Guide to Coffee Shops
By Sarah Cough / Edited by Jasmine Lee
Locally-owned coffee shops may not be as proliferate as Starbucks but when you need your caffeine fix these eclectic gems offer anything but a boring cup of Joe. From the freshest roast to the scientifically perfect brew, these shops offer quality and innovation that the national chains cannot. Whether you love your soy mocha non-fat latte or just a cup of black coffee, there is a locally-owned coffee shop that can satisfy your craving while giving you more than you ever expected, including eco-friendly coffee, a music venue and local baked goods. With so many choices out there it can be hard to know which coffee shop is the best fit. This guide to local shops makes your choice easy by providing everything you need to know about coffee shops in Northern Virginia and, most importantly, what makes them stand out in a world of cookie-cutter chains.
City of Alexandria
Coffeehouse Specialty: Cozy community shop that lets you linger
Bonus: Wi-Fi, canine seating, book swapping
St. Elmo’s offers more than just coffee. They create a community gathering place that offers free Wi-Fi, a “take a book, leave a book” policy and a comfy alternative to chain coffee shops. They even offer local music on Wednesday through Saturday nights.
Coffeehouse Specialty: Fresh roasted coffee
Bonus: A place for smokers
From the magnetic alphabet menu to the brightly colored walls and the upbeat jazz playing on speakers overhead, Misha’s is eclectic. They offer three varieties of coffee daily, which are roasted fresh on the premises, and a selection of coffee for sale also roasted at Misha’s. They even offer a rare find: a smoking room for those who still enjoy their coffee and cigarettes. The clientele here is generally a bit younger and more hip, but older locals enjoy Misha’s fresh coffee and vibrant atmosphere as well.
Grounded Coffee Shop
6919 Telegraph Road, Alexandria; 703-341-6612
Tuesday-Friday 6 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Coffeehouse Specialty: Coffee with a French flair
Bonus: Fresh gourmet pastries
Grounded is a small shop with French flair. Their specialty is pastries made fresh daily by the two pastry chef owners. Grounded is kid-friendly and offers a great place for families to hang out drinking coffee, playing board games and reading books. The coffee and espresso drinks are always fair trade and organic.
Grape + Bean
Old Town location: 118 S. Royal St., Alexandria; 703-664-0214; @GRAPEBEAN
Tuesday 4-9 p.m., Wednesday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.,
Saturday 9 a.m.- 10 p.m. (wine bar service starts at 11 a.m.), Sunday 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
Rosemont location: 2 E. Walnut St., Alexandria; 703-888-0709
Tuesday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-8 p.m.
Coffeehouse Specialty: Perfectly brewed specialty coffees
Bonus: Also a wine bar
Wine and coffee come together in this unique coffee shop, which now boasts two convenient Alexandria locations. What seems like a strange paring is brought together by the similar approach. Grape + Bean looks at coffee like they look at wine; there is a perfect way to brew so that the nuances of the flavor that can be enjoyed. Though they do not offer espresso drinks, the many kinds of coffee they do offer are all brewed to scientific perfection with a machine that calculates the exact brew time and temperature for each cup of coffee. Grape + Bean also offers a variety of loose leaf teas.
2406 Columbia Pike, Arlington; 703-271-0007
Monday-Sunday 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Coffeehouse Specialty: Fresh roasted coffee
Bonus: Free Wi-Fi
Fresh roasted coffee at Rappahannock makes this shop stand out from the crowd. It is also a cafe that serves a variety of light fare, but here the coffee, roasted and brewed fresh all day in-house, is really the star. They also serve baked goods and offer free Wi-Fi. It is great place to study or work quietly as the calm atmosphere and small tables are not great for groups.
Coffeehouse Specialty: Espresso
Bonus: Coffee with a conscience
The Java Shack is a fair trade-certified green business that encourages customers to enjoy their coffee without hurting the environment. This coffee shop stands out for its commitment to going green as well as for its friendly atmosphere where the customers are known by name. The Java Shack staff tries to create an environment where everyone feels welcome. Though they serve many drinks, their espresso is the most popular.
Coffeehouse Specialty: Fair trade coffee
Bonus: Progressive, artistic and literary community
This popular offshoot of the district flagship location offers the same local-centered literary feel in a smaller NoVA setting. Busboys and Poets offers free Wi-Fi, coffee, books and a gathering place for social activists and literary minds to hangout and talk about what matters to them. Busboys and Poets features a full menu and bar, as well as events like poetry readings and open mic nights.
4536 Lee Highway, Arlington; 703-527-3330
Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Coffeehouse Specialty: Flat white
Bonus: New Zealand-inspired, family friendly
Cassatt’s Cafe specializes in the flat white, a New Zealand drink similar to a latte. It is made by pouring steamed milk from the bottom of a pitcher over an espresso shot, creating a smoother drink. Cassatt’s offers both coffee and light daytime meals with a larger dinner menu and a Sunday brunch. An added NoVA delight? The walls showcase a rotating gallery of local artists.
