaud from the espresso bar and fresh orange juice beckon in the a.m.; the petits fours, including mini eclairs and lemon, apricot or berry tarts in the afternoon. If you have lots to confer about, stay for lunch and dig into a crusty baguette filled with prosciutto and brie, topped with a grainy mustard.

Shops at Sumner Place
4611 Sangamore Rd.
Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m.-7 p.m.

A location in an off-the-beaten track shopping center somehow makes an afternoon get-together at this French bakery/bistro seem like an escape. Cozy up to a table by the fireplace downstairs to while away a couple of hours over a velvety hot chocolate and a flaky palmier.

Society Fair
277 South Washington Street
Monday 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday 7 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

A foodie’s paradise, Society Fair is a combination of market, butcher, wine bar, bakery and demo kitchen. For an instant pick-me-up, try their house espresso, Destroyer from Annapolis’s Ceremony Coffee, paired with a pecan roll or bacon biscuit. Sit inside and or out under an umbrella in a quiet patch of Old Town. Entertain yourself watching the bakery making bread and cakes. Take home the delectable coconut cake or Friday’s date-night take-out dinner all ready to pop into the oven.

Soho Tea & Coffee 
2150 P St. NW
Daily 7 a.m.–11 p.m.

Bright art creates a funky vibe, encouraging patrons who come for coffee to stay for soup. Gaze out the large windows to rest screen-weary eyes. Or pop over to Books for America on your way to Soho and settle into the welcoming space with a good read.

Tout de Sweet Pastry Shop
7831 Woodmont Ave.
Tuesday-Friday 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Delightfully decorated in turquoise and chocolate, this iPad-size spot with two small high tables for two serves up perfectly frothed cappuccino with its croissants, pain au chocolat and macarons in more than a dozen flavors, among other divine pastries, produced by French pastry maven Jerome Colin, who shares shop ownership with wife Sofia.

2 thoughts on “20 Coffee Shops With Character

  1. Judy Havemann says:

    Open City at the National Cathedral
    Washington National Cathedral
    Baptistry Building (on the cathedral grounds)
    3101 Wisconsin Avenue NW
    Washington, D.C.
    Open seven days, 7am to 6pm

    Here’s an offbeat spot in the shadow of the National Cathedral. It’s a casual place for sandwiches and salads, and of course coffee and pastries. Terrific if you’re in the Woodley Park neighborhood–even if you’re not.

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      Thanks for making us aware of this!

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