Reviewing Madison cappuccinos once more: Ledger Coffee

Back in 2008 and 2009, I set out to review as many cappuccinos in Madison as I could. Back then the “third wave” had most decidedly not hit Madison, and the only place that had a first rate cappuccino (by today’s standards) was the newly opened (and still excellent) Bradbury’s. (You can go back and see those reviews by using the “Madison Cappuccino Reviews” category in this blog.)

My standards were also much different back then. I had yet to move to the east coast where I learned a lot about cappuccinos and coffee in general, and had the privilege to try drinks from some of the wold’s best espresso shops in New York City, LA, and Europe. I also undertook to review some of DC’s coffee shops on this blog when I was living there (“DC Cappuccino Reviews” category). DC is no New York or LA, but they have a thriving coffee scene. So I learned quite a bit.

A lot has changed in Madison’s coffee scene since then, and I feel the need to take a look around town again. The pandemic also did a number on local coffee shops. Whether it was the flight of experienced baristas from food service or those paper to-go cups, it seems that cappuccino quality really deteriorated during the pandemic. I’m hoping this trend has reversed a bit.

I’m going to be a bit more holistic this time. Rather than breaking down ratings by each aspect of the cappuccino, I’ll just give single rating from 1 to 5 stars.  Also ratings will only reflect the cappuccino itself, not the coffee shop in general or other items there.  But I’ll describe what is great (and not so great) about each cappuccino.  I’m only going to try one location for the chains, and there will be some I avoid (like that chain with all of the health-code violations….). I’ll start with a go-to coffee shop near my house, in a formerly abandoned feed mill and beet processing plant.

Ledger Coffee

3241 Garver Green Suite 140

ledgercoffee.com

4 out of 5 stars (Very Good)

Located in the redeveloped Garver Feed Mill, Ledger is the only first-rate espresso shop within walking distance to my house. So I find myself there quite a bit. Up until a few years ago I just knew this building as a decaying former beet processing plant behind Olbrich Gardens that I would pass along the bike trail. Now it contains an Ian’s pizza, a fish co-op, kombucha producer, yoga studio, and a number of other interesting businesses.

Ledger Coffee
Ledger Coffee

Ledger roasts their own beans on site, and is a pretty small operation. They only have a few baked goods from outside bakeries, and they often sell out of the best stuff pretty early in the morning. They only do to-go orders (sad paper cups). Although the Garver site has lots of seating outside, so you can linger. This means that if you want them to make your drink in a real cup, you need to bring it yourself. So I brought along a 6 oz cup from home, and they happily made me a cappuccino in it.

Ledger Cappuccino

The milk and foam were top notch, with some nice latte art. Of course, latte art itself doesn’t matter, but its presence is a good indication that the milk is of the right consistency (with micro-foam instead of course foam) and the barista is skilled.  The foam was sweet and smooth – perfect actually.

The only reason why Ledger’s cappuccino isn’t top-tier is the “flatness” of the espresso.  I don’t know whether this is a problem with how the shot was pulled or the beans, but the espresso seems to lack much depth of flavor. There is simply a slight bitterness and standard espresso flavor, but not much in the way of interesting fruit, caramel, or chocolate notes.  I know that their single origin coffees are very good (and interesting) when I’ve prepared them at home (either pour-over or espresso), but I haven’t been as impressed with their prepared espresso. That being said I have not tried their espresso blend beans, so perhaps that is the issue.

Even given the lackluster espresso Ledger makes a very good cappuccino. After all, I keep coming back for it! I also highly recommend their seasonal lattes, including the really impressive rose latte that they have been serving lately. They also have very good vegan donuts on weekends (they are really good…trust me!). But come early, because they sell out fast.

Baltimore – Some communists and some coffee

Baltimore is quite similar to many other cities in the US.  It has a city core that has seen some successful development, where any yuppy can walk around feeling safe and content, there are some bastions of blue collar urbanity, and some areas where no one with other options would live (or even visit). The last aspect of the city was featured in the HBO crime drama

Even benches speak the truth in Baltimore.

