Let’s set the scene.
For 1.33 years of my young adult life, my afternoon intake of iced nitro cold brews on the brick sidewalk of an overpriced yet picturesque neighborhood was swapped for a 7 a.m. homemade drip. Some may call that economical, resourceful, mature—even responsible. Let me assure you, this was no coffee cake walk.
It was a frantic time. I would desperately try to squeeze two cups from a singular coffee pot before four other similarly caffeine-addicted adults with no sense of decency or compassion did the same. The beans, those precious beans, became a matter not of joy, but war. Even more unfortunate, my quaranteam of siblings and parents failed to offer a full range of options for my daily fix. There was only one type of plant-based milk. Only one bean blend to choose from, and no artsy, helpful diagram that indicated where it was harvested. Not even the foundation of American coffee accompaniment, the blueberry muffin, was anywhere in sight. Don’t even ask me about the lack of croissants.
These were dark times. I missed my coffee shops, and I missed my city. I knew one thing was true though: they missed me too. In wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, local coffee shops suffered with the decrease in normal customer volume. Now more than ever, it was important to show support for my favorite jitter juice joints.
I’m Katie Woodhouse, and I am back to loving coffee shops. Hipster ones and cozy ones, basic ones and extra ones. Magic things happen within: old friends catch up, future spouses go on first dates, doomed couples go on last ones. Objectively terrifying squads of stranded middle school preteens take over tables, senior regulars sip espresso over the morning paper at their designated counter seats. Small towns, big cities, college campuses, airports, high schools—all brought together by a little caffeine bean.
Being back in D.C. for one final year, I have reincarnated my long dead coffee column: Coffee Chat. I will review the coffee shops of this capital I call home on five criteria: coffee, baked goods, ambiance, location and overall experience. Since I have no idea how many I trust myself to actually write, I promise to write each one as if it were my last—with vigor.
La Jolie Bleue
Virtual work and KT do not get along. Thus, one summer Friday in which I overslept my alarm by three hours, spent the next two lying on the couch watching knockoff Project Runway shows, and waiting for happy hour to come along, I decided what I needed was a dose of coffee shop energy to get me working. Not long afterward I found myself at La Jolie Bleue, a Mediterranean Cafe on Wisconsin and Q. It was the kick I needed—granted, I wrote this column instead of doing the actual work I set out to do. But hey. You win some, you lose some.
Coffee: 2.5 beans out of 5
Aight friends, I am back on my bullshit of truly basic coffee drinks. I know—why even write a coffee column if I’m not going to get the next oatmilk java latte caramel drip 2.0? We all have our faves though, and that afternoon it was the deliciously bitter, deep, refreshing taste of an iced Americano. Decaf, because my therapist won’t let me have caffeine after noon… quarantine changes people!
It was everything I wanted in the moment—cool, tasty, a shot of energy via reverse psychology to my brain. It was perfectly lovely, not the smoothest Americano I have ever had in my life, but nonetheless an average experience. Otherwise, La Jolie Bleue offers a full menu of typical espresso and drip coffee options, as well as a number of refreshers that looked excellent (prior to my wallet’s convulsions at the price). If you are a sucker for a special craft latte, however, this place is not for you. 2.5 beans out of 5.
Baked Goods/Food: 5 baklava out of 5
Yes. Yes yes yes. La Jolie Bleue has an absolute ~plethora~ of unbelievably delicious options to try. The shop is run by an Algerian couple, and their menu offers a wide range of Mediterranean cafe delicacies. They have sandwiches, daily specials, spanakopita, croissants (savory and sweet options), souffles, quiche, tarts (the veggie looked AMAZING), full meals, and small plates. Vegan and gluten free options are available. All food is made fresh daily on site, which considering the breadth of choice behind the counter, is remarkable.
On the recommendation of the lovely owner, I got the original baklava. It was simply phenomenal: texture incredible, honey sweet and deep, almonds perfectly ground, filo flaky. I could have eaten hundreds. Due to the time of day, I did not partake in the larger plates, but you better believe I will be back. La Jolie Bleue is not the place to come if you are looking for classic American coffee shop muffins and lemon loaves, but its unique and divine cuisine on the coffee shop scene garners the treasured perfect score. Also, they have gelato and sorbetto! Excuse me, what? Potentially the only remaining gelato spot in Georgetown, a true win. 5 baklava out of 5.