3211 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-465-0145; @NorthsideSocial
Monday-Wednesday 6 a.m.-10 p.m., Thursday 6 a.m.-11 p.m.
Friday 6 a.m.-midnight, Saturday 7 a.m.-midnight, Sunday 7 a.m.-10 p.m.
Coffeehouse Specialty: French press coffee, breakfast sandwiches
Bonus: Wine bar, community events
Whether you’re looking for a quick cup of coffee during your morning commute or a place to socialize on the weekend, Northside Social always has something fresh to offer. This trendy and charming shop features fresh coffee and tea, as well as a full menu and second-floor wine bar. Insider tip: Metro or bike in; like most Arlington establishments, Northside Social has limited paid parking.
Lake Anne Coffee House
1612 Washington Plaza W., Reston; 703-481-9766
Sunday-Saturday 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
Coffeehouse Specialty: French press coffee
Bonus: Beautiful views, free parking
Lake Anne’s specialty is French press coffee and they offer flavored and regular roasts ranging from American breakfast to Swiss almond chocolate. Breakfast and lunch are served in a family-friendly environment with a view of Lake Anne and outdoor seating in warmer months. There is also free Wi-Fi available via lakeanne.net, which provides internet access to the restaurants at Lake Anna Plaza.
Coffeehouse Specialty: Cappuccinos and lattes
Bonus: Music venue by night, free Wi-Fi
This is anything but your ordinary coffee shop. Jammin’ Java is a cafe by day and music venue by night. This NoVA favorite showcases both local talent and an impressive set of national performers. This premier music club provides entertainment for all ages, including kids and teenagers.
Coffeehouse Specialty: Fresh micro-roasted coffee
Bonus: Free Wi-Fi, smoothies
Limited seating keeps this coffee shop more of a to-go location, but if a fresh cup of coffee is what you crave, this is the place for you. Annandale’s only coffee roasting machine is proudly displayed in a glass case in the shop where free Wi-Fi is offered and freshly roasted coffee is served. Located along Columbia Pike, Beanetics is a convenient stop for commuters.
13924 Metrotech Drive, Chantilly; 703-961-1081
Monday-Saturday 7 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
Coffehouse Specialty: Fresh roasted coffee, breakfast and lunch sandwiches
Bonus: Free Wi-Fi, iPads for customer use
Delicious French toast and a full menu of fresh paninis make Coffeesmith more than just an average coffee shop. You can bring a laptop or a book to enjoy with your coffee, tea or food, but Coffeesmith has four iPads available for free customer use.
Gusto di Vita
Various locations (Warrenton, Culpeper, Orange and Fredricksburg); 540-270-6543
Monday-Friday 6 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m.-4 p.m. (Warrenton)
Coffeehouse Specialty: Creative flavored drinks
Bonus: Drive-thru convenience
Gusto di Vita is a family-owned drive-thru coffee kiosk with four locations in Virginia. They offer a variety of coffee and espresso drinks including some year-round and seasonal specialties like Mocha Divine and Pumpkin-Pie Spice.
Coffeehouse Specialty: Brewing direct trade coffee
Bonus: Bakery items including fresh bread and sweet treats
Located in a renovated old gas station, Red Truck Bakery serves fresh baked goods and fresh brewed coffee with a local and sustainable focus. They get ingredients for their baked goods from local farms to keep their food as fresh as possible. The coffee they brew is obtained through direct trade, which means the producer is paid a fair price with no middle man.
City of Fredericksburg
1113 Jefferson Davis Highway, Fredericksburg; 540-479-1355
Monday-Thursday 6 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday 6 a.m.-11 p.m.
Saturday 7 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday 7 a.m.-9 p.m.
Coffeehouse Specialty: Fresh roasted coffee
Bonus: Free Wi-Fi, eClub
A fresh cup of coffee is best paired with a friendly barista and that’s exactly what you’ll get at Fredericksburg’s finest coffee house. The perfect hangout spot, Blackstone offers seasonal drinks and eClub for special opportunities.
Coffeehouse Specialty: Flavored and iced lattes
Bonus: Free Wi-Fi, cupcakes
Cupcake Heaven is a bakery and coffee shop in Haymarket that offers a rotating array of gourmet cupcakes. They even cater to those with dietary restrictions by offering gluten-free cupcakes. Cupcake Heaven has a full coffee and espresso bar with specialty flavored drinks to compliment the sweet treats.
Dolce Coffee House
703 E. Market St., Leesburg; 571-258-0801
Monday-Friday 6 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday 7 a.m.-8 p.m.
Coffehouse Specialty: Drip coffee, freshly baked goods
Bonus: Sushi, free Wi-Fi
Leesburg loves Dolce Coffee House and you will too! In addition to traditional coffee shop items such as coffee, tea and pastries, they also unexpectedly serve sushi. Dolce has free parking, takes phone orders and features a large open seating space where customers spend hours hard at work.
(Updated May 2013)