The Wire (which is pretty amazing). But I won’t talk about the last group of places, because I typically try to stay away from them (and anyway, they usually have disappointing espresso offerings). However, on a recent trip to Baltimore, Taryn and I checked out a few parts of Baltimore, and I learned a few things about the place. The most important being, that communists make pretty bad coffee (but I’ll get to that part soon).

In DC most of the large “classic” markets are dominated by yuppies and other upper-middle/upper class types. This is not the case in Baltimore. So if you are in Baltimore, go to Lexington Market (Open since 1782! – as their sign proclaims) to see what a non-yuppified market looks like. It is especially worth going to Faidleys fish market inside of Lexington. Their crab cakes are quite good, and if you order a fish sandwich they give you an entire fish on two pieces Wonder bread – good stuff.

But that all sounded like a plug for a tourist trap. We first checked out a communist coffee

Red Emma's

shop located in the Mt. Vernon area. Red Emma’s features all of your favorite leftist books and pamphlets, including a rather impressive section of books extolling the virtues of Fidel Castro, Mao, Lenin and other communist revolutionaries. Strangely, Stalin was less well

represented; given that he was at least as good at executing capitalists and other enemies of the state as Mao, I think he deserved some more attention. Maybe I should send them a note. Anyway, I suppose history can be rather cruel to perfectly effective leaders. Oh well.

Although Red Emma’s certainly has an interesting book selection (and I’m being honest here), this socialist experiment fails in the way that matters…their coffee isn’t good at all. Being a socialist (or so I’m told), this fact frightens me a bit. I guess I had always assumed that the alienation of a barista from what she produced was behind the terrible coffee at capitalist coffee shops like Starbucks, and that the elimination of this alienation would bring about a superior drink. My experience at Red Emma’s seems to disconfirm this. Perhaps Red Emma’s needs a bit of the fascism that other socialist states have used for “quality control” purposes. Who knows; well at least they are nice enough to have several computers that just about anyone case use, whether customer or not. So, as with any socialist state, it is probably best if you don’t contribute anything but use the goods the state provides.

We then hopped on the trolly to check out the Hampden neighborhood, which is adjacent to John’s Hopkins University. The neighborhood is well known for people saying “hon” to each other (as well as the certain type of people who are called “hons” – they have really tall blue hair apparently), and they even have a Honfest every June. But hipsters have also invaded. As you walk from the trolly stop, you will walk past modest homes with (at this time of year)

So you know where the money is at.

awesome Christmas decorations out front. It has a definite blue-collar feel that is terribly lacking in many cities. But as you walk east, you eventually reach a decidedly hipper part of town. The stores sell expensive home-goods and clothing, and cafes sell $3 coffee. However, we had heard about a coffee shop here that many think serves the best coffee in Baltimore, and we eventually stumbled upon the little pretentious coffee house that we were seeking.

Spro coffee boasts the most impressive selection of coffee types and brew methods that I have ever seen. You can have your cup made by Aeropress, Chemex, Clever, Eva solo, french press, pour over, Vac Pot, or espresso. However, it is quite expensive; a cup of one o f the more exotic roasts can range anywhere from $3-$7. We passed on the fancy brews this time; I ordered a cappuccino and Taryn ordered a spiced chai latte. The place is tiny, but we luckily were able to get a table.

The cappuccino at Spro

Our drinks took a while, and the baristas seemed rather disorganized, without an efficient system for making drinks. I found this rather odd, given that people seemed to be mostly ordering espresso and pour over, and there were three people working behind the counter. My cappuccino came eventually and looked beautiful, but Taryn was given a normal latte instead of a chai latte. Although the latte was good, for a latte, she told them about the mix-up and they seemed quite confused.

