(Updated at 12:40 p.m.) Adiam Berhane can be seen almost every day at her independent coffee shop at 1919 N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn buzzing about, bussing tables, serving drinks and carrying on conversations with customers like she’s hosting a large Sunday dinner.
Berhane opened Caffe Aficionado with her partner, Clark Donat, in October, and ever since it has been drawing something rare in this age of online criticism — almost universally positive reviews. It has a full five-star rating on Yelp after 26 reviews, rare for even the most well-regarded restaurants. Local food critic Don Rockwell was glowing in his review as well.
“Well, I may change my mind after thinking about this some more… but for now, Caffe Aficionado sits all alone, atop Rosslyn,” Rockwell wrote in December. “Even if this ranking is temporary, hopefully it will draw attention to what is one of the finest coffee shops in the area. I love this place, and you will, too.”
When Berhane was asked about the positive reviews, she mentioned the one negative review she received on Yelp (there are 24 five-star reviews and one four-star, which she also mentioned), frustrated because she feels the customer was mistaken in her criticism. The chief complaint: a supposed lack of skim, soy or almond milk lattes — which the cafe does now serve.
“Those hurt the most, the bad reviews,” she said. After being pressed to acknowledge the positive reactions, she said, “We’re really happy with it. I think it’s all about service. Follow the Golden Rule, it’s not that hard.”
Berhane and Donat rarely go a moment in the shop without talking to someone in their New York accents, and Berhane is most excited about the neighborhood’s reaction. She added a lunch menu with just four sandwiches — with options like a tuna sandwich with olive tapenade and no mayonnaise — and started opening on Saturdays.
The pair refuses to use any artificial flavoring in their coffee and espresso, which they buy from Handsome Coffee in California. They just recently started offering honey cinnamon and vanilla lattes, recipes Donat took weeks to perfect.
“We wanted to preserve the integrity of the coffee,” he said. “People are in search of something a little special, so people come in and they’re happy to get special attention and a quality product.”
Caffe Aficionado is open weekdays from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Caffe Aficionado, at 1919 N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn, is making its final preparations to open “within a month,” says owner Adiam Berhane.
Caffe Aficionado will specialize in American gourmet coffee and tea with an Italian flair. Berhane, who spent part of her childhood in Italy, will be shipping in coffee from Handsome Coffee in Los Angeles, which she thinks is better than many of the coffee brands other specialty shops in the area offer.
Berhane will also offer frozen drinks and blended beverages, made with a “Stealth” blender that’s quieter than comparable blenders, allowing a more serene coffee shop experience.
“I used to like to collect purses and stuff,” she said. “Now that I own a coffee shop, I like to collect equipment.”
The final month of preparations will include finishing the interior and hiring and training a staff, Berhane said. The store has already received its occupancy permit.
Berhane says the cafe will be open from early morning until 4:00 p.m. on weekdays, and will be open on Saturdays as well. Caffe Aficionado will sell only drinks and pastries at first, but Berhane plans to add sandwiches to the menu shortly after opening.
Thursday Night Throwdown, a monthly competition for local coffee professionals, will be coming to Bayou Bakery (1515 N. Courthouse Road) on Thursday. The event opens to the public at 8:30 p.m. and the competition begins at 9:00. The restaurant is technically closed during the event, but spectators can still what the competition and drink some artfully designed lattes.
About 30 baristas are expected to compete in the throwdown, fashioning leaves, hearts and more designs into the foam that sits atop the coffee drink. The event occurs monthly at a variety of small, independent coffee shops around the region, but only comes to Northern Virginia every once in a while.
Baristas can sign up for $5 each, and the winner of the competition takes home the full pot of entry fees.
The new Sweet Leaf Cafe in Courthouse quietly opened its doors this past weekend and handed out free food to customers who stopped in. Now, the restaurant is officially open for business.
Sweet Leaf Cafe moved in at 2200 Wilson Blvd, formerly occupied by Hikaru Sushi. It is the third location, with others in McLean and Vienna. Owner Arita Matini said she’s been wanting to expand into Arlington for a while.
“I love the young environment here, it’s so refreshing,” she said.
Matini believes the cafe stands out because it doesn’t specialize in just one food item. Customers can pick up a little bit of everything, including sandwiches, smoothies, coffee or all day breakfast items. There is also a kids menu and a variety of freshly baked treats.
“We try to do a little bit of everything but also try to keep it simple. We care about providing really good quality food and being part of the community,” said Matini. “Customer service is really big for me. I want to be sure that everyone who comes in is really happy when they leave.”
Matini grew up in Northern Virginia and was an interior design major at Marymount University. She was inspired to get into the restaurant business during her commute to and from Marymount because she felt there were too many chain restaurants in the area. She sought help from her mom, who owns Sweet Stuff in McLean. Matini says all the members of her family now play some role at Sweet Leaf Cafe.
