Monday, January 28, 2008

Coffee/Riot: Sticky Fingers

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.

Sticky Fingers

I'm not sure there is a more unique set of circumstances that exists than the set associated with this place. After operating in a basement location in the no-man's land part of 18th St (near BP Gas, Jolt-N-Bolt) for a several years, Sticky Fingers Bakery, made a big splash after moving into the Park Triangle building in Columbia Heights. I don't have all the specs, but they must have tripled in square-footage in and helped anchor the retail options of the Park Triangle (Citibank, Pollo Campero, SCORE! Education, T-Mobile, OXXO Cleaners, others). They will be remembered as one of the local businesses to first populate the new version of 14th and Irving after this key intersection of Columbia Heights finishes its build-out. Some of the other indie businesses to stake a claim nearby are Nash Sports, Mayorga Coffee, Il Riconcito, The Heights and Los Rumberos.

Two of the biggest changes SF made after their move were in seating and coffee offerings. They are first and foremost a bakery. However, after adding a cappuccino machine and hiring trained, experienced baristas, some from other well-known local coffee shops, SF has become a destination for neighborhood people like me who really savor the idea of getting a cup of coffee or a latte and sitting in the corner with today's paper. They offer free WiFi and can seat about 20 customers comfortably, although on any given weekend afternoon, you'll see strangers doubling up at the same table and learning to make nice because of the squeeze. In the old 18th St location, there was seating for 5. No kidding. Six if one guy sat on the sofa arm. The staff are always friendly and one of the two owners is seemingly always there, baking behind the scenes. The clientèle are as varied as the neighborhood (its Columbia Heights!), but with a strong propensity for bicycle riding. You're liable to see as many locked up outside as there are people inside. In the good weather months, there's seating for another 8-10 people outside on the sidewalk. Unlike in Tryst, where table service ruins the idea of getting a quick coffee and lounging at your own pace, and Starbucks where your anonymity isn't always an asset, SF is small enough to be homey and accessible, but busy enough that you may run into friends, school mates, or your next door neighbor. Its a real community gathering spot in a neighborhood that is working out its identity in the midsts of massive change.

Sticky Fingers is located at 1370 Park Road NW. Its open 7 days a week.