Eventually Taryn’s chai latte came out, and it was quite good, with an interesting spice combination. The cappuccino had excellent art, and the foam consistency was very good. This foam added a good body and sweetness to the drink that any good foam should. However, the espresso itself seemed a bit flat, without any interesting characteristics of its own. It simply had some basic chocolate elements, but even those were not very vibrant. So the cappuccino was ok, but I expected more from a place as pretentious as Spro. However, because I didn’t try a non-espresso drink (which seems to be their specialty), I’ll not pass judgment for now. I’ll certainly be back next time I’m in Baltimore. And I will be back; this is a cool town.

Peregrine Espresso – As good as it gets in DC

Peregrine Espresso

1718 14th St NW
Washington DC 20009

and

660 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Washington DC 20003

www.peregrineespresso.com/

Read about my planned cappuccino tour around the DC area.

Read about my first visit to the 14th street Peregrine just after its opening.

Peregrine along 14th st. NW (from a previous post)

I discovered Peregrine Espresso shortly after moving to DC, and I have been going there pretty frequently since.  As I wondered around the DC espresso scene, I soon realized that they likely have the best cappuccino in the district, but I haven’t had a chance to do a review.  But last week, I took my camera with me to 14th street location to drink a cappuccino and get some work done.  It was as good as always.

Peregrine has two locations; one in the lovely Eastern Market neighborhood of SE DC, and one on 14th St NW in the Midcity neighborhood.  It was started by an ex-barista of Murky Coffee, which was at the Eastern Market location before its owner Nick Cho was banished from DC. The Eastern Market shop is Peregrine’s original location, and is a little larger than the 14th street location (though they are both small), but both have the same sunny interior.

This time I checked out the 14th  St. location, because it is on the green line of the Metro (and I wanted to head to College Park afterward), but I usually prefer the Eastern Market location because its neighborhood is one of the nicest in DC.  The large market there is open every day and carries many meats, fishes, and vegetables; there is also farmers market and flea market on Saturdays and Sundays.  It is all worth checking out.  That said, 14th street is a pretty interesting area as well, close to the U st corridor, featuring several music venues, bars, restaurants, galleries, and furniture stores (actually, a ton of furniture for some reason).

Ok, now to the consumables.  Peregrine has really good muffins and other baked goods, but the real show is the espresso.  They serve Counter Culture Coffee, which is phenomenal stuff.  I almost always order the cappuccino, though their espresso and

Sometimes the latte art is even better.

pour-over coffee are also great.  I’ll give my tasting notes from this week’s visit, but it was entirely consistent with my other visits there.  The latte art was exceptional, and the microfoam was perfect.  The underlying espresso was a bit nutty and sweet, with the microfoam and milk mixing in to yield some nice milk chocolate notes.  Exceptional all around.  Ok, the numbers (all out of 5):

Smoothness: 4.8

Presentation: 5

Strength: 5

Complexity: 4.2

Foam: 5

Mean: 4.8

SD: .35

If you are in DC, you should head to one of Peregrine’s locations; it will be worth the trip.  I’m going to predict that this will be the best cappuccino that I find in DC, though there are several others that might come close.  In the next few weeks, I’m going to try to hit some of the places that I think are top contenders to match Peregrine’s cappuccino.  So we shall see.

Pound Coffee now on Capitol Hill

Today I checked out Pound Coffee (621 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC 20003), which recently moved to Capitol Hill from NOMA.  I hadn’t yet tried Pound at its previous location, but my interest perked once I heard that they are now serving Kickapoo Coffee from Viroqua, WI.  My favorite cafe in Madison, WI (and by extension, the world…) serves coffee from this roaster, so I had high hopes for a shop that serves it.  It was also apparently the best microroaster in 2010 (by Roast Magazine), so I’m not the only one who loves this stuff.