“It wasn’t really something that we thought we were going to do, it was one of those things that kind of just happened. We all loved it and it was successful and we wanted to open another one,” said Matini. “My parents definitely helped me out. Without them, this probably wouldn’t have happened.”
From the couches in the lounge area to the doorknobs functioning as coat hooks to the pieces of an old chicken coop serving as a holder for bags of chips, Matini’s interior design education shows through. She travels around the area searching for unique antiques to adorn the restaurant. She describes the vibe as “farm fresh, country, like your mother’s home.” The free sunflower seeds placed on the table for customers to munch on also add to the country feel.
If things go well with the new location, Matini would like to expand into other areas of Arlington, such as Rosslyn. She hopes to have a grand opening celebration in a few weeks. Until then, the staff will continue serving the curious customers who have been steadily coming in.
“It’s been a good welcome to the neighborhood,” said Matini. “Everybody’s been really nice and welcoming.”
The Crystal City location of Caribou Coffee (2100 Crystal Drive) will be closing at the end of this week and the coffee shop’s Shirlington location will eventually be converted to a Peet’s Coffee and Tea store, ARLnow.com has learned.
According to employees, the Crystal City location will close its doors after Sunday, April 14. The store is currently offering merchandise like coffee, mugs and coffee makers for 50 percent off, we’re told.
The Shirlington location will remain open for now but will be converted to a Peet’s Coffee and Tea store “at some point this fall,” an employee said.
Peet’s, which opened its first store in Berkeley, Calif. in 1966, is majority owned by a German private equity firm that purchased the Caribou chain last year. Caribou announced on Monday that it’s closing 80 “underperforming” stores and converting another 88 to Peet’s locations.
Caffe Aficionado is hoping to open at 1919 N. Lynn Street, near the main entrance of the Corporate Executive Board building, at some point in April or May 2013. Owner Adiam Berhane, who spent part of her childhood in Italy, says she’s going for an Italian vibe, eschewing the laid back “Northwestern” vibe of Starbucks and other coffee chains, while serving American coffee.
“America beats Italy in coffee,” Berhane said. “I probably won’t be allowed back in the country after saying that.”
Caffe Aficionado will serve Handsome Coffee, which is roasted in downtown Los Angeles, and Steven Smith Tea, a high-end artisanal tea from Portland, Oregon. The shop will also offer hot chocolate, Liege waffles and locally-made patries.
Berhane, who speaks Italian, moved with her family from Italy to D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood later in her childhood (her parents own restaurants in Adams Morgan). Most recently, she was working in music management and magazine publishing in New York City, before deciding to open a coffee shop and “live a more Italian life” closer to her parents.
“I wanted to open a business I really like and that I’m passionate about,” she said.
The cafe is being designed by the same architects who design Taylor Gourmet restaurants. Berhane said she wants the cafe to emphasize ”elegance and service” while also being a welcoming “third place” for people to hang out.
Photo via Facebook
Clarendon Day Draws a Crowd — Thousands enjoyed ”picture perfect” weather at the annual 15th Clarendon Day street festival and 10K/5K race (photo, above) on Saturday. [Patch]
Victories for Yorktown, DJO, W-L — In local football action over the weekend, Yorktown defeated Hayfield 17-10 and Bishop O’Connell defeated Carroll 38-7 over the weekend. Both teams are now undefeated with a record of 4-0. Washington-Lee is now 2-2 after beating Mount Vernon 41-20. Wakefield is 0-4 after losing another lopsided game. The Warriors fell to Freedom South Riding 55-6.
Free Coffee at McDonald’s — McDonald’s restaurants are giving away free small cups of coffee through Saturday. The restaurant is offering the one free cup of coffee per person per visit.
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
The new Oby Lee Winery and Coffee Shop has opened at 3000 Washington Boulevard in Clarendon.
The restaurant is the inland version of the small chain of eponymous coffee shops owner Oby Lee once ran along the Delaware Shore. In addition to coffee and espresso drinks, the eatery also offers (via its flat screen TV menu displays) pastries, salads, fruit smoothies, wine, and tapas dishes. Seating is available both inside and outside the establishment.
Oby Lee is still in the “soft opening” stage, and is hoping to hire and train staff soon. While it was open for breakfast, lunch and dinner yesterday — its first day in business — Lee says he hasn’t set any definitive store hours yet. A more formal grand opening is expected later this summer.
Arax Cafe (5852 Washington Blvd) in the Westover neighborhood has closed its doors for good.
A sign in the window of the now-empty coffee shop reads: “To our extended family… we are sorry to announce we are closing at the end of the month. Thank you for 11 fabulous years!”
Arax Cafe enjoyed generally positive reviews on Yelp, where patrons raved about the shop’s Armenian specialties, including pastries and meat pies.
Hat tip to Megan F.
