Category Archives: Coffee Shops
Much unlike my horrid experience, at Caribou Coffee on Monday, my time spent at Fresh & Organic in Ashburn was pleasant and enjoyable. A quiet little cafe tucked away in one of Northern Virginia’s many shopping strips, Fresh & Organic is the a perfectly quaint, locally owned cafe fit for even the most health-conscious, good-food-loving individual.
Admittedly, Fresh & Organic doesn’t necessarily fall directly into the typical bookish Coffee Shop/ Cafe standard that I’m constantly on the look out for, but honestly, Northern Virginia is sort of lacking in that area. I had debated on whether or not I wanted to spend my last weekend here making yet another trek into D.C., but after recalling my previous frustrations with parking on The Hill, I decided to hunt for something more local. I knew there had to be at least one more suitable place in good old Ashburn. So when I came across Fresh & Organic, I figured as long as they serve coffee (which, they do) they’re good enough for my blog.
When I walked inside I was greeted by a very friendly gentleman, the owner of the shop, who handed me a menu and told me to let him know when I was ready to order. There were two other customers already seated, both of which the owner was on a first name basis with; the first indication that Fresh & Organic would be worth my while. I eventually ordered the Black Bean Burger and then sat down at a table and read while I waited for my food. In stark contrast to the atmosphere at a much more detestable coffee shop earlier in the week, Fresh & Organic proved to have an impeccable taste in music, quietly sharing tunes via a My Morning Jacket Pandora Station. Beck, Led Zeppelin, Wilco? Why yes, sharing this good music with your customers at a reasonable volume is an excellent decision.
In addition to serving up good music, I can also attest to the fact that Fresh & Organic serves good food. My Black Bean Burger and the organic salad that it came with were both delicious. This was one of the best meals that I have eaten out in a really long time, which I think goes to show that fresh, natural, unprocessed food is the way to go. As I was leaving, the owner said that he hoped I would come back. I told him that I was moving to New York at the end of the week but that I liked my burger and his little cafe so much that I would try to make it back for one more Fresh & Organic meal before my departure.
Is this place good for reading or writing? Most definitely. The environment is relaxed and quiet. Plus there’s good music and good food. It’s a done deal.
Bonus Points: From Fresh & Organic’s Website: “Our recipes combine healthy ingredients in order to provide you with the utmost in taste and nutritional value. We are organic wherever possible and always fresh!…We ardently believe that nature’s simple ingredients are enough… and you won’t need to be a biochemist to pronounce them!” Right on!
P.S. Get ready to explore New York’s bookstores & Cafe’s! Next time you hear from me, I’ll be blogging from The Big Apple.
What: Coffee Shop Franchise
Where: Ashburn, VA
I’m not trying to be mean- really, I’m not a mean person- but I’ve been here for all of five minutes and I hate this place. It’s a total wannabe indie cafe and it’s trying way too hard. I should have known this would be a subpar coffee shop when I asked what was in the White Peach Berry Smoothie and the cashier told me she didn’t know because it was pre-made. I mean, sure, it tastes pretty good but god only knows what’s in it. I’m going to guess a lot of fake sugar because no real fruit is this sweet. “Fruit” smoothie my butt. Don’t call it what it’s not, Caribou Coffee.
There’s free wi-fi here and besides myself, there are a bunch of other people working on laptops, but I’m honestly wondering if they are having the same amount of trouble concentrating as I am because the crappy music in here is so loud I can barely hear myself think. The song playing right now sort of sounds like an extremely mediocre version of Jack Johnson that should just never be played at all, let alone at the excruciatingly painful volume they have it blasting.
Since I’m on a total complaining roll right now, I’ll take this opportunity to point out the obnoxiously loud employees conversing about why their is toilet paper near the coffee grinder. One of the baristas just asked another, “Why is their toilet paper over here?”
“I don’t know,” the other replied to her.
Maybe it’s because this place is crap. I think you should take the toilet paper as a sign.
It’s going to sound like I came here just to secretly listen in on all of the Caribou Coffee employees’ conversations, but since we’re on the subject and they are talking so loudly that it would be impossible for me to not hear them let’s recap another excruciatingly embarrassing conversation that just took place:
Employee one: Hufflepuff? What’s Hufflepuff?