So Taryn and I stopped by Pound coffee to give it a try.  Luckily, I overheard a conversation between some of the baristas and a manager about the introduction of new size tomorrow….the classic cappuccino, which is 6ozs.  Their normal

Espresso and cappuccino

cappuccino has apparently been 12 oz.  So I inquired as to whether I could obtain one of these new fangled cappuccinos, and the manager seemed pretty excited that I was interested (he was complaining how Starbucks has made many customers expect every espresso drink to be at least 12 oz).  So I might have gotten the first “proper” cappuccino produced by Pound Coffee (that’s going to be my last snobbish sentence in this post, I promise).  It was pretty good.  The foam was near perfect, and the taste was quite nice.  I didn’t take a picture until it was half gone, but the cappuccino had some decent latte art when it was first made.  It didn’t quite match Peregrine, which is just down the street, but it gave me some faith that they will be making excellent cappuccinos in short order.  I also had an espresso, which was ok, but a bit awkward.  I imagine that any failings in their cappuccinos are coming from the underlying espresso.  It is possible that they haven’t quite adjusted for the change in coffees.

But can they seriously compete with Peregrine?  Well, if you really just want the best espresso in the city, then head on over to Peregrine; but Pound also has a full food menu (which looked pretty tasty), and Peregrine only has baked goods.  So if you want very good coffee and are a bit hungry then Pound should prob

Occupy DC tent city in McPherson Square

ably be your destination.

I also headed over to the White House area today for the first time since the “occupation” started.  I have to say, McPherson Square

is a mess.

I think I’m going to try to do some more dc cappuccino reviews this week; I have a lot of grading to do….

A trip to Chicago’s Intelligentsia Coffee

I knew there would be good coffee the moment I spied the fixies out front.

Taryn and I take a yearly trip back to Wisconsin from DC, and this year we decided to spend a few hours in Chicago before heading up to Milwaukee.  Neither of us have spent any significant time in the city, so we thought this would be a good chance to do some exploring.  The original idea was to visit one of Chicago’s northern neighborhoods (Lakeview), where Intelligentsia Coffee has its original coffee shop (at 3123 N. Broadway St.), via the L.  Intelligentsia is one of the best coffee roasters in the country, and some of the best coffee shops all around the country use their beans, so their shop seemed like a good excuse to travel out of the Loop.  So that was the plan.  Plans don’t always work out, and we found ourselves at the downtown location instead (apparently L stations require exact change…my fault!  Though I have to say that my short experience with the L made me long for the New York Subway, or even DC Metro).

But everything turned out ok, because Intelligentsia’s coffee shop at 53 E. Randolph St.is beautiful and spacious.  It is really quite shocking, for someone used to the cramped coffee shops of DC, to see what reasonable rents can allow.  So there was no trouble finding a seat.  We both ordered cappuccinos, and the

Impressive latte art

latte art was beautiful (and unique) on both of them.  The foam texture itself was nearly perfect.  The espresso was quite complex, with hints of both berries and cocoa, though there was a slight bitterness that was slightly off-putting.  We both speculated that a sweeter milk  may have helped this a bit.  I won’t give a rating but I think this cappuccino fell just short of some of the best coffee shops in DC (Peregrine) and Madison (Bradbury’s), though daily variability likely places Intelligentsia in the same league as those other places.  However, from what I tasted, I certainly don’t think that Intelligentsia is significantly better than these other places (many claim that they serve some of the best espresso in the country), and it doesn’t match the phenomenal cappuccino that I had at 9th Street Espresso in New York last summer (although the latte art was exceptional, I don’t give this a great deal of weight – cappuccinos are primarily for drinking, not looking).  But if you are in Chicago, go to one of Intelligentsia’s locations; you won’t be disappointed.

New Peregrine Espresso location on 14th st. NW

Peregrine along 14th st. NW
A cappuccino from the new Peregrine; it was good.

I finally got a chance to check out the new second location of Peregrine Espresso, which opened up a few weeks ago at 1718 14th st. NW (a few blocks south of the U st. metro stop).  The shop is a little smaller and a bit more urban industrial (exposed brick abounds) than the Capitol Hill location, but the coffee and baked goods are just as good.  I have yet to formally review Peregrine (I’ll get back to some more reviews next week), but in my opinion they serve some of the best cappuccinos DC.  Some of the baristas who have created such wonderful espresso drinks on Capitol Hill have moved to this location, so you can expect the same artful deliciousness.  Outdoor seating should be set up in the next few months.   Happy (coffee) drinking!

