Is it just us, or is the District getting crowded? Cramped even.
The next time you’re starting to feel the drag of a long week in our shrinking Capitol, try stretching your legs and grabbing a cup of coffee along a path less traveled.
A stone’s throw away from D.C. sits countless coffee shops with character in Maryland’s growing neighborhoods. We’ve taken notes on three specialty coffee shops in Maryland’s College Park, Hyattsville, and Ellicot City neighbrhoods. Here are the shops worth traveling for to get your coffee fix:
When To Go: Saturday Mornings
What To Get: Brasil Cerrado Gold (Pour-over)
Closest to D.C.’s city center is Vigilante Coffee Company, a craftsman coffee roaster whose original café and roastery in Hyattsville, Maryland has been producing highly rated beans and brews since 2012.
For years before opening his first brick and morter shop, founder Chris Vigilante roasted hundreds of pounds of beans for shops and restaurants in and around the District. Priding themselves on customer involvement and fair-trade coffee, Vigilante Coffee Co. is at home in the back of an old Ford Model-T dealership. Vigilante completes the industrial, homey look with skateboards decorated with different stages of the coffee roasting process mounted on the bar.
Be sure you bring friends to the coffee shop on Saturday mornings when Vigilante hosts small, single-origin coffee cupping sessions. You’ll be able to impress your co-workers with adjectives such as “baggy”, “tipped” and “horsey”. Oh, and don’t be surprised if you see Chris riding around the shop on his skateboard. Yeah, it’s that kind of place.
When To Go: Friday Nights
What To Get: Madcap Santa Rosa (Pour-over)
When you walk in, the first thing you’ll notice is the huge chalkboard above the bar. Then the striking orange couches and the half-dozen bookshelves filled with board games.
Created two years ago by two University of Maryland-College Park alumni, the café has since prospered into a booming full-service restaurant, not only serving craft coffee from top roaster Madcap Coffee Company, but also a complement of beer, wine and all-day food.
When To Go: Wednesday Evening
What To Get: Green Tea Latte
The final shop is a little out of the way, in both location and style. Caffé Bene (yes, there are two “f’s”) launched in South Korea in 2008 and was inspired by European coffeehouses with a distinct Korean flair. The chain grew exponentially in Korea, a country teeming with competing café’s, opening 650 stores within the country in its first four years of business. In 2012, the chain made its global launch with a flagship store in Times Square, New York City, and has since opened over 1,000 additional stores worldwide.
When you enter into the chain’s Maryland store in Ellicott City, you will see a veritable smorgasbord of pastries and baked goods. The café prides itself on its varied menu consisting of waffles, fresh baked goods, Korean-style shaved ice dessert and a wide variety of medium-brewed coffee. Patrons will appreciate the shop’s distinct Korean vibe complete with smiling baristas and K-pop playing quietly in the background.
The café may not seem like much, crammed between a liquor store and a bakery in a strip mall on Route 40, but the experience of another country’s culture is more than worth the drive. Also, the honey bread is to die for. You can thank us later.
Caffe Bene | 10039 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, MD 21042 | Sun – Thu, 8:00am – 11:00pm. Fri – Sat, 8:00am – 12:00am
Photography by Nathan Dumlao