A Few Great Coffee Shops You ‘Got to’ Try in the DMV

I love coffee!

In fact, some times I love coffee as much as I love this beautiful, capital city!  I’m a native Washingtonian, but lately, I’ve been nesting across the bridge in this little suburban community of Alexandria. However, I make my way around Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia daily.

As a coffee lover, I figure I might as well share some of the best coffee shops I frequent in the DMV. These spots are great for catching up with friends, meeting a business acquaintance, refueling, or simply finishing my work when the walls are closing in on me at home.

Besides serving amazing coffee and teas, these coffee houses have a few other great things in common: they’re located in great communities; serve great food; have nice and interesting looking customers to people watch; savvy and sophisticated baristas; free Wi-Fi; and the It Factor! So I figure, why not share my favorites with you, and hopefully, you’ll share more with me as I’m sure I missed a few!

Killer ESP, Alexandria, Va.

Situated in historic Old Town Alexandria on King Street you’ll find Killer ESP.

It’s no conspiracy theory, the ESP stands for Espresso, Sorbet, and Pie. And yes, they all are killer! The shop brews Stumptown Coffee Roasters, makes its sorbet and gelato in the house, and serves Dangerously Delicious Pies. During the day you’ll find more locals than tourists. Couple the friendly neighbors with the dark wood interior, exposed brick, and piece milled furnishing; the calm, collective disposition of the baristas; and the perfect Spotify coffeehouse mix and Killer ESP easily becomes a contender for great local coffee houses you have to try! On this particular day, the barometer was approaching mid-90’s and it wasn’t even noon yet. A hot day calls for smart beverages so I had the day’s special Lavender Latte. While it was recommended to try it with goat’s milk, I went for the whole milk instead. This iced concoction was the perfect mix of bold and sweet. The caffeine was handling its business as I could barely keep my legs still to write this piece. I’ll grab a sorbet (mango and coconut) on the way out.

If you’re in Old Town, try Killer ESP! Located at: 1012 King Street, Alexandria, Va.

Swing’s Coffee Roasters, Alexandria, Va.

Swing’s Coffee Roasters has been part of the DC coffee culture for nearly 100 years, but it isn’t your typical neighborhood java shop. With two coffee houses in the DMV, today I’m visiting Swing’s nestled in Alexandria’s Del Ray community.

As its name says, Swing ’s roasts and serves one of the most full-bodied, flavorful beans I’ve tasted. On this particular visit, I enjoyed the cappuccino and an apricot and ginger biscuit. The busy coffee storefront with huge roasters in the back has just the right amount of acoustic space where your thoughts aren’t drowned out by the many conversations surrounding you. Take a peek up from your laptop and admire your neighbors putting forward their best effort as they conduct interviews, pitch business deals, introduce new ideas, or shoot the breeze with their buddies and girlfriends. This place certainly has the magic to place it on our local list of great coffee houses you just have to visit. Grab a newspaper, book, or your laptop and get ready to get lost here. Swing’s is located: 501 East Monroe Avenue, Alexandria, Va.

Java Shack, Arlington, Va.

At the entrance of a cozy Clarendon community sits Jave Shack. Established in 1996, Java Shack deems itself Arlington’s Original Coffee House.

On this beautiful morning, I indulged on a nice cold pour of Commonwealth Joe’s Nitro Cold Brew Coffee – right from the tap! Creamy, cold, smooth, refreshing, and no sweetener needed are the best I can do to describe this coffee. As I continue to sip, I am a bit puzzled by the many variations of cold brew. Some brew it for 24 hours in a toddy container, but this one is poured from a tap – a nitrogen tap. Whatever the magic – I’m no brewing expert, just looking for taste, relaxation, and enjoying the shear magic of the nitro cold brew. Java Shack is located: 2507 N. Franklin Road, Arlington, Va.

Boccato Gelato & Espresso, Arlington, Va.

I’m not sure if I’m extremely relaxed today or if Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood is simply this cool. It’s always no limit to the amount of coffee I’ll consume in a day. This is evident from my next recommendation, which is barely a block from the last coffee house review. Boccato Gelato & Espresso is a part coffee house, part CoWork Café, and part lounge with oversized comfy seating that reminds me of sitting in my mom’s living room.

Now, let’s get to the coffee. On this day I had my favorite, (drum roll please!) the Cappuccino. There’s an obsession I have with cappuccinos. First, my cap has to look good, then as I tilt my cup through the creamy, cloudy milk foam to the delicious roast that hides beneath. I call it the tipping point and it can only get better or worse from here. My fate, yes my fate is based on how good or bad my coffee is, is in the hands of my barista. Fortunately, on this day she didn’t let me down. From that point on it was sip, scoop, sip, and scoop. The scoop I’m describing is the pineapple and basil gelato I ordered to accompany my cappuccino. Oh my, I think I’m blushing. Boccato Gelato & Espresso is located at 2719 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Va.