Employee two: Ew, don’t talk to me about Hufflepuff. I don’t even like Hufflepuff.
Employee one: I don’t even know what Hufflepuff is.
Employee two: Hufflepuff is like…happy people. I’m a Gryffindor.
Excuse me, but first of all, happy people? Happy people? What is that even supposed to mean? Have you even read Harry Potter? Clearly you have not. The essence of The Hufflepuff House goes much beyond your vapid description. Second of all, according to Pottermore, I’m a Hufflepuff and you have greatly offended me, you ignorant Harry Potter Fool. Hmph!
There’s not much else for me to say about Caribou Coffee. I could certainly point out plenty of other shortcomings but I’d rather not since I can’t wait to finishing writing this and get the hell out of here. Nice knowing you, Caribou Coffee. NOT!
Is this a good place for reading or writing? If you bring earplugs.
Minus Points: Inability to spell.
No one told me that parking my car in D.C. would give me severe anxiety. It’s not because of the traffic or anything like that. It’s because none of the Pay to Park stations work! I had finally found a legal curbside parking space, only to find that I wasn’t really able to make it “legal” because of stupid failed technology’s inability to allow me to pay for it. Seriously, people. It’s almost 2012. We have robots in space and iPads! I don’t think a working Pay to Park Station is too much to ask for. You’d think our nation’s capitol would be much more efficient, right? HA!
For this reason, today’s “Blogging From” post is a combination recap of my time at Idle Time Books and Tryst, all of which was spent playing the game of, “How Long Can I Last Before I Break Into a Serious Sweat Wondering Weather or Not I’ve Received a Parking Ticket I Can’t Afford for Something Completely Out of My Control.”
Thankfully, Idle Time and Tryst are located only a few doors down from one another. I was headed to Tryst because reader Mike Ridley so kindly recommended it as one of his favorite “work in public” D.C. establishments. It was originally my one and only destination, where I was planning to sit and stay a while. But as I made my way up the street, a bright green storefront came into view and there was absolutely no question as to whether or not I was going to go in.
Idle Time; what an ironic store name given my time-limited situation. I really had no “idle time,” but I stepped inside and gave the store a quick browse. It was a pretty standard used book store. You won’t find every single book here but they have a hearty selection of classic literature, non-fiction, science, history, and a few other categories too. They also have a miniature vinyl record section, which is something that for me, will always set any store apart from others. Books and music man. Books and music.
I ventured upstairs where plenty of signs had indicated I would find even more books. And more books I found. A small and simple quirk that added that little extra something to the store was the books that were lined along the stairs. The types of books a store chooses to feature in this kind of fashion give the store character. Judging by their staircase books, I’d pin Idle Time’s character as classically diverse. And of course all things classic are essentially good.
The second floor was warm and inviting thanks to it’s large windows and the sunshine shining through. With a few chairs scattered here and there, the store certainly invites its shoppers to pop a squat and read for a while. Unfortunately I had not been granted the luxury of doing so.
As for Tryst, I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get to spend some quality time with my laptop there. Although, I don’t know that even if I had had the time I would have been able to, because man, the place was packed. There was not one empty table that I could see. Almost everyone there was either working on a laptop or buried in a book with a highlighter in their hand. Clearly, Tryst is a D.C. Student “work in public” hot-spot. It was a bit loud in there though. I’m not sure if I would be able to concentrate on writing surrounded by so many chatty “studiers.”
Because of my anxiety-induced time limit, I walked up to the to-go counter and ordered a Strawberry Banana Pineapple smoothie. So all I can tell you about Tryst is that it’s crowded on Saturdays, they’ve got some kick-butt artwork on their walls (I spied Dirty Harry), they have decent smoothies, and oh, really good looking men work there. At least three different handsome baristas assisted me with my order and they only made me wish that I could have stayed a while.
Are these good places for reading and writing?
Idle Time: I could see myself getting lost in books pulled from their shelves for hours at time. (That is when I have the time. *Rolls eyes at city of D.C.*) So yes. But it’s not so much a “write in public” place.
Tryst: Yes. Not that I would really know, but everyone else there seemed to be getting some kind of work done.
