Monday, October 27, 2008

Coffee/Riot: Ebenezers Coffeehouse

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, Open City, Tryst.

Well, the sheer existence of this place had eluded me until recently. I rode my bike to the Festival on H in September. On the way back to Mt Pleasant I passed Ebenezers Coffeehouse. I didn't stop that day, but I've been back more than a few times since then. Ebz, for short, seems to be a legitimate 3rd place. There is so much going on there, I almost forget that they serve coffee, but that's not a mark against it. Ebenezers is owned by a church, although several visits passed before I even noticed this fact. The National Community Church built and runs the coffee house operation and attatched venue. This is the church which has services in Union Station theaters each Sunday morning.

Ebenezers has a photo of the building in which it resides that was taken before its renovation in 2004. It didn't look like much of anything but an dilapidated abandoned shack on a sleepy corner of Capitol Hill. The corner, F and 2nd Streets NE, is one block from Union Station and literally overshadowed by two large, imposing government buildings, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Thurgood Marshall Courts Building. Ebenezers has ample outdoor seating, is roomy and comfortable on the inside, and has a surprisingly vast and modern performance space in the basement level. Te line is nearly out-the-door busy during midday hours and is an after school (or during?) hangout for the School Without Walls students (the school's on G Street). The staff gets an A+ for service and the clientele is all mixed up with high school students, government office workers, hill staffers, college students and laptop folks. Yes, they have free wireless.

Several times I've caught myself people watching or way into the newspaper, forgetting about my coffee, but I made a concerted effort the last few times out to actually taste the stuff. It's good. Ebz uses fair trade coffee from a roaster in North Carolina. The house blend is fairly muted, but its consistent. Nothing to call home over. The espresso drinks are good as well; again, nothing extraordinary. Ebz recently started serving lunch. The only vegan option was falafel, and although it certainly doesn't go well with coffee, I tried it out anyway last week. It was wrapped up in a pita-like bread and pressed, sort of like a panini. I gather all of the sandwiches are prepared this way. For the few dollars that it cost, it got by as lunch. I won't be abandoning other falafel places in lieu of this place anytime soon though.

Total two-thumbs up to Ebenezers. If I lived in Capitol Hill, this would be a usual hang out for me. As it is, I'm finding ways to hang out there now, although its not at all convenient. to Mt P. Add it to your next excursion too Union Station or Eastern Market.

Ebenezers Coffeehouse is located at 201 F Street NE. Two block walk from the Union Station Metro.