Chinatown Coffee – at least it is hip

Chinatown Coffee

475 H st. NW
Washington, DC 20001
www.chinatowncoffee.com

Read about my planned cappuccino tour around the DC area.

When Chinatown coffee opened in 2010, there was a great deal of excitement surrounding it.  Nick Cho, of Murky Coffee fame (who I have mentioned in previous posts), was even general manager at Chinatown for a while (before DC went after Cho for back taxes, and they ended their “relationship”).  In fact, Chinatown was the first coffee shop I went to in the district; it was supposed to be among the best.  The shop is located in the very lively Chinatown district of DC, close to a number of large offices, shopping areas, excellent places to eat (along with a good number of really crappy Chinese restaurants), and museums.   On paper, the place has a lot going for it.  However,  I have always found it to be a bit of a letdown; I have been here many times while living in DC and it has almost always been consistently worse than other top coffee shops.  But we will come to that a bit later.

Chinatown coffee is a rather small exposed brick shop; it is what you would expect from the pinnacle of hip urbanity.  They serve bottled beer and

from Bill Walsh at Honestcooking.com

baked goods along with their coffee, but no other food.  I have to say that the muffins are delicious.  Recently they have also hosted a variety of food trucks (all the rage in DC) on Thursday nights, very cool!  It is always seems crowded (regardless of the time of day), so expect this if you visit; as with many DC coffee shops, getting a seat can be a chore.

The cappuccino looked very nice, with perfect microfoam.  This sort of foam-perfection is the norm here.  However, I was not impressed by the underlying espresso, which is odd given that Chinatown uses one of the best coffees in the country (Intelligentsia, out of Chicago).  I’m not positive about why this is, but I

A really nice looking cap

saw that they were selling some coffee beans that were well over a week old; it is possible that they were using beans that were a little past their prime.  Regardless of why the espresso was lackluster, it lacked any real complexity and had an off-putting bitterness.  This is certainly unfortunate given how seriously they seem to take the preparation of their coffee drinks.  Here are the ratings, all out of a possible 5 points:

Smoothness: 3.3

Presentation: 5

Strength: 4.7

Complexity: 4.0

Foam: 5

Mean: 4.4

SD: .74

Chinatown is certainly the best coffee shop in its part of DC, however there are better offerings  in nearby Capitol Hill and Dupont Circle.  If you are in the area it is certainly a place to check out, but if you are willing to travel a bit there are better offerings elsewhere.

Qualia Coffee – some local beans

Qualia Coffee

3917 Georgia Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20011
http://www.freshofftheroast.com/qualia.html

Read about my planned cappuccino tour around the DC area.

Qualia coffee is (to my knowledge) the only small scale coffee roaster in the district.  They roast their beans in the backroom of their little shop, offering new batches of freshly roasted beans most weekdays.  I’ve often used these beans for both espresso as well as pour-over brewing, though I don’t think they quite match up Counter Culture (one of the other major brands used at coffee shops in the DC area).  So, I can already vouch for Qualia’s whole bean coffee, but I wanted to find out how their cappuccino stacked up.

The shop is located in the Petworth neighborhood of DC, which has historically been the northern edge of a historically African American area of the city.  It is actually an interesting region because it has, for the most part, maintained a

A row house coffee shop

large middle class population even though there has been, until recently, very little investment there.  However, it has recently become more diverse as an influx of upper middle class professionals and other young people have begun to buy and rent here.  Although this change has not been as rapid as that of nearby Capitol Heights, Petworth is certainly different than it was 10 years ago; for one thing, there is now a hipster coffee house serving expensive espresso drinks.

The shop is located in an unassuming row house along Georgia Ave NW.  Inside the first floor is a small seating area and the coffee bar.  I have to say, the entire place is quite gorgeous, and it is obvious that a lot of care was taken in setting it up.  Also, if you visit make sure to check out the roaster in the backroom of the first floor; many days you can watch them roast the beans that they serve.  There is also a larger seating area on the top floor, accessible from the outside using a door code.  It is one of the more pleasant coffee shops I have been in, and I really give them credit for having so much class.