Oby Lee Coffee Roastery had several locations along the Delaware shore before owner Oby Lee (real name) decided to close up shop. In 2010, the store’s marquee Rehoboth Beach — winner of several “best coffee” awards in the local press — was put up for auction.
Now Lee is planning to open a brand new Oby Lee location at 3000 Washington Boulevard in Clarendon, with a special emphasis on wine. The shop will serve wine from its Italian estate vineyard, as well as charcuterie, tapas dishes, and espresso and coffee roasted on-site. Oby Lee will have customer seating indoors and on an outdoor patio.
Oby Lee is located in a space that was formerly a Quiznos restaurant and the short-lived Ganges Grill and Ice Cream. The space has been expanded to allow more indoor seating, we’re told. Also working in Oby Lee’s favor: new traffic signals and crosswalks that will allow more foot traffic to flow across the busy Washington Boulevard from Garfield Street and the main drag of Clarendon.
Lee is hoping to open his new ‘Oby’ location at some point this summer.
Interior construction is underway at a new Seattle’s Best Coffee location at 2450 Crystal Drive. The owners were originally hoping to open the store, which is now hiring, in mid-November. No word yet on when the store is now expected to open.
Also coming soon to Crystal City: a new California Tortilla location. The local Mexican restaurant chain is planning on opening a location on the southern portion of Crystal Drive, according to a source familiar with the plans.
The new California Tortilla — which would join the company’s Courthouse and Reagan National Airport locations in Arlington — will compete with a nearby Chipotle at 2231 Crystal Drive and with the District Taco cart, which makes regular visits to Crystal City.
South Block’s new espresso machine just arrived today (Oct. 26), and the eatery plans on serving coffee drinks brewed with Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso starting in November.
A manager tells ARLnow.com that the staff and atmosphere at the newly opened shop will remain the same, but owner Amir Mostafavi is tweaking the menu. In addition to serving coffee drinks, certain menu items — like Boar’s Head deli meat paninis — will be added.
There’s no specific launch date for the coffee bar and changed menu, but apparently it’s going to happen “sometime before Thanksgiving.”
Free Coffee Today — 7-Eleven stores are offering a free medium coffee, any flavor, from 7:00 to 11:00 this morning. [Facebook]
Marshals Service Sheds Staff Cars — The free ride is over for dozens of employees at U.S. Marshals Service headquarters in Crystal City, the Wall Street Journal reports. The law enforcement agency is sending more than 100 take-home vehicles, including SUVs and high-powered sedans, from its headquarters to its field offices. Since the cars were law enforcement vehicles with emergency lights, they allowed Marshals Service employees to use HOV lanes on their commutes to work. Now, only about 30 headquarters employees will have that privilege. [Wall Street Journal]
Lackluster Fundraising for Arlington GOP — The Arlington County Republican Committee has been running a fiscal deficit since the beginning of the year. Even with the November election approaching, the organization was only able to raise $4 during the first 28 days of September. [Sun Gazette]
Grand Opening for Yoga Studio — The new Little River Yoga studio at 6025 Wilson Blvd will be celebrating its grand opening on Friday with a weekend of free classes, massages, and giveaways, according to owner Stair Calhoun. [Little River Yoga]
Cafe Caturra, a Richmond-based coffee shop/wine bar/soup-salad-and-sandwich restaurant, is now open in the Arlington Ridge Shopping Center. The 3,400 square foot eatery, which features a decor partially made from reclaimed materials, officially opened its doors to customers on Friday.
Located at 2931 S. Glebe Road, Cafe Caturra offers specialty coffees, 24 boutique wines, two draft beers, and 20 bottled beers. The restaurant is offering mimosa specials on Sunday and is planning to eventually offer a weekday happy hour, according to marketing director Melissa Kirkpatrick.
The food menu includes soups, salads, paninis, pizzas, brioche sliders, small plates, cheese, charcuterie and desserts.
The restaurant will be hosting local musicians between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. on Wednesdays. It also has a local art program that will display works from local artists. Founder Jeff Grant says he hopes Cafe Caturra becomes a neighborhood hangout.
“We’ve built a strong heritage as a gathering spot for people in the communities we serve,” he said.
Cafe Caturra opens at 11:00 a.m. seven days a week. It closes at 10:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 9:00 p.m. on Sunday.
We’re told that a coffee shop recently approved for construction at 2450 Crystal Drive, near Buffalo Wild Wings, will be a Seattle’s Best Coffee franchise. The owners are hoping to open around mid-November.
The coffee shop will be located on a block that sits between two Starbucks — one at 2600 Crystal Drive and the other at 2231 Crystal Drive. Seattle’s Best, it should be noted, is a subsidiary of Starbucks.
Other coffee shops along Crystal Drive in Crystal City include Caribou Coffee, at 2100 Crystal Drive, and Dunkin Donuts, in the Crystal City underground near 18th Street.