This post is brought to you on location. I’m currently sitting on an old wooden bench at Big Bear Cafe enjoying a hot cup peach blossom white tea surrounded by exposed brick walls, wood floors, and an improv night. This place is it. It has it. I’ve spent my first three weeks in DC traveling from coffee shop to coffee shop and this is the closest I’ve gotten to this high unattainable picture of coffee shop perfection in my mind.
Alright. I may be a little dramatic but let me explain.
I recently transfered to American University from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR. I’m a Florida native, but Portland stole my heart, mostly because it was fluent in the language: coffee. As the birth place of Stumptown Coffee, the coffee shops are excellent and the brews are perfect. Needless to say, I have high and almost snobby, standards for coffee shops. I walked in to Big Bear and immediately felt like I was back in the NorthWest. Big Bear Cafe is located on the corner of 1st and Florida in NW Washington DC tucked away in Bloomingdale district. Surrounded by old row houses, the building is a white ivy-covered old house with outdoor patio seating and a small garden out front.
It is an urban coffee utopia. DC is a busy fast-paced city but every time I’m at Big Bear I feel like the noise of the city is silenced and the world stops. It’s a suction cup of warm serenity. My favorite time to go is at night because they dim the lights and the place glows. Each table is decorated with flowers from their garden and mason jar candles that seem to spark the perfect environment for conversation.
Big Bear serves way more than coffee. The food is a reason to visit in and of itself. This is not your Starbucks-microwaved plastic cafe sandwich. The food is so good. Let me say this again. THE FOOD IS SO GOOD. Most of the produce they cook with comes directly from their Sunday farmer’s market so it’s always incredibly fresh and unique. Their menu changes every week, but my personal favorite is their vegetarian chili. Holy crap, it’s delicious and has quite the spicy kick. Just a word of advice: If you go with a friend and you can’t decided between the Tacchino Marsala or the Vegetarian Chili, have your friend order the chili because if they are anything like Ali, they will wimp out and offer to give you the rest. Works like a charm.
I also hear their beer is really tasty. In a year, I’ll be legally allowed to comment on the quality of their alcoholic beverages, but until then, I’ll just say my friend Liese says they have a good selection of beers from small independent breweries and they make a mean Tom Collins.
My favorite thing about Big Bear, other than the Direct-Trade Counter Culture Coffee, brick walls, and tasty local food, are the Friday night events. They always have great talent from Blue Grass nights, to poetry readings, to improv nights. You can always expect a crowd and a good time. Ali and I often say DC is mostly known as a city you move to for a job, not for community. That bums us out and we are dedicated to proving that statement wrong. Big Bear Cafe is a step towards community in DC. It’s full of young, NGO-type people who always seem like they could tell really interesting stories. If your lucky, grab a spot at the big communal table and start a conversation. You never know who you might meet.
Practical tips: Big Bear Cafe is a tucked a way gem. It’s open till 11 weekdays and 12 am on weekends. It’s a great place for homework or coffee dates with friends. There’s plenty of parking along the street but it’s also metro accessible with the Red Line New York Ave or Shaw Yellow Line Metro stop a ten minute walk away. Wi-fi normally works great, but sometimes it’s spotty on busy Saturday mornings. Music is on point, and don’t be surprised if they throw on some MJ.
Stop reading this and jump on the Metro to Big Big Cafe. I promise you won’t regret it.
Hours of Operation
Monday to Thursday – 7am to 11pm
(patio closes at 9pm)
Friday – 7am to 12midnight
(patio closes at 10pm)
Saturday – 7:30am to midnight
(patio closes at 10pm)