Monday, February 11, 2008

Coffee/Riot: Dos Gringos

Coffee shops, cafes, whatever you prefer to call them, DC has its fair share of spots that serve up the caffeinated, addictive beverage in some form or another. Some are bakeries, others more restaurant-like, and others are self-identified coffee shops. I'll take on the dubious task of chronicling some of my favorite coffee spots in the city. Of course its not a dubious task, but in order to really examine the reasons behind their greatness (as decided by me) of any specific location, I'll deliberately visit each one, including a couple I've never been too, on a quest to uncover what's so unique and cool about them. If you have suggestions, well, suggest away. I know DC residents are sometimes fiercely loyal to their favorite coffee joints, so I'll mostly be heaping praise, and being posi. On the other hand, I appreciate coffee of varying quality, so all you purist can start your own blog. Previous Coffee/Riot posts: Sticky Fingers, Baked & Wired.

Dos Gringos

Well, didn't have to go far for this one. Dos Gringos is right in my backyard, here in Mt Pleasant. A quintessential neighborhood coffee shop and gathering place, Dos Gringos feels like it belongs in this neighborhood. If not for the empty cable spool, recycled tables and plastic lawn chairs out front, you may miss this place, housed in a row house and still looking very much like someone's den on the inside. The entrance sits above Mt Pleasant street in a relaxed and inviting way, looking friendly and open enough to invite you up the stairs without requiring you to make a commitment. Once inside, you'll notice that the chairs and tables are slightly miss-matched, but not in a sloppy way. The counter is located in the second "room" and offers menus in both English and Spanish. Of course there is coffee, and the house blend is REALLY good, just straight up; no sugar (ok, a teaspoon, maybe) and no cream/soy milk. Also its $1.75 with $.75 refills. In the past I wouldn't have gushed about that, but these days, to be able to put down less than two dollars and get a good coffee is becoming rare.

The full menu is extensive and includes a lot for the vegetarians and even the vegans. Mostly lite fare menu items you'd expect at a place like this; wraps, sandwiches, pretty good chili and soups. I did the 'coffee shop thing' and went on a weekend day with newspaper in hand and staked out a window-side table. Pretty perfect afternoon. I sat at a little two seater so I didn't feel awkward about taking up one of the larger tables, which can seat up to six. Politics seemed to be the item of the day for most of the other patrons. Old and young alike frequent this place. A few mom's with baby and many couples. The counter staff gives out all manner of funny little toys and objects for you to take back to your table. When your latte or bean wrap is ready, a staff member will trade your toy for the food. Always funny to see people walking around with little plastic animals, cars, or a school bus, which I had. Nice, fun touch. Cell phone use is not allowed, which is a policy I've warmed up to. Initially, I thought it was a silly rule, but I liken it to the quiet cars on a commuter train. Sort of nice not to have to sit through one of 'those' conversations right in your ear. I've seen the staff ask folks to step outside after answering a call. For better or worse the rule is posted and enforced. During the summer you can get a scoop from the downstairs ice cream bar and on winter mornings, grab a cup of coffee to-go from their outside stand, its only $1. Overall I do like this place. I feel like I don't go nearly enough, for it being an establishment literally steps from my front door. Its very homey, friendly, and the food and drink are good. If you ever want to stop by and see Mount Pleasant as a visitor, make sure to include this place; it really does represent a small slice of life for the neighborhood.

Dos Gringos is located at 3116 Mount Pleasant St NW. Its closed on Mondays.