Bonus Points: Tryst and Idle Time are neighbors on 18th St NW in D.C.’s cutesy Adams Morgan neighborhood. They are like bookstore and coffee shop best friends!
There’s nothing like a big, bright bookstore to brighten up a rainy day. It’s dark and gloomy outside in D.C. today, but I knew that dreary, rainy-day feeling would vanish once I stepped inside Politics and Prose. I could tell that it was going to be a bookstore well worth my trip into D.C. before even stepping inside. I think it was the big purple awning hanging over the store front that gave it away. It was either that or the name.
According to their website, the store opened twenty five years ago and the owners chose the name wanting to represent the D.C. area without being “pretentious.” I can understand not wanting to seem pretentious. Pretentious people are generally not enjoyable or friendly or fun. But bookstores, I think bookstores should be allowed to be a little bit pretentious. You know? They are bookstores. They provide the public with books and books are important. We need books. So if anything in this world could get away with being pretentious, it should be a bookstore. They never are though, which speaks a lot to bookstore’s personalities. They’re probably the only existing entity that could rightfully get away with being a teensy bit smug and proud, and yet they choose not to.
So, speaking of being unpretentious, Politics and Prose is friendly and welcoming and it offers an excellent stock of carefully selected books to its customers, just the way a good bookstore should. It’s neatly organized into easy to find sections and there’s something for every type of reader. When I first walked into the store I first stumbled into a table of books dedicated to books on current politics. How fitting. To the left side of the store I found the “New and Recommended” shelf, which features the current top ten bet sellers and a handpicked display of new and notable literature.
Politics and Prose is, without a doubt, a “Blogging from Bookstores” kind of place. They have plenty of chairs strewn all across the store that invite shoppers to take a seat and read for a bit. This idea is basically even a part of their business model. On their website they write:
“We see the store as a fun place to be, to shop, and to work in. We chat with customers. We urge them to sit down and look at books before they make a decision.”
So basically, it’s perfect. Perfect for book shopping. Perfect for reading. Perfect for writing and working. It seems like it couldn’t be any more perfect, right? Wrong. What really takes this bookstore to the next level is it’s Modern Times Cafe. It’s located in the store’s basement and is well equipped with plenty of tables and chairs, free WiFi, and of course, coffee and food! The menus are written in chalk on chalk boards in classic cafe style and everyone here is either working on their laptop, reading a book, or engaged in a deep conversation with friends.
When I entered Modern Times, it was packed. It didn’t look like there was one seat open, yet I still ordered my Iced Tea to stay because I was determined to find somewhere to set up camp with my laptop. I spotted a space where two older women were seated and noticed an open chair next to them. “Is anyone sitting here?” I asked. “Just my books,” one of the women responded as she smiled at me and moved her pile of newly purchased books to the floor. She cleared the space and I thanked her as I snagged the last available spot in this Bookstore Cafe Heaven. As I’m writing, I just overheard one of the baristas say to a customer, “Yeah, everybody’s doing double trips today.” I don’t blame them. If I lived closer to Politics & Prose and their Modern Times Cafe, there’s a good chance I’d make it here at least three times a day. Hell, who am I kidding, I’d just live here.
Is this a good place for reading and writing? I believe I have already made that clear, but just to reiterate, YES! YES! YES! Come here and bring your books (or better, buy some from them!) and your laptop and read and write away!
Bonus Points: A built in cafe, a kick-ass name, and noteworthy contributions to the local community by hosting tons of educational events and supporting local book clubs! Other highlights also include, fairly priced books, a cheap cafe menu (my iced tea was only $2!), an extremely knowledgeable staff, and a fantasy land kids section complete with a beanbag nook! (See slideshow for photos!)
What: Locally owned Coffee Shop/ Cafe
Where: East Market Street, Leesburg, Virginia
Although renamed Dolce Cofee in the real word, if you type this coffee house’s address into Google, you’ll find that it was previously called “Greenberry’s.” Social Media Management people! Someone tell the owner of this place that they need to up their game when it comes to the their online presence. Just kidding! Does it really matter? Probably, not. Plus, I’m not here to judge their marketing strategies. Although, I guess I just did. Anyway…
When it was good ol’ Greenberry’s, this place was a franchise. During that time another blogger called it a “local Starbucks wannabe.” I don’t know what it was like before now, but I’m going to guess that it’s at least made a little bit of an improvement from being a chain coffee shop. It’s not the greatest or cutest or nicest place in the world, but I don’t see it as a Starbuck’s wannabe, which to me, would be worse than being an actual Starbucks.
