Well, just take a right where they're gonna build that new shopping mall…
January 27, 2012 12:11 PM   Subscribe

I still feel like a stranger around DC. Where in or around the city (especially in the northeast Maryland suburbs) can I find an independently-owned, Metro-accessible food and coffee place where I can relax, work, read, and study in relative peace and comfort?

I've lived in College Park, MD, for years now and I'm still at a loss for a good "haunt." To qualify, an establishment should:
  • be more or less readily reachable from College Park, MD, by car or Metro (if in the city)
  • sell refillable, non-alcoholic beverages and light food items
  • have tolerable volume levels and customer density
  • accommodate people who are there alone to read or work on a laptop, rather than in groups to socialize
  • exert minimal pressure to order, eat, and get out
  • stay open evenings and weekends
Here are some places that have not quite met my criteria:
  • Busboys & Poets (14th & U, Hyattsville) — set up primarily for diners, packed and loud on evenings and weekends
  • Qualia Coffee (Georgia Ave.) — very small, fills up unpredictably, coffee not refillable
  • Majorga Coffee (formerly Silver Spring, now Takoma Park Metro) — old location closed, new location blows
  • Tryst (Adams Morgan) — turns off wifi to repel weekend visitors
  • Shagga Coffee (Hyattsville) — good dinner venue, too dreary otherwise
  • Franklin's (Hyattsville) — set up for diners, gets noisy
Granted, I haven't done a systematic search of the area, but why does it have to be so difficult? As an undergraduate in Baltimore, I had a panoply of choices within easy walking distance. Here, near a campus of 15,000, I've been making do with a packed, drafty Starbucks in a Beltway strip mall.
posted by Nomyte to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Huh, I was wandering around DC just last night looking for a coffee shop to work in that didn't close or get really loud after 9 and thought about asking this exact same question, so I feel you. I used to love the Mid City Caffe, which kind of felt like a hipster study hall, but it's gone now. None of my alternatives fit your criteria perfectly, but I think they're still worth checking out:
- Bourbon Coffee: good snacks, comfy seating, but closes early and is not open at all on Sunday
- Azi's Cafe: very neighborhoody, lots of light
- Soho Tea and Coffee (21 & P NW): pretty spacious, open late
All are reasonably Metro-accesible. I'm not sure what any of their coffee refill policies are.

I am excited to read other people's recommendations on this thread.
posted by sashapearl at 12:33 PM on January 27, 2012

Tynan and Columbia Heights Coffee, both in Columbia Heights, may meet your criteria (not sure about self-refills).
posted by troika at 12:38 PM on January 27, 2012

I meant "refillable" in the sense of the second cup being cheaper than the first. And it's not a strict criterion!
posted by Nomyte at 12:45 PM on January 27, 2012

I have the same problem around Bethesda. Couple of average Starbucks. Mediocre Caribous. A crowded Quartermaine. The atrocious Le Madeleine.

The coffee shop at Politics and Prose can be nice when its not being used as a performance space.

You might try the atrium of the Portrait Gallery near Chinatown. Not sure what its like in winter, but can be very pleasant in the summer.

Some of the other schools around have nice coffeeshop/library spaces. AU comes to mind.

None of those are going to meet all your criteria. Especially refillable drinks.

And if you search I think this question or something related about DC coffee shops has been on Ask before.

Sorry. I know that wasn't very helpful, but I've been feeling down on DC suburbs lately and felt compelled to chime in.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 12:46 PM on January 27, 2012

Sorry: Columbia Heights Coffee review and Yelp page (they don't seem to have a working website).

There's also Big Bear in Bloomingdale, not suuuuper metro accessible but by car not a long drive.

The Portrait Gallery does an "Art & Coffee" thing (link, scroll down about halfway) Wednesday-Sunday from 1:30-3pm. They have free, self-refillable coffee and a couple of tables and outlets, plus free wireless.

