A transplant from Lexington, Kentucky, Austin Rutland has lived in the District for all of 2 months.

The 22-year-old wants to become a sign language interpreter and moved to the Washington area to pursue his second degree in Deaf Studies at Gallaudet University.

During the day Rutland works as a publishing assistant for Gallaudet University Press. When his days are over, he picks an area of DC and explores as much as he can. “I want to see every hidden gem of this city, and I think exploring is the best way to do that,” says Rutland.

As Rutland continues to navigate his way through a new city, he admits he’s found solace in DC’s coffee shop scene.

In today’s bustling cities, coffee shops are the new lounges. They are modern day watering holes for Washington’s creatives, students, entrepreneurs and virtually everyone in between. A place to congregate, be alone, and together all at the same time.

“I have a true obsession with coffee shops,” says Rutland.

“There is something about the atmosphere that intrigues me. I’m an avid coffee drinker, and I appreciate the gorgeous interiors of DC coffee shops. My current favorites are Dolcezza– particularly the one in City Center– Big Bear Cafe in Bloomington, and Baked & Wired in Georgetown.”

Feast Your Eyes on Dolcezza

“The Dolcezza near City Center is in a word: beautiful. I have a major obsession with modern interior design. The white marble counters and cool lighting fixtures have definitely made me take out my phone for an embarrassing amount of Instagram posts. I also love the black and white tiled floors. I also love their coffee of course.

Relax at Big Bear

Big Bear Cafe is a coffee shop in Bloomingdale that is almost hidden by masses of gorgeous vines and greenery, and it is my go-to when I need to be productive or take some nice coffee photos. My favorite part about this shop is the outdoor area, where they have benches and tables set up under strings of lights and vines. Their coffee is really good too, but the scenery and atmosphere of Big Bear is the reason I love it so much. It’s a quieter area, so if you need a break from the busy shops closer to downtown, this is a great coffee shop to go to.”

Get The Cupcakes at Baked & Wired

“Baked & Wired is a combination of two of my favorites things: bakeries and coffee shops. Anyone that knows me knows I live for pastries and all desserts in general, and the cupcakes at Baked & Wired are everything I need in life.”

“The cupcakes at Baked & Wired are everything I need in life.”

“My personal favorite is the Chocolate Cupcake of Doom. I love chocolate if you couldn’t tell. The coffee is just as delicious. There is something about the baristas that work there that give me the feeling of “wow, they really know what they’re doing.” Even with the line always out the door, they manage to keep it moving and make great coffee every time.”

“I honestly believe DC’s coffee shops have helped this new city feel more like home. For me, coffee shops are a mini representation of DC as a whole; a place where people from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and industries meet.

Going to coffee shops in different neighborhoods of DC has allowed me to get to know the kinds of people that live and work in that area, and get a feel for the personality of the neighborhood.I have also met friends and other creative minds in coffee shops. One photographer I met ended up reaching out to me to work on a shoot with him.

“Coming from Kentucky, where Southern culture is dominant, I always craved the atmosphere and lifestyle of a big city. And now that I’m here, I couldn’t be happier.”

Photography by Jon Fleming