The first thing that I noticed about Dolce Coffee, before I even walked through the door, was the window display to the left of the entrance, which promotes the coffee shop’s weekly, Friday night Open Mic nights. Any establishment that fosters a weekly open mic is good in my book!
As I walked through the doors and toward the counter, I almost tripped on a huge bump in the floor, which I later found out from a sign placed oh-so-kindly on the front counter, is from water damage. The most annoying part about it is not that I did an awkward ooo-I-almost-just-tripped-but-I’m-going-to-pretend-that-no-one-saw-that dance, it’s that the girl behind the counter was waiting for it to happen. You know she just stands there all day waiting to laugh hysterically to herself over the unsuspecting customers who instantly become victims of the large bump in the floor. I know I would.
I ordered their Chicken Salad sandwich on wheat bread, which I can only say was an extremely disappointing excuse for chicken salad. It lacked any sort of taste and what little taste it did have was not enjoyable or chicken-like at all. Luckily, I also ordered a strawberry banana smoothie, which met and passed my extremely high smoothie standards. Although, it was no Shoes, Cup, and Cork Club Smoothie. But what can ya do? Not all smoothies can be the best smoothies, right?
Of course, now I am blogging and I do have to say that the environment here is very blogger friendly. Myself included, four people in this here coffee shop are currently situated behind Internet machines. The older man directly across the room from me looks like he’s reading the stock markets on his MacBook Pro. I say that because he’s bald, except for a few white hairs clinging for life on either side of his head, he’s wearing a white collared shirt, a tie, khaki dress pants, and suspenders, and just generally looks like an intensely stressed investment banker who just flew from Wallstreet to Leesburg in his private helicopter so that he could enjoy a diet coke at his favorite hometown coffee shop. Whatever, it could be true. Or maybe he’s just playing Farmville.
Another man who is across the room to my right is typing up a storm on his old-school IBM laptop. He look way too cool for a Mac. IBM all the way for him. From the looks of what little he has left of his greying hair, I’d say he’s middle-aged. He has a happy camper vibe going on. He is wearing a maroon T-shirt, dark brown cargo shorts, and hiking boots. He has sunglasses propped on the top of his head and looks just a little bit too happy to be here. He probably just came home from a long, relaxing, technology free camping trip in the woods and is just so ecstatic to finally be reconnected with his beloved Internet. Either that or he just really likes his frappuccino and is telling everyone on Twitter how much so.
There is a decorative tree blocking my view of the third coffee shop laptop-user present here and so I will never know who he is or what he’s doing here. There is another man sitting on one of the stools that are lined up along the counter facing the window and I can’t tell if he has a Bluetooth device in one of his ears or if he’s talking to himself. Either way, why do you gotta do that here, man?
Oh and let’s not forget me. I’m also here. Little old me sitting in my big green comfy chair, blogging away about all of the people in the coffee shop. Am I totally creeping, or what?
I was also able to get some quality reading time in here. I’m currently feasting my brain upon L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, which is a total delight of a book that I would most certainly suggest to all lovers of young adult whimsy who have not yet read it.
Is this a good place to reading or writing? Sure. It’s quiet and they’ve got barely audible indie music playing in the background. You’ll find it easy to concentrate here. (Unless you’re me and have a terrible habit of watching, judging, and making up stories about people.) Also, they’ve got WiFi so you can write and publish all in one stop. What a concept!
Bonus Points: Random pictures of Audrey Hepburn that have nothing to do with anything else int he entire shop. I’ll take it.
What: Independent Coffee Shop
Where: Washington, D.C.
I’m sitting at a table in the back room of Pound the Hill, a small coffee shop located on Pennsylvania Avenue in Wasthington D.C. This is one of the more, reader/writer friendly coffee shops I’ve come across in the Northern Virginia area. Although, I’m sure there are plenty more here in D.C. Most people here have a laptop in front of them though, so I feel right at home.
