mini review: Café Georgetown

see my Georgetown field report

A late addition to my recent deep dive into the Georgetown coffee universe. To be honest, I hadn’t included this spot because I didn’t know it existed until reading about it in an article today.

You might not know Café Georgetown, a new coffee and wine bar, unless you look for it. Just a few doors away from Wisconsin Avenue, and one block north from the retail zoo of M Street, this luxe jewel box is on the first floor of a tasteful townhouse, reached by a few steps up a black, cast iron staircase. Face away from Wisconsin and you’ll feel you’re very much in a quiet residential neighborhood, not a traffic- and pedestrian-mad retail hub.

My visit got off to an auspicious start when I found a free parking spot at the curb right outside the front door. It’s a Georgetown Christmas miracle!

I can’t begin to imagine how much it cost to design and outfit this space. From the coffee shop in the front to the wine bar in the back and the restroom in the middle (more on that later), everything is done up to such a high standard. Marble bar and tabletops. A color scheme led by a rich, vivid blue, from the walls to the surprisingly substantial cafe chairs. Brick accent walls painted white. Blue and white tile inlay in the wooden floor. Gold accent pieces and fixtures. A pair of finely upholstered bench sofas. The designers managed to come right up to the line of being over the top and gauche, and successfully pulled back just a hair. This café would feel very much at home in a six-star luxury hotel in Europe.

Spanish guitar music played on the sound system, and a projector displayed the title of the song and artist on the wall next to the coffee bar. A thoughtful touch, in case you like something you hear that was previously unfamiliar to you.

The one element that doesn’t match the rest of the color scheme is a shocking red La Marzocco machine, which looked to be a GB5. I’ve not previously seen one other than in a chrome finish, this one is absolutely gorgeous.

Blue being my favorite color, if the machine matched the walls there’s a very good chance I’d still be standing there drooling over it.

The shop is clearly taking the coffee seriously, as they not only invested in that singular machine but also get all their beans from La Colombe, a Philadelphia-based roaster which also operates a chain of shops in a number of cities, including five cafés in DC. There’s also a good chance you’ve seen their canned cold brew and draft lattes in your local market.

Still room for improvement in the making of the drink. My macchiato was strong, chalky, bordered on bitter, and lacked complexity. Drinkable, and not bad, per se, but not up to the standard of the better shops in the neighborhood or La Colombe’s cafes. Style points for presentation, however, as the taller, narrow espresso cup rested on a wavy saucer and was accompanied by an artfully bent spoon. Again, the pieces were produced to a high standard.

There was a collection of baked goods in the display case which certainly looked appealing, and I liked the nibble I had of a dessert bar which was chopped up and set out for sampling. I was in need of lunch so I tried the one savory item available, what was labeled as a Greek five-cheese pastry. At risk of flaming cross-Aegean tensions, having lived in Istanbul I would join my Turkish friends in calling it börek. It was overcooked, drying out the pastry, but still delicious.

And I never thought this would feature in a review, but when I went to use the one restroom it was occupied. The young woman who came out a minute later looked me in the eye and said, “that’s a great bathroom.” And she was right. This might be the finest retail restroom you will experience. Same design scheme elements as the rest of the shop, with a marble vanity, same blue paint on the walls, brick accent wall painted white, gold accent fixtures. A beautiful blue and white tile floor. Spacious, sparkling, a delight.

So overall a positive impression, it’s a lush place to spend your time. Room for improvement in the coffee, but not hopeless, and it’s nice to have a little taste of luxury in this little gem of a shop. It’s been open for two months, and I’m not sure with what appears to be a lot of sunk cost how the business case will work in a low-margin business, but I’m rooting for them.

Café Georgetown
3141 N Street, NW
Washington, DC
http://www.cafegeorgetown.com/

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