But of course, the cappuccino is what I was really interested in on this trip particular trip.  On this trip, they gave me a cappuccino that certainly was not a pretty as what I have come to expect in DC.  There was no art, only a plop of white in the middle of the drink.  I think this is a problem of consistency, because I have gotten drinks that looked far better from the other barista here (this is a small place, so there are just a few people on staff).  When I took a sip I

I wouldn't call it "art;" though who am I to judge?

realized why the barista was not able to make very good art; there was too much macrofoam on the top of the drink.  A drink of only microfoam is required for decent foam-art.  So, the barista messed up a bit frothing (though it wasn’t terrible).  I was made a bit happier with the underlying espresso.  There were some nice chocolate and fruit notes, though there was a (very) slight bitterness from (ever-so-slight) over-extraction.  So, I was quite pleased with the espresso that they are serving here, though the poor frothing left me feeling a little underwhelmed.   The ratings follow (all out of 5):

Smoothness: 4.4

Presentation: 3

Strength: 5

Complexity: 4.6

Foam: 3.9

Mean Score: 4.2

SD: .8

I’ll be back to Qualia to buy their beans (especially because they are just down Georgia Ave. a bit from where I live), and will certainly get a cappuccino while I’m here.   I’d recommend that you come by and visit too!

Big Chair Coffee n’ Grill cappuccino review – a good machine is not enough

Big Chair Coffee n’ Grill

2122 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE
Washington, DC 20020
www.bigchaircoffeeshop.com

Read about my planned cappuccino tour around the DC area.

Most American cities are racially and economically segregated, and in that regard Washington DC is a typical American city. However, it is rarer for a single unmistakable boundary to separate the wealthy from the poor; DC’s Anacostia River is such a boundary. To the northwest of this river can be found everything that DC has to offer: the mall and the federal government facilities that surround it, the wealthy neighborhoods west of Rock Creek Park, the diversity and hipness of Shaw and Columbia Heights, the diverse middle class neighborhoods east of Rock Creek Park, and much more. There is crime and strife everywhere in DC, but overall unemployment is low and there is a general feeling that things are improving (whatever that means). However, the area southeast of the Anacostia is not experiencing the urban resurgence that has changed much of DC over the past 15 years; unemployment in most of this area is near 30% and profound poverty is widespread.

Likely as a result of this, these areas of DC lack basic neighborhood amenities, like decent grocery stores and sit-down restaurants, that most people take for granted. It is perplexing to see many neighborhoods northwest of the river (in fact neighborhoods that have far higher crime rates) prosper while nearly identical ones southeast rarely receive any new investment; there seems to be an irrational stigma attached to areas across the river. When I visited, I went with a friend who’s family had lived in DC for several generations; he was the first in his family to step foot anywhere in DC south of the Anacostia river.  I suppose, that is how bizarre segregation can be.

I crossed the river for a cappuccino. To be more precise, I went to the first and only place southeast of the river to serve espresso, Big Chair Coffee n’ Grill. Big Chair, in the Anacostia neighborhood, is named after a big chair across the

The big chair

street from it that was erected ages ago by a local furniture company (back when the area was more prosperous). Now, the chair is a local landmark, and I have to say it is certainly a big chair.

 

You should understand that I had some reason to hope for a good experience at Big Chair, and it is related to Murky Coffee (the now defunct coffee house that was run by Nick Cho), which I talked a little bit about in my review of North Side Social. When Murky closed its doors in DC, its property was auctioned off; this property included an espresso machine. The owners of Big Chair bought this machine before opening up shop in Anacostia, and it now makes all of their espresso. Even though they have an excellent espresso machine, Big Chair certainly isn’t focused on espresso. They have a full grill menu and a liquor license, so as I only had a cappuccino I can’t judge these offerings.