The atmosphere here is cute and homey. They have a few big, comfy sofa type chairs in the back room, but the setup mainly includes your typical coffee shop chairs and tables. I ordered their Curried Chicken Wrap. I can gladly say that it is absolutely delicious, as I continue to blog and stuff my face simultaneously. Sorry for the lack of photos, but I was too hungry to even think about photographing my food before chowing down.
I also treated myself to a Honey Pear Iced Tea, (the barista convinced me!) which is the perfectly delightful blend of honey, pear, and of course, tea. The staff here is super friendly and the customers are mostly young DC-ers who are too cool to work within the confinements of their own home’s.
Before I began to blog, I also got some reading done here. It’s a calm, quiet environment. An ideal place to read, write, study, or do whatever it is you need to do that needed to be done in a public setting without being bothered.
Is this a good place for reading or writing? Yes! It’s quiet, almost every customer has their nose buried in a book or their face entranced by a laptop, and the diverse menu of good food makes it almost so you would never have to leave (blog & eat forever!), except maybe for a shower. My only criticism is that even though it’s cute and coffee-shop-like, there’s nothing specifically unique or characteristic about the physical space. You know? There’s no shoe chandeliers or anything like that.
Bonus Points: Their coffee comes from a highly rated micro-roaster and they promise that it’s organic, sustainable, and fair trade. On their website, they even claim to be able to tell you the names of the farmers who harvest the beans that they use. If I ever return, I’m quizzing them! Oh, and they’re pretty tech savvy. Ever seen a cash register in the form of an iPad? Yeah, they have that.
What: Local Shoe Repair Store turned Coffee Shop/ Miniature-Restaurant
Where: Downtown Leesburg, Virginia
The first time I walked by Shoes Cup and Cork Club, it fooled me. It was all, look at me, I’m a shoe repair shop! (And in my head, I was all, What the heck? Who still gets their shoes repaired? Talk about keeping the history in a historic town.) But that was only the first time. The second time I walked by it, I was able to see past the giant “Shoes” sign (mainly by looking through the window) and realized that it is actually one little kick-ass coffee shop. I knew that it was kick-ass before even walking in because it also had a sign pointing to the alleyway next door that said, “This way to our secret garden.” Which really leads to their outdoor sitting area, but for all intents and purposes, it’s a secret garden.
This is my second time at Shoes Cup and Cork Club. My first visit was with my best friend Tara and one of the cool things about it that she pointed out to me right away is that they have a shoe chandelier. That’s right, a fancy, old-fashioned light fixture that has early 1900’s style shoes dangling from it’s arms. Yes, It’s as cool as it sounds. (Or as stupid as it sounds, depending on who you are.) The rest of the decor here is just as unique. All of the tables and chairs are wooden and no two are the same. There is a bench with cozy pillows that spans along the left wall and the wall on the right side has a rather large chalkboard that anyone can draw on. So DIY!
Shoes Cup and Cork Club boasts that they have the best coffee in Leesburg and all of Loudoun County (voted by Loudoun Living), but I cannot confirm or deny these statements because, one word: SMOOTHIES! You would have to pay me large sums of money to come to this establishment and order anything besides a smoothie. These smoothies here are unlike any smoothie your little blended-fruit-beverage-loving heart could ever dream of. During my first visit here, I ordered the Pina Colada smoothie and let me just say, that was the end of me ever ordering another smoothie from any other smoothie-making business ever. Today I ordered their Very, Berry, Berry smoothie and it is all of the fruity goodness I ever could have imagined and then some. If I were President of the World, I would make it mandatory that every living person have a SCCC Smoothie every day for their entire life forever. Except, if they didn’t want to, because, free will, freedom, etc.
When I first got here, I got distracted from blogging and played Words With Friends for like 20 minutes. As a result, I found out that this is a great place to sit and play Words With Friends while enjoying a smoothie. I was about to take out my laptop and start blogging, but first I checked out the WiFi situation on my phone and it turns out that they don’t offer any free, wireless connections to the Internet. I take that as a sign that maybe they wouldn’t really appreciate their Number One Smoothie Fan hogging one of their tables with her laptop. (Even though I am their Number One Smoothie fan and all.) So I decided to partake in all of my blogging activity via my phone and then took out my book to test out the reading environment.
