The best coffee shops and cafés in Washington, DC

Need coffee? Need coffee now?? Kick back with a rejuvenating java at one of these superior cafés and coffee shops

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With so many bookish staffers cranking late nights on Capitol Hill, analysts cranking late nights at Booz Allen, and engineers cranking late nights in their start-up’s home office, you’d think DC would be rife with coffee shops. You’d be right. DC’s caffeine scene is not entirely 24/7—though some cafés, like Tryst in Adams Morgan, come close. With sprawling couches (and an occasional Washington Post), outdoor seating, and such elevated menu items as house-made fig scones, chocolate croissants and Virginia sausage sandwiches, these days coffee shops in the capital offer a lot more than a mere cup of Joe.

Of course, there are old staples that continue to provide a real DC feel as well as great coffee. The weekly evening schedule of entertainment—from film screenings to poetry readings—and a library of independently published literature have made Busboys & Poets a neighborhood hub. If you’re looking for more European flair with your café au lait, head to authentic French bistro L’Enfant Café (the Bastille Day celebration here is a force majeure). For a caffeine fix with more character than you get at the chains, consult our list of indie coffee shops and cafés.

Afterwords Café

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 2/4

The best place in DC for a first date—you meet in the adjoining Kramerbooks and rejoice or despair at your new friend’s taste in literature—Afterwords Café tries to be all things to all people. Bustling and capacious, the glass-enclosed dining room serves food

  1. 1517 Connecticut Avenue, NW, (at Q Street)
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Breadline

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 1/4

On a Downtown block with plenty of other quick breakfast and lunch options available in the area, Breadline is always packed. This counter-order sandwich bar has earned cult status among Washingtonians for its soups, salads and gargantuan sandwiches, made with

  1. 1751 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, (between 17th & 18th Streets)
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Busboys & Poets

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 2/4

It may not have the most exciting food (burgers, salads, sandwiches, pizza), but no matter. Busboys & Poets is an exciting space in and of itself. Located at the corner of 14th and U Streets, NW, it was established by Andy Shallal, an Iraqi American artist,

  1. 2021 14th Street, NW, (between U & V Streets)
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Café La Ruche

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 2/4

Quaint from the outside, a little more hip on the inside, La Ruche is a comfort zone for Francophiles who don’t want to drop a big wad of cash on their cuisine of choice. They gather here in swarms, making a buzz of conversation while waiting for chef Jean-Claude

  1. 1039 31st Street, NW, (between K & M Streets)
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Café Milano

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 3/4

The crowd here is as much of an attraction as the food; you might spot Michael Jordan or a visiting movie star in this multi-room complex. Even the non-famous clientele are for the most part young, rich and glamorous. The menu—and the atmosphere—ranges from casual

  1. 3251 Prospect Street, NW, (at Wisconsin Avenue)
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L’Enfant Café

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 2/4

L’Enfant does its best to deliver decent French stalwarts, like boeuf bourguignon, at a reasonable price with reasonable speed. Dimly lit but welcoming and warm, it’s an ideal spot to spend a winter afternoon; in spring and summer, its outdoor patio gets lively.

  1. 2000 18th Street, NW, Adams Morgan, (at corner of U Street & Florida Avenue)
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Pâtisserie Poupon

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 3/4

Light and airy in a modern European sort of way, Pâtisserie Poupon gets points for presentation and attitude. The tarts and cakes are just like you’d find in Paris, and the menu is short but oh-so-French: salade niçoise, crudités, quiches, baguettes and brioche

  1. 1645 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, (between Q Street & Reservoir Road)
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Sticky Fingers

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 1/4

Best known as a bakery, with a well-loved range of top-quality cakes (cupcakes a specialty), pastries and cookies, Sticky Fingers also serves vegetarian sandwiches and other savories, among them a whole range of veggie burgers and a veggie chili dog.

  1. 1370 Park Road, NW, Columbia Heights, (between 13th & 14th streets)
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Taylor Gourmet

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 1/4

This mini chain of delis was started by two guys from Philadelphia, and it shows: the hoagies—high quality Italian-style ingredients piled high on thick, chewy rolls—are all named for streets in Philadelphia. There’s the Lombard Street, stacked with soppresata,

  1. 1116 H Street, NE, (between 11th & 12th Streets)
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Teaism

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 1/4

Freshly baked naan and Thai chicken curry are on offer at this café-style oasis from the bustle of urban living. Whether you stop off for a cup of chai or a bento box, you’ll feel ready to pound the pavement again. Afternoon tea with ginger scones and lime curd

  1. 2009 R Street, NW, (at Connecticut Avenue)
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Tryst

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 2/4

Not quite a club, a bar, or even a coffeehouse for that matter, Tryst makes a great community living room. Overstuffed chairs, comfy sofas and country-style kitchen tables—not to mention the free Wi-Fi access—create a hip, relaxed vibe without feeling collegiate.

  1. 2459 18th Street, NW, (between Belmont & Columbia Roads)
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