Washington, D.C. is a coffee destination on the rise. The food scene in the U.S. Capital is booming in recent years, and coffeehouse culture has kept pace. There are a ton of amazing coffees to try in The District. I’m a Northern Virginia native, and these are some of my favorite coffee bars to visit across 11 essential D.C. neighborhoods: Adams Morgan, Bloomingdale, Capitol Hill, Chinatown, Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Logan Circle, Navy Yard, Penn Quarter, Shaw, and U Street.
Bloomingdale: Big Bear Cafe
Big Bear Cafe is probably the cutest spot for coffee in the city. Owner Stuart Davenport has been open since 2006 and recently expanded the venue to include a killer rooftop. Set up in an old building, Big Bear’s rustic vibe isn’t misplaced. They specialize in both coffee and tea, and seem like they’re trying to make a difference one mug at a time with almost exclusively organic, fresh, and fair trade products. Cozy up with a great coffee and a book at Big Bear for a lazy weeknight or Sunday morning. Big Bear also hosts local events, so there’s always something D.C.-hip and happening. Did I mention there’s a rooftop!?
MUST ORDER: Macchiato
Capitol Hill: Sidamo Coffee & Tea
Spend more than two hours at eclectic Sidamo Coffee and Tea with owner Kenfe Belay (basically the mayor of H street) for a true coffee experience right out of Addis Ababa. For only $12 the Ethiopian Coffee Set is good for 1-3 people, and it’s fun. A traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony inspired their service, which prepares coffee from fresh beans in a long vessel similar to the Turkish ibriks. Sidamo’s mini-ritual experience comes complete with a coffee flask, mini porcelain cups, sugar bowl and incense burner, which flavors the air as guests sip and savor their bold Ethiopian roast. This cozy, family-run Ethiopian coffee shop has been open since 2006 in the heart of H Street corridor; what more could you want? Sidamo is one of my all-time favorites for quality coffee and originality. This isn’t a coffee spot to study or read; it’s where you take a friend or a date and catch-up and get to know the neighborhood.
MUST ORDER: The Ethiopian Coffee Set
Chinatown: Chinatown Coffee Company
Chinatown’s signature arch is popular with locals and visible from Chinatown Coffee Company’s doors. Katie Brown and husband Max started serving amazing coffee in the neighborhood’s heart in 2009. While they brew beans from Chicago favorite Intelligentsia Coffee, it’s Chinatown Coffee Company’s atmosphere that gets neighborhood folks stopping in before exploring the National Mall just a short walk away. This cozy corner coffee joint also serves local craft beers, wine, even absinthe and an array of local baked goods.
MUST ORDER: A personal French Press and something baked!
Dupont Circle: Emissary
Emissary drips with hipster vibes and owner Elias Hengst wants it that way “where European cafe meets West Coast coffee house.” It’s possible to enjoy your coffee hour with a chat at outdoor seating right off ever-trendy Dupont Circle, but it’s even better to step down into Emissary and feel fully enveloped by coffee culture at its finest. The large space features exposed brick and scattered small wooden tables in the front room. Go deeper into Emissary and find better spaces to study, chill, and chat. They even devote a bar in the final room to happy hour. Their menu is up-to-date and as trendy as the neighborhood, with alternatives like oat milk for blended espresso and fresh mint mojito lattes.
MUST ORDER: Cortado with oat milk, sweetened
Georgetown: Grace Street Coffee Roasters
Grace Street’s glowing counter shares an industrial space with up-and-coming local favorites like South Block, making it a great place to grab coffee and mingle with friends, with other choices available for (dare I say it) non-coffee lovers. Grace Street’s counter is front and center through large double doors and seating is plentiful. Their no-nonsense menu is short and sweet. You’ll find quality, not quantity here, and that’s a good thing. Grace Street is independent and locally owned and roasts single-origin beans on site, sourcing from small companies with close farmer relationships. I really love their house-made vanilla syrup. For a trendy specialty drink, try Grace Street’s espresso shrub, a super unique espresso based cocktail, sweetened with a vinegar syrup.
MUST ORDER: The Espresso Shrub