It’s nice to read here but it’s also not the quietest place either. If you can concentrate over other people’s conversations than you’ll get along fine, but if you prefer mostly silence when you read than this is probably not the place for your public reading endeavors. More than anything, it seems like Shoes Cup and Cork Club is a perfect little place to come to with your best friend when you want to drink lots of coffee, perfect smoothies, and maybe even some wine (Yeah, they have wine too. I know, right?!) while you sit and talk about everything and nothing for hours at a time.
Is this a good place for writing or reading?: Maybe. Writing only if you’re doing it the old way. You know, with paper and ink. There’s no WiFi so blogging is sort of O-U-T, out. Reading if you can tolerate moderate amounts of other people chatting. It’s not a spacey place so you will hear all about how your table neighbor’s week went.
Bonus Points: +1,000,000 points for their Smoothies! Also, shoe chandelier, fake-out storefront sign, and secret garden.
What: Local Coffee Shop
Where: Leesburg, Virginia – South King Street
Right now, I’m at King Street Coffee in historic, downtown Leesburg. This isn’t my first time here. I just so happen to work around the corner from this quaint little coffee house. I have to say, that it’s hard to resist giving them all of my money in exchange for coffee, tea, and the privilege of sitting at one of their wooden tables in the seating area that feels like your mom’s kitchen. It’s very authentic. I’d blog from here forever if I could. It’s like blogging heaven. A small, quiet independent coffee shop with free WiFi and tables. How is Starbucks even still in business? Why would you choose that over this? Wake up, people of the world! Starbucks coffee doesn’t even taste good! That is a fact.
The building, like most of the buildings here in downtown Leesburg, is and old house. Like, I’m literally sitting in what was probably some early American colonist family’s living room. (OK, I don’t know if it’s that old. But let me just pretend.) I bet their ghosts are hovering over me right this very moment. They’re wondering what on earth this alien contraption that I put on their table is. “Why does she keep pressing all of those buttons?!”
Normally when I come to King Street Coffee I order an iced coffee with milk and sugar because I like consistency and am also in love with iced coffee. But watch out world! Today I switched it up. I got the Moroccan Mint Iced Tea as per recommendation of the King Street Coffee barista. It’s a unique blend and the mint gives it a nice little kick. Add a tiny bit of sugar to it and you’re good to go. A perfect 115-degree-weather-I-need-something-cold-in-the-form-of-liquid-now beverage. (Yes, as I am writing this, the heat index outside is about 115. Ew.)
Honestly though, next time I’ll probably get an iced coffee again because the coffee here is 100% delicious, 100% of the time. That’s expected though. I mean, it is a Coffee Shop (hence the word “coffee” in their name) and they use locally roasted beans. Everyone in favor of supporting the local economy say I. “I!”
As I write, I’m sitting at a small table next to a window that looks out to South King street. Across the street there’s a huge pink house that is an antique shop and gift store called The Pink Shop. It’s like, really pink. Almost too pink. But since it is called “The Pink Shop,” I guess the building really can’t be too Pink. In fact, I think this might be the only time that a building can acceptably be completely pink and have a bright magenta door. Nobody else try this. I don’t want to see any other buildings this pink ever.
I’m looking out the window and watching people walk by. This one guy that I just saw hates The Pink Shop. I just watched his girlfriend lure him in. She ran up the stairs to the door faster than he could say “But, babe, I don’t wanna!” He walked up the first two steps, paused, took a deep breath, sighed, and then hesitantly dragged his feet up the remaining steps as if he were walking to his overly-pink death. Watching people is fun. King Street Coffee is a good place to do this.
Is this a good place for writing or reading?: Yes! It’s quiet and I’ve never seen it overly crowded. The employees are friendly and the coffee is Delicious with a capital D. They have free WiFi and cute wooden tables with cute wooden chairs to sit at. Really, what more could a writer or reader ask for?
Bonus points for: Good music, use of local products, and pink scenery.