As you might expect, I’m pretty well immersed in the Coffeeneuring Challenge. Being married to MG, the founder of the challenge, makes it easy for me to know the timetable and rules. Since we love the bicycles and the coffee shops, the challenge adds some sparkle to the post-summer cycling season, the one otherwise known as fall.
In case you need a refresher, the rules are simple. Visit seven coffee shops in six weekends from Oct. 1 through Nov. 11, all at least one mile away from a starting point. Take a photo and send MG a writeup of the visits. Last year I completed the challenge with about 90 minutes to spare on the final day. This year I got to that final shop on the last day, again, but at least it was in the morning.
I set my own personal challenge this year — all stops had to be new to me. First-time visits all. This got me to start consider suggestions from other Coffeeneurs as they Tweeted and posted on blogs about their own trips. In all, it was a great way to discover the diversity of coffee hotspots in D.C. and get to neighborhoods out of my normal routine.
I’ll probably go back to all of them over time. There are really good shops around here that are making great espresso.
Without further ado, here are my results:
Coffeeneur Stop No. 1:
Place: Shoes Cup and Cork Club, Leesburg, Va.
Date: Oct. 6
Distance: 106 miles
Rating: 4 Stars
MG and I rode with our pal Chris N. from home to Waterford, Va. for the town’s annual fall festival and back through Leesburg, Va. We spied Shoes on our outbound leg and made sure to peek in on the way back. Shoes is in a former shoe store, hence the name. We enjoyed the comfortable interior (with shoes hanging from the ceiling), friendly staff and tasty baked goods. Their espresso was very good, certainly the best I’ve had in Leesburg.
Coffeeneur Stop No. 2:
Place: Kafe Bohem, Washington, D.C.
Date: Oct. 13
Distance: 7 miles
Drink: Espresso (and a croissant).
Rating: 4 Stars
I stayed home most of the day after we went to see the Washington Nationals lose (and how!) their deciding playoff game the night before. Sadness.
After lunch I threw this solo coffeeneuring run together as an excuse to get out of the house. Kafe Bohem is the little coffee shop attached to Bistro Bohem in the hip U Street/Shaw neighborhood north of downtown. I got there in the late afternoon and a few mopey patrons were inside silently glaring at their laptops. The espresso was good. I’d stop there again but maybe at a more lively time of day.
Coffeeneur Stop No. 3:
Place: Big Bear Cafe, Washington, D.C.
Date: Oct. 14
Distance: 9 miles
Drink: Espresso and croissant.
Rating: 4 Stars
Big Bear is a notable presence in the historic Bloomingdale neighborhood north of the Capital and Union Station. It has outdoor seating and a pretty big coffee and food menu, along with an expansive tea selection.
This coffeeneuring run saw us meet up with our Friday Coffee Club pals Kirstin and Tom. They’re mainstays of the trail running and ultrarunning scene and there’s a lot of similarities with randonneuring to discuss. Plus, they’re cool and fun.
They rode over in perfect warm fall temperatures and we met up just as Felix Baumgartner was getting ready to set a new solo parachute elevation jump and speed record. We and some other patrons were streaming the livestream on our phone. Mine had a hard time keeping up (thanks Sprint!) but we got a play-by-play from the folks at next table. Way to go, Felix!
The service gets somewhat overwhelmed at this popular place. That said, the espresso was just fine and we had some brunch snacks that were really fresh and good. Afterwards we went to Eastern Market, looked around for awhile and had a proper lunch. Thanks for the fun, K & T!
Coffeeneur Stop No. 4:
Place: Common Grounds, Middleburg, Va.
Date: Oct. 20
Distance: 83 miles
Drink: Espresso and pumpkin bread.
Rating: 3 Stars
Another coffeeneur stop within an all-day outing. With Mike W. and Barry B. we went out to the Virginia horse country for an 83-mile mixed-dirt and paved roads ride called “The Road Less Traveled.” It’s a randonneuring permanent ride (more here about all that) one can ride for credit toward various awards, but we didn’t register in case a shortcut was needed. Plus we threw it together at the last minute so it was better to just go and ride.
