The Coffee Bar: Borderstan’s Newest Cafe

by November 28, 2012 at 10:00 am 2,870 0

"Coffee bar"

Cait Lowry from The Coffee Bar at 1201 S Street NW. (Jonathan Riethmaier)

From Jonathan Riethmaier @DistrictBean or email him at jonathan[AT]


Coffee seekers are about to have a new spot to get their fix on, as The Coffee Bar becomes the latest cafe to bring specialty coffee goodness to the District. Pending city inspections, The Coffee Bar, located at 1201 S Street NW, intends to be open for business on December 5.

The product of DC resident and veteran barista, Cait Lowry, The Coffee Bar will be a neighborhood-centric cafe that takes its coffee seriously. She’s brought in three well-regarded, specialty coffee roasters, including Annapolis-based Ceremony Coffee Roasters, Handsome Coffee Roasters and Batdorf & Bronson. The Coffee Bar will serve a combination of espresso-based drinks, drip coffees and manual pour over brews.

The Coffee Bar becomes the latest addition to an already strong and growing list of coffee purveyors in the Borderstan area. The cafe’s location, just two blocks from the bustle of 14th Street, is intended to attract neighbors from the surrounding U Street, Logan Circle and Shaw communities.

“It’s a great balance of being close to the action, yet slightly off the beaten path,” said Lowry, who, aside from taking a very hands on approach to the cafe’s build out, has been busy introducing herself to her new neighbors. “Between hitting the streets and talking to our local community officials, we’ve received such a warm welcome and we’re so happy to be in the neighborhood. Really developing those relationships with your customers is what resonates with me and why I am in this business.”

A highlight of The Coffee Bar’s “coffee bar,” an area specifically dedicated for slower, more personal service, is the manual brewing station where coffee is served by trained baristas stripped of mechanical and automated assistance. The manual, pour over style coffee served at the bar is intended to bring out the maximum flavor potential of each coffee.

Lowry, the product of the local coffee scene, spent times as a barista and manager of several area cafes prior to opening The Coffee Bar. Her previous coffee work includes stints at Pound the Hill, Yola, Baked and Wired and Buzz Bakery. She says she looks forward to contributing to DC’s booming coffee community, this time as a business owner.

“I am just so thrilled and grateful to be part of the specialty coffee community here in DC,” said Lowry. “DC has a great and unique collection of coffee shops, and each one has something different to offer. They’ve been instrumental in furthering the cause of specialty coffee and delivering to the consumer, and I want to do the same.”

The Coffee Bar sits in the former location of a neighborhood market, though it has been empty for some time. The roughly one thousand square-foot space will give a nod to the building’s legacy by showcasing the market’s original sign on an interior wall. Other reclaimed and salvaged materials will add to the cafe’s aesthetic, which Lowry describes as vintage industrial.

“I wanted to use a lot of salvaged materials. Not only do they create a great look, but it’s also fun to talk about the story behind the pieces,” said Lowry, whose been scouring salvage yards and antique spots for decor inspiration. “Our condiment station is a fire mantel from an old Victorian town home in Virginia. We have tin tile panels on the walls from an old textile factory in Pennsylvania. The building itself is from the 1890s, and I felt an obligation to stay true to its historic roots.”

Between the coffee bar, lounge area, communal tables and few two-top tables, The Coffee Bar will have seating for more than 25 customers. Lowry says the seating is intended to promote conversation and socializing between neighbors, as well as the barista staff. Additional outdoor seating should be available in spring 2013.

Upon opening, weekday hours for The Coffee Bar will be 7 am to 6 pm and 8 am to 6 pm on the weekend. Additional details are at The Coffee Bar’s website.

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