Monday, June 2, 2008

Coffee/Riot: Open City

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, M.E. Swing, Grape and Bean, Crumbs & Coffee.

This post happened by accident. I usually end up at Open City on days like yesterday. Its just, I never plan too. Gorgeous out, 70-something degrees, orange sky and people, people, people, on the streets. No need to be in the house, I started out on a walk to no-where, beginning in Mount Pleasant. I figured, since I'd already been to Adams Morgan earlier in the day (buying movies at CD/Game Exchange), I'd make the trip across the bridge to Woodley Park, people watching along the way. Great place for it, eh. Anyway, yes, I end up in Woodley Park, home of a dozen or so quality, worldly restaurants, the "Adams Morgan" Metro stop, lost tourists looking for "Adams Morgan," conventioneers, zoo goers and a neat coffee shop and restaurant called Open City. I stopped there for coffee.

If you look closely, it's obvious that Open City is a sister business to Tryst and The Diner in Adams Morgan. All three have a generic, but organic feel. Safe, clean and comfortable. There's a curious narrative on the OC website explaining this aesthetic, in a round-about way. I pretty much agree. Stylistically it borrows from the best of what we think of an interesting and aesthetically pleasing cafe should be: close, intimate wooden tables, high ceilings, ton of outdoor seating, fans, low lighting, bustling energy. There is a latent sophistication to OC, even if the clientèle is mostly made up of townies, out of town visitors, tourists and college kids. You legitimately feel as if you aren't in DC while visiting Open City. It is a good feeling.

As for the coffee, it on par with Tryst. Not completely obvious if the two establishments share baristas, but I really like Tryst coffee and espresso drinks, and I feel the same about Open City. OC has a full menu, with full complement of breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch meals. After tinkering with the menu over the last three years, they've even added dedicated vegan options, which were scarce or questionably vegan just after the opening in 2005. The bar sports a 50-something inch television and today it was showing ESPN Classic. No one was sitting at the bar. OK, back to the coffee. There is so much going on at OC its sometimes hard to focus on the coffee. If you dine in, you are subject to table service, similar to Tryst. However, OC has limited seating for "waiting" customers outside the front doors. I usually order a coffee at the counter and sit outside, in the waiting area seats to enjoy it. Yesterday I ordered a soy cortado. So thick and bitter, it needs to be enjoyed while sitting down. Relaxed, able to savor. Perfectly drawn. So for the 10 minutes I was there, I relaxed, looking over the Omni Shoreham, Rock Creek Park and still imagined that I was in another place, anonymous, sophisticated happy. Then I remembered that I had to do laundry. Ugh, back to reality. Nice walk home tough, over the bridge and glancing the lights of 18th street, before settling back down in Mount P.

Open City is located at 2331 Calvert Street NW. Open daily until midnight, 1AM on weekends.