(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.