Big Chair is located inside a converted row-house; the main coffee bar and kitchen is on the first floor with more seating on the second floor. I went on a weekday early afternoon and

Outside image from dc.urbanturf.com and Gretchen Cook

there were a few people on the first floor, mostly reading or waiting for their food. I ordered a small cappuccino and went upstairs to do some reading. Unfortunately, my drink came in a paper cup; perhaps they thought I was taking it to go, but I didn’t give any indication of this, so they should have assumed that I was staying.

When I got the drink, the froth was quite poor, with a texture similar to

This was taken after the foam settled.

dish-soap (with very little microfoam) and below that mostly warm milk; the espresso was not much better. The taste was quite flat, with the common dull bitterness that occurs from poor extraction or old beans. If the espresso hadn’t been drowned in too much milk it likely would have been slightly offensive, but as it was it was just a bit boring. So, although their machine is legit, their cappuccino left quite a bit to be desired.   My ratings follow (all out of 5):

Smoothness: 3

Presentation: 2

Strength: 2.5

Complexity: 2

Foam: 3

Mean Score: 2.5

SD = .5

I was a bit disappointed with Big Chair’s cappuccino.  As I’ve heard good things about the other aspects of Big Chair, I suspect it is similar to a lot of neighborhood coffee shops that offer good drip coffee and food offerings but where the espresso is mediocre. There are many coffee shops in DC like this, and it makes finding good espresso a bit of a challenge. However, most people don’t really care how the espresso is, so these sorts of places are often still great assets to their communities.  So, to conclude, Anacostia certainly isn’t scary (as many local fear-mongers will lead you to believe), but it still doesn’t have good espresso. Maybe I’ll be back in a few months to see if things have improved; I’ll update if so.

Modern Times cappuccino review – unironically used typewriters

Modern Times Coffeehouse

In the basement of Politics and Prose
5015 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
http://www.moderntimescoffeehouse.com/

Read about my planned cappuccino tour around the DC area.

Politics and Prose is a rather famous part of the DC bookstore scene.  It is best known for its numerous book talks, that often feature prominent authors of all sorts.  It also helps that it is located in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods

A Google streetview image because I was feeling lazy

in DC;  a place full of rich people who like to attend book talks and actually buy new books from brick and mortar stores (pure craziness).  If this place didn’t sound cool enough, it also was rumored to have an  excellent coffee house in the basement.  Books and good coffee in a nice neighborhood – I had to see this.

Politics and Prose is located in a nondescript strip of stores along Connecticut Avenue NW.  The bookstore is quite nice (especially the discounted book section next to the cafe) and it would be a good place to browse.  It is also one of the more dignified  bookstores I’ve been to; it is the sort of place where you will see an older gentleman unabashedly set up a typewriter and begin his work as he sips coffee (I actually saw this).  The cafe is downstairs and was extremely busy on the Saturday afternoon I was there.  This is pretty normal for popular DC cafes; but if you go on a weekend don’t expect a seat.

The cappuccino at Modern Times

Modern Times has a menu that includes a wide variety of sandwiches and salads but, because it was so busy, I just ordered a cappuccino and  quickly took the seat of someone who was leaving.  Their cappuccino was a bit of an enigma.   The microfoam was excellent and the presentation was also quite nice.  The espresso element was too bitter, especially initially.  However, this bitterness gave way after a while (likely due to my own accommodation) to a dark chocolate flavor.  This kept my interest, even though it wasn’t the most pleasing taste.  My ratings (all of out 5) are as follows:

Smoothness: 3

Presentation: 4.6

Strength: 4.8

Complexity: 4.3

Foam: 4.8

Mean Score: 4.3

SD = .75

I will likely be back to Politics and Prose and will certainly get a cappuccino at Modern Times while I’m there.  However, next time I’ll try to come during a weekday when the cafe isn’t as busy; I suspect I’ll get a better cappuccino then.  I don’t think Modern Times is worth a trip by itself, but it is a good place to get espresso if you find yourself in the area.  Politics and Prose, on the other hand, is worth the trip.