capital quickie: washington, dc

December 1st, 2007


i thought it might be fun to take a 225 mile trip out of town and see what toscano tastes like, so i hopped on the amtrak to DC to see my friends awesome color play some rock shows in the south last week.

it was a short and sweet trip, just long enough to get my eardrums blown out and drink a lot of coffee. it turns out that george bush isn’t the only crazy person in washington, DC — i encountered numerous, ah, colorful characters in the nation’s capital. (not the least of which included the staff of murky coffee.)


my first coffee stop was murky capitol hill, where i ordered a vaguely expensive and startlingly large “small” cappuccino (what do you guys serve a “large” in — a 5-qt rubbermaid?) the barista warned me the milk might be a touch thin and she’d be happy to re-make my drink if i didn’t like it. it was fine — but having someone offer you a quality-control redo even before outing yourself as a total nerd is a nice touch sometimes. murky’s college-town-cafe vibe didn’t make much of an impression on me, but i’d be back in the morning.

from murky i headed over to big bear cafe in the bloomingdale neighborhood. big bear is warm and rough and cozy and seemed worth the wander over — but by the time i got there i was hungry and disappointed to see they had the same unimpressive (to me anyway, and admittedly at 6pm) selection of pastries that murky had. in a town the size of DC, it’d be nice if the *two* different places to get good coffee didn’t use the exact same espresso blend and pastry vendor. in fact it would seem intuitive to not. but maybe that’s just me. i had a fine macchiato and caught up with my friend david before going off to get my hearing damaged.

in the morning i returned to murky coffee. i ordered a macchiato, better than last night’s capp but not as tasty as the one at big bear, and did work for an hour, still no impression of this place either way. until i ordered a second drink. and then a guy who cleans up garbage for the capitol district came in wearing a long blue cape with a star on it. and a woman named alice who makes marker drawings of trees and diamonds and napkins and sells them for $5 approached me unintelligibly and tried to sell me her artwork — luckily i’m from chicago and this woman was significantly less intimidating than wesley willis. soon i was introduced to murkies deva, zack and anne boatner, and before i knew it anne was setting up “coffeemakers” — the coffee version of the boilermaker, famous-ized by katie carguilo at the mid-atlantic regional barista championships — which involves dropping a shot of espresso into a half-full glass of milk and chugging the thing. and in this case, chugging it at noon on a basically empty stomach. jesus christ!


ten minutes later owner nick cho comes in to repair some stuff, looks around the bar and says: “where are all the shot glasses?!” umm…

yeah, okay, even though i can drink toscano at every cafe in NYC, i’ll admit it — murky has magic. i’ll be back to order an “emergency postcard” and a coffeemaker from these nutjobs real soon. i think i love them. the prices are high though — must be because they sell to all those diplomats. i hear diplomats love chugging glasses of milk on an empty stomach. see you at coffeefest, murkies.

3 Responses to “capital quickie: washington, dc”

  1. Mike

    Next time try Tryst if you’re nearby. It’s no Murky, but the latte art is gorgeous.

  2. Lana

    thanks for checking out the bear! we do infact use the same pastry vendor (for some reason pastry bakers are few and far between in DC) but our espresso blend is different than murky’s. although same roaster.

  3. Nori

    Thanks for the review! Though I lived in DC for almost 2 years, I never found Murky; on the strength of this review, I made a point of hitting them up on a weekend trip back there a few days ago — and was so happy I did. Now I’ve got some Toscano sitting on my desk here at work, and eagerly await my espresso hour this afternoon …

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