Buzz Worthy: Great Coffee Shops in D.C.

These cafes pour delectable brews and offer a little something extra.

Nothing’s better than a piping hot cuppa when the mercury and/or energy levels dip. Luckily, D.C.’s percolating cafe culture has plenty of lauded options, each brewing up the classics, plus the latest quaffs like flat-whites and pour-overs, not to mention an assortment of non-dairy milks (think rice!). That jolt of liquid gold got your appetite going? These perky purveyors don’t skimp on the sweet and savory bites either. Some coffeehouses are local institutions; others, sleek new spots destined for future “go-to” status. Here, a few of our favorites for quick pick-me-ups or lingering sips.

Bourbon Coffee

Unlike most shops that offer beans from several countries, this one specializes in just one: Rwanda. Owners work directly with Rwandan farmers to source their coffee. In the cafe, just a stone’s throw from Peace Corps HQ, USAID and GW University, Rwandan artwork and baskets add to a homey yet international feel. 2101 L St. NW, 202.525.1886

Compass Coffee

While serving in the Marine Corps, local boys Michael Haft and Harrison Suarez became serious coffee drinkers and vowed to start their own shop when they got out. Though a relative newbie, this Shaw neighborhood spot has already gained a dedicated following for its unique blends, single-origin imports and knowledgeable staff. 1535 7th St. NW, 202.251.7402

Inside Compass Coffee in Shaw
Compass Coffee’s bright and bustling Shaw cafe (Courtesy Compass Coffee)

M.E. Swing Co.

This java institution has been drawing worker bees since 1916. The brewhouse moved to its current location in 1994, across the street from the White House, with many of the original fixtures from its first location on E Street NW. But don’t let its retro looks fool you; they still pour a mean cup of Joe (the Mesco blend since 1918) from fair-trade beans roasted at the company’s Alexandria outpost. 1702 G St. NW, 202.628.7601

Inside M.E. Swing Co.'s retro shop G Street cafe
Retro furnishings remind patrons of M.E. Swing’s deep D.C. roots. (Courtesy Swing’s Coffee Roasters)

Peregrine Espresso

An award-winning barista opened this buzzing Eastern Market stop with his wife in 2008. Today, the café lists three popular locations throughout D.C., each offering the company’s top-notch brews. 660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, 202.629.4381

An elegant cortado at Peregrine
An elegant cortado (espresso with warm milk) at Peregrine Espresso (©T.Tseng/Flickr, Creative Commons)


A coffee shop and a bar? The owners of this hip Logan Circle establishment married the one-on-one conversational style of a bartender with coffee. The result is this hybrid, pouring java from Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Madcap Coffee Company, along with craft cocktails, breakfast, lunch and light dinners. 1334 14th St. NW, 202.450.2216

Mixing iced coffee at Slipstream
Mixing iced coffee at Slipstream (©Ted Eytan/Flickr, Creative Commons)


This vibrant cafe in the heart of funky Adams Morgan feels like a coffeehouse should, but adds a full cocktail bar and food menu. North Carolina-based Counter Culture beans are the draw, but comfy chairs, colorful decor and local character encourage lingering. Bonus points for an active sidewalk scene. 2459 18th St. NW, 202.232.5500

A cupcake and latte atop Tryst's copper-topped bar.
A cupcake and latte atop Tryst’s copper-topped bar (Courtesy Tryst)

Vigilante at Maketto

Mud hounds may be confused when they first walk into Maketto, a retail/restaurant mash-up in the up-and-coming H St. NE corridor. But upstairs, they find Chris Vigilante’s hand-roasted single-origin brews, as well as some experimental roasts, in a sleek, yet down-to-earth setup. 1351 H St. NE, 202.838.9972 

Vigilante coffee at Maketto
Maketto’s neutral-toned second floor sets a serene mood for Chris Vigilante’s coffee. (©Rey Lopez)