The Kogod Courtyard in the same building is pretty close to what you're looking for, now that I think about it. It's on the green line, has tables/chairs/outlets/wireless and a cafe with the densest macaroons I've ever eaten (cannot vouch for the coffee). It's generally quiet, though groups come through from time to time.
posted by troika at 12:50 PM on January 27, 2012

I was going to recommend Savory Cafe in Tacoma Park, but I see that it closed. Wow, I used to have so many meetings there I'd grown to hate it, but it's right by a metro, had lots of space and decent coffee and food - quite a loss. Does anyone know what's in the space now?
posted by crabintheocean at 12:52 PM on January 27, 2012

Qualia Coffee is neato but maybe not convenient to get to for you.
posted by 3FLryan at 1:01 PM on January 27, 2012

Ten Ren?
posted by empath at 1:02 PM on January 27, 2012

Capital City Cheesecake is near the Takoma metro stop on the Red Line. Free wireless. Nice folks work there. Plenty of seating. Grilled cheese.y food, homemade cheesecakes, coffee and tea beverages, etc.
posted by anya32 at 1:04 PM on January 27, 2012

I work at Pound a lot.
Ebeezer's is okay too.
posted by k8t at 1:12 PM on January 27, 2012

Just a 2c: the refillable requirement is going to eliminate all coffeeshops here. Since coffeeshops only sell coffee, they need to make money on second and third cups. And since they fill up with wifi-using laptop users all the time - who take up table space that could seat new, paying customers - there's zero incentive for them to make staying for a long time cheaper.

So, yeah - free or cheap refills are a restaurant thing. Or maybe in far-suburb shops, but I've never seen it in a DC coffeeshop, and I've been to nearly all of them.
posted by tmcw at 1:22 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh right! Just remembered Flying Fish, in Mount Pleasant. Flying Fish is a great place to work (though it can fill up) and it's near the Columbia Heights metro.
posted by sashapearl at 1:41 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Second Ten Ren...but do they have coffee? I just looked at the website. I always either get bubble tea or some other tea concoction. Either way it's quiet, has wifi, and is not usually too crowded.
posted by fromageball at 3:38 PM on January 27, 2012

Qualia has that secret upstairs - have you checked it out?

Pound seems to be cutting back on their cafe space - they turned the back part into a sitdown brunch space, and they're going to start becoming a restaurant at night now.

You might try the starbucks on Penn & 3rd - it is an unusually large and nice Starbucks, with an upstairs space.

The busboys and poets on 14th st seems amenable to sitting around - there is a communal table to the left.
posted by yarly at 3:52 PM on January 27, 2012

DC is seriously lacking in good coffeeshops, for sure. When I lived in Mt Pleasant, I used to like Dos Gringos, which should meet most of your criteria but isn't super-convenient for you (about 10 minute walk from the Columbia Heights metro). To be honest, my go-tos were always Caribou Coffees - there are a bunch around the city, they're reasonably priced and no one cares if you stay there all day.
posted by lunasol at 5:13 PM on January 27, 2012

Seconding Capital City Cheesecake in Takoma Park. (@crabintheocean, that's what took over Savory Cafe's place.) Lovely little cheesecakes, of course, but also a good selection of sandwiches and coffee and such, lots of seating.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 5:15 PM on January 27, 2012

Sova on H St. NE (on Yelp / on Flickr) has two floors, plenty of chairs, tables & couches and a bar, has coffee and wine and snacks, and has solid free WiFi.
posted by D.Billy at 9:58 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Spent the afternoon today exploring Columbia Heights in search of a place to do some reading.

Went to Tynan, but it was packed and I didn't stay.

Found Flying Fish on Mt. Pleasant. It was a little tough, because they don't have a prominent store sign. It was also packed, and I didn't stay.

Went up Mt. Pleasant to Dos Gringos. They close early on Sundays, so I didn't stay.

I ended up at Panera, where I got a coffee and a piece of pastry. I ate it standing up, because there were no free seats.

Having wasted three hours, I went home tired, hungry, and somewhat frustrated.
posted by Nomyte at 3:12 PM on January 29, 2012

What a sad saga! I think the problem is that everything is always packed in dc on the weekend afternoons. I think you should try qualia again, but earlier, around 10.
posted by yarly at 7:33 PM on January 29, 2012

I think I will continue updating this question with my sad misadventures around DC. For example, today I discovered that Columbia Heights is a stone's throw away from the zoo! I never realized that!
posted by Nomyte at 8:10 PM on January 29, 2012

As others have said, DC has woefully few coffee places, and even fewer independent ones. Most of the existing coffee shops are completely packed evenings and weekends, especially when they're close to universities (e.g. anything around Tenleytown is most times absolutely packed with AU students).

That being said, if you're still up for exploring, you might check out Friendship Heights. The upside is no college kids and less crowd, the clientele is mostly shoppers, who get their coffee/food and move on.

- Tynan Coffee and Tea;
- Panera (I go there sometimes Sat/Sunday afternoon to study/read, taking care to avoid lunch-time crowds);
- Cosi

Looking forward to see if you find any other places!
posted by Ender's Friend at 10:04 AM on February 4, 2012

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