Northside Social Coffee & Wine, Arlington, Va.

Most people go to Clarendon for the restaurants and bar hopping. Today, I would say I have hopped more coffee shops than bars. This next nod to the coffee goes to another coffee house making an impact on Clarendon’s coffee scene. Sitting at one of the busiest intersections in Arlington or the Wilson Boulevard split is Northside Social Coffee & Wine.

Monday through Sunday you can find a nice crowd here, but don’t let that deter you. The lines move fast and the food, salads, sandwiches, coffee, and wine are worth the wait. As this recommendation is about great coffee houses, and I am starving for food but have an earlier lunch commitment, I tried the iced coffee with house-made vanilla syrup for sweetening. I also had an easy green side salad! I always enjoy coming to this spot. It’s two floors of fun, noise, and laughter. Northside Social Coffee & Wine is located at: 3211 Wilson Boulevard, Clarendon, Va.

The Coffee Bar, Washington, DC

The Coffee Bar, located between the Dupont Circle and the Shaw neighborhoods on S Street, NW, should also be called “the cool bar” or “the community bar”. This neighborhood coffee shop is one I’ll make my way across Memorial Bridge, up 14th Street, and through DC’s rush hour traffic to get to. I don’t know what’s the magic touch here. Grab a table outside and enjoy the neighborhood, or take a seat at the bar or one of the communal tables inside.

On this particular hot DC morn, I took a seat inside and enjoyed a rich, intense glass of iced cold brew coffee with zucchini bread. I sat for a few minutes chatting it up with the barista then off to minding my business, writing a little, and people watching. It’s something I’m sure you’ll find yourself doing just as easily. You’ll see that parking close to The Coffee Bar is no easy feat, but definitely, don’t let that deter you. Just park a block or two away and enjoy the day. The Coffee Bar is located at: 1201 S Street, NW, Washington, DC.

Sidamo Coffee & Tea, Washington, DC

Sidamo Coffee & Tea is located in the H Street Corridor of NE, Washington DC. While Sidamo is known for its great coffee, and especially its weekly Ethiopian coffee roasting demonstration, on this particular weekday I scanned the vast wall of loose-leaf teas and sat to enjoy a refreshed iced brewed Mango Mist tea. 

Then I made my way down several blocks of H Street to check out the turnkey corridor of old and new restaurants, juice bars, and Ma & Pop shops. Ice brewed tea is just the break I need before making my way through the new melting pot that is H Street. As a native Washingtonian, the rehabilitated “H” Street with its new diversity is exciting considering so much of H Street, NE has been left unkempt since the riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This section of NE, DC is a diamond in the rough, and I’m excited to see the rehabilitation and emergence of another great Washington, DC community.

Sidamo is located at: 417 H Street, NE, Washington, DC.

Politics & Prose Bookstore and Coffee House, Chevy Chase, Washington, DC

The further north you drive on Connecticut Avenue, the more the lines between Maryland and DC begin to blur. Today, I’m checking out the great Politics & Prose Bookshop and Coffee House. You can always find relevant and timely books on a variety of topics of discussion at Politics and Prose, and I’m looking for a good book.

First, I browse a few of the stacks, then I head down to The Den for a beverage. Today, I kept it simple and asked the Barista for a simple Berry, Blueberry Hibiscus Herbal Tea. I think I could use something that is caffeine free. The neat part about Politics and Prose is you can continue to browse their shelves with your beverage, so I did. There’s always something exciting happening at Politics & Prose and on this particular day the store was preparing for an In-Store Event with the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who is reading from his new book Writings on the Wall – Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White. I hit the jackpot today! Politics and Prose is located at: 5015 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.

Kaldi’s Social House, Silver Spring, Md.

Right off of Georgia Avenue on Silver Spring Avenue in Silver Spring MD sits Kaldi’s Social House. This Metropolis that is part coffee house part bar is slowly turning for Happy Hour as I sit here writing. If you have any bit of coffee obsession that you’ve heard the legendary stories of the discovery of coffee. Well, Kaldi’s Social House is named after the Ethiopian goat herdsman Kaldi, whom legends say discovered coffee after noting his goat’s behavior after eating the bright red cherries.

Let’s thank Kaldi, the goat herder, for his discovery and the coffee house Kaldi’s for reminding me of the humble beginnings of this strange fruit. Kaldi’s Social House is a nice cultural melting pot pouring the liquid gold. However, I am sure the crowds enjoying another liquid gold known to some by the name whiskey will soon take over. So, it’s late. The spot is nice and filled with sophisticated and chic seating. The crowd is calm and it’s time I peace out of this joint! Check it out if you appreciate diversity at its finest and the respect and admiration for coffee. Kaldi’s is located at: 18 Silver Spring Ave, Silver Spring, Md.

There it is, my growing list of great coffee spots. Now, do you have one to share?

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