[from April 2001 issue]
What would life be like without coffee? No day would jumpstart and we would have to find some other reason to take a midday break. Martinis? Club soda? If you find that coffee keeps you on your toes, you may be looking for that ideal coffee stop. Many DC locations set the scene by offering comfy places for you to sit and sip, converse, read, eat, dream, and waste time. Starting in Adams Morgan, we took a look at some of what the city has to offer, and were generally very pleased:
Tryst: Try as you might, you can't get past the fact that this place is a real hangout. With its overstuffed sofas, oddly assorted chairs and occasional tables, Tryst beckons everyone with its zany ambiance. Besides, with a stack of newspapers for leisure reading that management provides, you will never run out of things to do once conversations stop. Or rather than reading, you can simply drink coffee and eat. The Tryst kitchen offers a lengthy sandwich menu, fewer soups, and a host of delicate pastries that wink at you from inside their glass case. I'd be happy with an espresso and one of those triangular chocolate-frosted cakes. Or perhaps the Mary sandwich with oven-roasted turkey and avocado spread. 2459-18th St.; 232-5500.
Franklyn's Coffeehouse Café: Mellow and tranquil, this coffeehouse has an extensive list of African imports, such as Celebes, Zambian Gold, Yemen Moccha, and Ethiopian Sidamo for its coffees, plus herbal tisanes, teas, and the expected hot and cold coffee drinks, from lattes to espressos. What are most appealing about this place? The cheery staff and the expectation that when warm weather finally appears, you can sip your favorite concoction on the sidewalk, Parisian style. Franklyn's also offers breakfast treats, from muffins and bagels to sandwiches and omelets. Lunches, of course, include soups, chilis, and sandwiches that sound as if they sprouted in the Berkeley-cool '60s. No wonder, since Ed, the owner, hails from California. And if you want a tea break, try out their hot chai, whipped up fresh and frothy just for you, with a scoop of honey as sweetener. Divine. 2000-18th St.; 319-1800.
Firehook Bakery and Café: Not purely a coffee house in the Viennese sense, this local group of bakeries with seating for customers to sip coffee as well as eat sandwiches and pastries, is a real thoroughbred. Exclaimed over by the press and venerated by its legions of followers, Firehook brings together the best of all worlds. Besides, it provides a lengthy coffee and coffee drink menu for anyone needing the comfort of caffeine. Of its various metro locations, most offer breakfast and lunch treats, such as pastries, sandwiches and soups, to go with the coffee. Firehook is also the perfect place to pick up your favorite loaf, cake, or pie to accompany your at-home coffee break. Note that not all baked goods are available at each location. Your best bet is to pick up a list of breads and pastries and order ahead. 1909 Q St.; 588-9296 (Good news for Georgetown residents: Firehook is opening a place on M Street, in addition to its Cleveland Park location at 3411 Conn. Ave. and elsewhere.)
Java House: Oh, for a warm spring morning and a cup of hot coffee brewed from beans actually roasted on the premises, a feature not found in other establishments in this part of town. Then, head to Java House's front patio to luxuriate in the sun. Add to this dynamic a couple of friends and the morning paper and I'd pretty much have caffeine heaven. Of course, one can also augment a morning--or afternoon--break with something sturdy, like any one of their all-day breakfast selections (including our publisher's favorite: bagels from the Whatsa Bagel people, with cream cheese) or a salad and sandwich feast. And if you want something in addition to the comfort of your coffee cup, how about a real milk shake followed by a banana split? One must stand indoors just long enough to inhale the coffee aromas exuding from the more than four-dozen barrels of coffee beans lining one wall. That's intoxicating. 1645 Q St.; 387-6622.
CyberSTOP Café: Don't let a surly counterperson and choking cigarette smoke mar your experience at this café-plus-computer coffeehouse. Well, only a few computers. At first glance, this looks a bit like a student hangout with earnest folk discussing Hegel and Kant. But really, it may be more about a casual cup of coffee or tea, and a light sandwich or pastry snack. For alfresco enjoyment, management offers limited seating out front on the sidewalk, a good spot for viewing the passing 17th Street scene, and avoiding the smoke indoors on the first floor (a smoke-free space is available on the second floor). 1513 17th St.; 234-2470.
Sparky's Espresso: The hottest newcomer to the Logan Circle area, Sparky's is a coffee happening with downstairs seating for smokers, upstairs for nonsmokers. The kitchen whips up breakfast sandwiches with eggs and fancy lunch sandwiches, with such trimmings as smoked turkey and gouda and grilled chicken. And if you want, you can finish up with something called Jack's Apple Pie, apparently a real diet killer baked locally and only available at restaurants and cafés, which our publisher has sampled and claims to be the best he has tasted in years! But the reason to come to Sparky's is for the coffee, or coffees, depending on your mood. There're the regular house brew, plus French, hazelnut, espresso, Americano, Bull's Eye, macchiato, and other coffees, plus hot dark and white chocolate drinks, hot teas and apple ciders, and a refrigerator case of sodas, if all else fails. 1720-14th St.; 332-9334.
Einstein Bros: If you trek out to the 'burbs, you'll know all about Einstein Bros bagels. In the city, the only location is near Georgetown U. in upper Georgetown, and this particular location has become a bagel place plus coffeehouse. A regular gathering destination for students and local residents, it turns out that a handful of folks turn up almost daily and stake out their favorite table to sit and drink coffee over the paper. Since coffee drinkers can tap into the so-called bottomless cup (free coffee refills until you keel over), Einstein's packs 'em in for breakfast and lunch, and the latter tends to be very crowded. No wonder: besides bagels, Einstein's offers a splendid menu with loads of funky salads and sandwiches (try the Club Mex--smoked turkey, peppered bacon, and pepperjack cheese on a challah roll), plus all the bagel fantasies you can drool over. Find you have your favorite coffee flavor? You can even pick up a foil-wrapped packet for at-home brewing. 1815 Wisc. Ave.; 333-4436.
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