The Wydown Coffee Bar
1924 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
When the clock hits 5:00 PM on Friday evening and the city streets vacate after rush hour, I often wonder where the people of DC go. In terms of American metropolises, our nation’s capital is as white collar as it gets. And after the business hours of 9-5, it can sometimes feel like a small town rather than a major city. So what do the citizens of DC and the surrounding suburbs do for fun when they aren’t in the office? What do they wear on the weekends if not pantsuits and business attire? I’ve contemplated these thoughts ever since I moved to the city about a year and a half ago, and I think I may have finally found my answer at the Wydown Coffee Bar on the corner of 14th and U.
I made the conscious decision to check out the Wydown on a Saturday afternoon for a variety of reasons. For one, it’s conveniently located next to the local Trader Joes, and I needed to go grocery shopping. And while I realized I may run the risk of not being able to find a seat, I also knew that mid-afternoon on Saturday was one of the busiest times during one of the busiest days at the Wydown, and that meant I’d be able to truly get a taste of the culture-one that became evident to me in the strength of the coffee and the eccentricity of the atmosphere.
I’ll admit that when I arrived at the Wydown I was a little overwhelmed. People were standing and speaking loudly near the entrance, and I wasn’t quite sure where to go from there. I felt like I was in a bustling bar, but it was daytime and people were drunk off caffeine and life rather than alcohol. However, once I gained a sense of where I needed to go, I made my way to the counter and ordered a regular coffee. Sometimes the best, and least expensive way to judge a coffee shop is to order the simplest beverage on the menu.
Yet this cup of coffee was anything but simple. It had a strong aftertaste with just the right amount of tang-any more flavor would have been too much; any less would not have been enough. I usually take a half a sugar with my coffee, but this coffee didn’t even need to be sweetened. It was THAT delicious.
Almost all the tables at the Wydown are communal, which allowed me to be observant without appearing nosy: the writer’s dream. There is no WiFi connection, which leads me to believe that it is truly a place meant for people to disconnect from their technology and connect instead with friends and books and food and art. The upbeat and global dance music playing at the Wydown added an extra flare to the already colorful climate. The mood had “positivity” written all over it, and the people followed.
I sat down at a long wooden table at the front of the café that was decorated with a few copies of The Washington Post, available for guests to read at their leisure. Also seated at my table was a woman speaking on the phone in a foreign language, a younger girl reading for pleasure, and a well-dressed couple enjoying a Saturday morning coffee together. The customers and Baristas at The Wydown exhibited a level of trendy that seemed more Brooklyn than DC.
When I wasn’t observing the people at The Wydown, I was admiring the art that dressed the walls, namely eleven thick pieces of paper painted with beautiful patterns and drops of coffee. If you thought that coffee stains couldn’t possibly be a form of art, think again.
Contrary to popular belief, there is a DC that exists away from capitol hill hearings, election blues, and workplace hierarchy, and I got a glimpse of “the real DC” at the Wydown Coffee Bar. I’d like to think there are other places like this in the nation’s capital, and it’s only a matter of time before I discover them for myself!