Common Grounds is right on the main street through wealthy Middleburg, home the D.C. area horse-and-Range Rover crowd. The tables outside were full with people enjoying more spectacular warm fall weather. We sat inside and got coffee, Cokes and snacks. The espresso was good, no complaints, and the staff was nice. Sometimes I think places outside the city don’t have the freshest beans — the pull was done correctly but the taste was a little flat. Still, a welcome stop late in a pretty and epic ride.
Coffeeneur Stop No. 5:
Place: Lot 38 Espresso Bar, Washington, D.C.
Date: Oct. 21
Distance: 14 miles
Drink: Espresso and an unremembered treat.
Rating: 4 Stars
Lot 38 is a little place in the newly renovated Southeast D.C. neighborhood along the Anacostia River near the Nationals Stadium, the new Transportation Department headquarters and the Navy Yard. We stopped there on a loop to the grocery store for some afternoon caffeine and a treat, and to see it in person. It is just 1.1 miles from home so the roundtrip would qualify as an official coffeeneuring outing. I believe this is the closest refined coffee shop to us, throwing out the Starbucks at the Safeway two blocks away.
The attraction at Lot 38 is Illy Coffee, which can be terrific in the hands of good barista. That was the case today. Even though the neighborhood was very quiet with no office workers about, the espresso was fine and they had some kind of fruity baked bread that I’m told we both liked. Seating is upstairs in a spartan layout that overlooks the neighborhood.
Coffeeneur Stop No. 6:
Place: Open City Coffehouse Diner & Bar, Washington, D.C.
Date: Nov. 3
Distance: 16 miles
Drink: Espresso and a cookie.
Rating: 5 Stars
We were run down from the workweek and had a big ride the next day (The Grand Fondue, another hilly dirt roads ride from Middletown, Md.) so we rambled around town and stopped at Open City near the Adams-Morgan neighborhood.
It’s the work home of Sol Schott, master baker and the ride leader of the BicycleSpace Cupcake Ramble ride on Saturdays. We did one of his rides earlier this year and enjoyed some truly amazing coffeecake that Sol handed out to us at the rest stop, complete with honey that his backyard bees generously shared.
Open City is mostly a big upscale diner. They have a full service espresso bar, though, and we got a double espresso for me and a warm drink for Mary, and a cookie. The tables were full on this day with clouds and cool air, which drove everybody indoors. We found a place to stand by the bar and Sol came over to talk for awhile. Great to see you Sol!
The espresso was excellent, and the cookie was, as you might expect, perfect. Open City got one of only two 5-star ratings from me this year, with the cookie helping bring home that final star.
Coffeeneur Stop No. 7
Place: Sova Espresso and Wine, Washington, D.C.
Date: Nov. 11
Distance: 7 miles
Drink: Espresso, chocolate croissant, muffin.
Rating: 5 Stars
Sova is a little storefront cafe with extra upstairs seating, situated on the eastern end of H Street NE. This is an area of older homes and faded businesses northeast of the Capital/Union Station area that is attracting a lot of new investment.
We rode the 127-mile D.C. Randonneurs Flatbread 200K on the Eastern Shore the day before and were super tired, so a local stop was in order today — the final day of Coffeeneuring 2012. The espresso was perfect and the baked goods were awesome. I think my standards were a little low because of fatigue but our drinks and food hit the spot.
There was a simple exhibition of impressive nature photos by a young soldier who died. His wife was showing them in his honor. After awhile another Friday Coffee Club regular, Ben, came in and we talked for awhile.
Another five-star stop, with the best espresso of the bunch. This was a quiet, pleasant way to end this gentle adventure.
We really enjoyed coffeeneuring this year. By setting a goal of all new places I discovered shops and neighborhoods that have added much to my knowledge of D.C., and gave us new places to stop in Leesburg and Middleburg. Thanks to MG (and randonneur Joe Platzner, whose suggestion the CC is based upon) for the awesomeness that is the Coffeeneur Challenge.