Tabard Inn Brunch: One of the Best…Around!

So after years in DC, SPY finally made it to Tabard Inn for brunch. I know, it’s about damn time. For those that don’t know, the Tabard Inn is one of the most well-respected brunch places in the city. Built in 1922 as a Romanesque-Revival row house, it blends in perfectly with the townhouse neighborhood (a stark contrast to the tacky Topaz Hotel next door I might add), has a classic yet quirky interior, and a beautiful outdoor patio.

Beautiful shots of the grounds

Then there is the food. You see, the Tabard Inn is one of the best brunch places in the city for a reason, and that reason is DONUTS. The Tabard Inn makes their cinnamon sugar donuts and vanilla whipped cream fresh every brunch and they are SPECTACULAR:

photogenic donut

Honestly, I crave them even now. Since you must order the donuts, I recommend you get one donut and a savory entree. The menu changes each brunch, but I ordered a goat cheese, bell pepper and squash frittata, which was excellent, while ironcityspy had a sardine nicoise salad, which although an order FAIL (sardines really?), he did love. Wonkette also cited a savory tart that I covet but wasn’t on the menu that day.

Finally, as if the food and historic location weren’t enough, the Tabard Inn is eco-friendly. With beautiful green rooftop gardens and solar panels, it is modern in the ways you hoped it would be.

green roofing!

Yes, my illustrious readers, SPY fell in love with the Tabard Inn that day and I think you will too. Just make sure to get reservations. Walk-ins are possible (we did) but unlikely, especially if you are more than 2. The Tabard Inn is, in the words of the Karate Kid:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fWvub_WBho]

Internet and coffee sans hipster crowds? Try Steam Cafe

Sweatpants are A-Okay at Steam

So as I am currently “between jobs” (cough), I have become quite the tester of wifi coffeeshops. In general, I tend to evaluate them on a set of 6 criteria:

  1. coffee quality
  2. snack options
  3. hipster scale
  4. crowdedness
  5. background music
  6. availability of the internets.

For example, months back I blogged about MidCity Caffe, a wonderful option that scored very high in all categories, save it’s hipster scale reading of 7.0, which was due to the presence of 3 flannel shirts, a che hat and 2 NYT crossword puzzles being solved simultaneously. 7.0 is dangerously high.

I then started thinking about other options in the area, like Busboys and Poets, Tryst, Steam Cafe, and Kramers, and ultimately, it’s always the same basic face-off. Utilitarian vs. stylish, or in actual cafe terms, Steam Cafe vs. Tryst. Steam Cafe is the utilitarian model. And no, I don’t mean hipster exposed brick utilitarianism, I mean pure mall food court utilitarianism. Complete with hard chairs and grainy photos of ice cream cones. The Steam model is not trendy, but it is also not crowded. Family owned, classical music playing, the food is great but not that healthy. The internet works perfectly and sweatpants are welcome.

Juxtapose that with Tryst. THE Tryst. Open concept, hip tatooed cashiers, vintage comfy couches and chairs, very delicious coffee and food, and TONS of people. Definitely not the place for my fug olive-colored sweatpants. Music is usually good, but loud. Internet is perfectly accessible.

SO. Where do I go you ask? Where do I go if I need to use the internets with the company of a croissant snack ?? STEAM CAFE. In a second. Look, Tryst is great to grab lunch, take people from out of town, pick up some food to go. But to work? I just can’t do it. When I schlep my laptop around DC I need to know I will have a place to sit when I get there. I need to know I will have music at a decent volume, be able to look hideous and, because my computer is stone age, have an outlet to plug in to. Steam has these things, plus excellent paninis, plus staff that are unbelievably nice.

So if you need to work, you should try Steam. Just not on a weekend. We all hate people that camp out all day and only purchase one cup of coffee.

Best of DC winners and some DCspy opinions

Ok kids. The Best of DC results are in. Now, last time some DC results were in (i.e. my James Beard post), I thought I would get all bloggery and say “hey readers, let me know your thoughts!!” You know, because that’s what blogs do.

Yeah. You all failed. Basically, none of you commented except for empire state elitist who did not comment on the restaurants at all and instead talked about how much DC food sucks. Way to snark up the comments section.  ANYWAYS, learning from my mistakes, I have highlighted some of the Best of DC winners, MY thoughts, and could effing care less if you comment. take THAT…

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MidCity Caffé and the Blogger Coffeeshop Model

Many days I have walked past MidCity Caffé and wondered whether it got business. It’s located up a flight of stairs, not all that well signed, is small, people never walked in or out. It was the little engine that could of coffee shops of my mind. The coffee shop I loved being there but never actually supported by buying coffee from it (oh, you KNOW you have those things, ahem, Tonight Show with Conan o’ Brien, ahem, Snakes on a Plane etc, but I digress).

And then I went inside….

All the signs were there. Vintage utilitarian furniture, magazine racks filled with New Yorkers, maple syrup as a free coffee sweetener, young people in distressed demin typing on laptops, talking about how surreal it is that the Decemberists are on NPR now since they knew them when only 10 people came to their shows and it’s so ironic because of something something I can’t remember because I stopped listening because it was a super boring conversation and because I had REALIZED. MidCity Caffe wasn’t a struggling coffeeshop, no. It was a blogger coffeeshop. And it was doing JUST fine.

The kind of blogger coffeeshop that the bloggers probably hate me blogging about but the owners don’t because it’s actually a business.  Intimidated by the happy communal surroundings, I ordered a plain coffee (figured that was a safe and sufficiently ironic choice) from a genuinely nice cashier, and slinked back down the stairs to blog from the shadows of my studio.

MidCity Caffe has the blogger recipe down: the perfect mix of ambiguity, utilitarianism and David Bowie that will attract even the most diehard of bloggers. You know, like this:

Hipster Bloggers in NYC Habitat

Jesus. But more than that, it’s an excellent coffeeshop. The employees are nice, the coffee is good, the music is not overbearing, and you have a view of 14th Street. I have returned to MidCity probably 6 times since and will go back again. It really is a perfect little coffeeshop. Just come early or you may be waiting out a NYT crossword puzzle… and we all know how long that could take.

MidCity Caffé, 1626 14th St NW, DC 20009; (202) 234-1515 (will spymap), http://www.midcitycaffe.com/