Monday, May 12, 2008

Coffee/Riot: Crumbs & Coffee

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.

When Crumbs & Coffee opened a few years ago, I was excited. This was well before the coffee shop explosion in Columbia Heights, but well after Starbucks moved into the previously haunted corner of 18th and Columbia. I thought "Finally a coffee shop which isn't a chain (Starbucks), doesn't have table service (Tryst) and doesn't shun wireless internet (Dos Gringos)." Sadly, the only remarkable feature was the free wireless. I tried to make Crumbs my coffee shop. I went on Sunday mornings with the paper. Once a month or so I took my laptop down to the shop and surfed or listened to music. I tried to eat there a few times (not much vegan food, just bagels). I generally did my best to support a new local business.

It never caught on, personally. The owner and a woman who I surmised to be his daughter worked there tirelessly for the first year or so serving up OK coffee and espresso drinks while trying various configurations of furniture (couch? no, no couch. well. maybe a small one. no. nope. no couch) and menu options. They finally settled on the ubiquitous coffee and lite fare model, with the full compliment of hot and cold coffee drinks plus sandwiches and salads. Recently they added a Dunkin Donuts-type line up of pastries and doughnuts. I was surprised, and while there recently they sold an impressive handful before noon. The coffee is sufficient, but I was a little miffed that you couldn't get a real cup to drink out of. Only paper to-go cups. Sad. I last went on a weekend and there were 8-10 laptops out, making use of the free wireless. Obviously this is the biggest draw. For the cost of a small cup of coffee you can plop down and surf the net at no additional cost for as long as you wish really. There are a ton of electrical outlets and the connection is fast.

I guess that brings me to the conclusion. Crumbs had potential. Its at a crossroads, in the heart of Adams Morgan. Its adjacent to the Safeway, under an apartment building and fronts onto one of the busiest roads in the Ward. But it's just so..... blah. Single laptop users don't engage in conversation. Its the quietest coffee shop I've been to in a while. I wish they had kept a miss-matched couch or two to liven the place up. And for the love of good coffee, buy some ceramic mugs for those of us who want to linger a bit and enjoy the coffee. If Crumbs had another gimmick, or actually made really great coffee, or some other distinguishing factor besides free wireless, I'd be more excited. But they don't. For now, its a perfectly nice, indie coffee shop with a decent selection of pastries and good service. All in all, not bad, just not quite on par with the other shops nearby or reviewed so far in this series.

Crumbs & Coffee is located at 1737 Columbia Road NW. Open daily until 9:00pm.