Ambiance: 3.25 patio umbrellas out of 5
La Jolie Bleue (“The Pretty Blue” in French, per Google Translate) is decked out, like the name implies, in lots of blue. It sticks to its guns! Inside the quaint space is charming, yet only features the coffee counter on one half and a single seating bar on the other. If available, this place is perfect to study in—Wi-Fi is free, vibes are flawless, and no overpowering music to seep in the earbuds and settle amidst your life soundtrack of choice.
Considering the small area, however, I always feel kind of bad taking up space from continually paying customers whose charming lunchtime catch ups may be intimidated by an undergrad poring over thesis work, clearly crying on the inside in the only seating area in the spot. Thus, in terms of studiability, La Jolie Bleue scores low on the inside. Don’t fret though—the God-sent extended Georgetown sidewalks have got you covered. Personally, I took advantage of a beautiful day to sit at one of the three (admittedly still few) blue (shocking) covered tables La Jolie Bleue offers outside. The experience is unfortunately dependent on weather, but truly delightful. Inside 2.5 out of 5 (due to limited seating), Outside 4 out of 5 (on a nice day).
Location: 4 hills out of 5
La Jolie Bleue is just far enough from campus to feel like you are exploring a bit, yet still incredibly close. It’s like so close to the brink of the Georgetown Bubble that it’s almost popped. Like the bubble is perched on top of a blade of grass and you are just staring… waiting… almost…… buttttttt it doesn’t pop just yet. The shop is found about three quarters of the way up the monstrous hill on Georgetown’s stretch of Wisconsin Ave., making it the perfect place to lovingly watch the neighborhood on a nice day. Also, to people-watch the urban hikers as they struggle up the aforementioned hill. 4 out of 5.
Overall Experience: 4 hearts out of 5
I just adored my experience at La Jolie Bleue. It was a spot that, considering its unique identity, ambiance, and menu, reminded me of something I love about coffee shops—the diversity among them. So much so, that I felt it fitting to sit down, minimize my endless Excel spreadsheets of thesis work, and write for the first time in about two years. This experience alone, a reminder of a little piece of what brings me true joy in life, renders this location a special place in my heart. It is a “pretty blue” gem (omg… see what I did there) on the crown that is the District coffee scene. Overall experience, 4 hearts out of 5.
Just a note: People drink coffee because it is magical bean juice that heals all of their wounds, but people go to coffee shops for community. That brings me to another part of my challenge. Every week, I am bringing a friend to study with me. This week I did not, due to the spontaneity of this column’s creation, but instead I will be writing a sweet note to a more abstract friend: this neighborhood we call home.
Every place has its faults, but absence truly makes the heart grow fonder. I love your aesthetic, including these poppin’ traffic buckets pictured that really enhance the pretentious identity you throw yourself into full steam ahead. I love that you are the place where Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors are inseparable from rodents of all shapes and sizes. I love that I can’t afford anything but your coffee shops and a certain flame falafel shop, yet love them so much it’s worth it anyway. I love your terribly impractical brick sidewalks, your infuriating altitude fluctuations, and your penchant for misled tourists, lined up by the dozen at 11 a.m. for subpar goods. I love that I was directed into T Sweets by a security detail and served at happy hour by a confused undergraduate in the same evening. Where one of the ritziest restaurants in the city has an aggressively college-like college bar in its basement. I love that this is a place where college seniors live next to retired heads of state. Where preschool students are led on daily walks via walking ropes and tourist groups via colorful umbrellas raised high in the sky.
So often, I walk down your streets and think you are the neighborhood equivalent of “smh,” but you are a coffee shop conisseur’s dream, and I am so happy to be back. Hoya Saxa people.
Any recommendations for coffee shops? Want them yourself? Comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org. D.C. is a beacon of great joe, as the experts call it.