Coffee Country: Big Bear Cafe

Big Bear Cafe

As a tourist to DC, I relied on my friend to show me around, and while there, I made him aware of my fascination with coffee. He said to me, “before you leave here, I’ll take you to a great coffee shop.”

Big Bear Cafe is that shop, and I have to agree with him on that. Every bit of the experience prior to ordering reminded me of other truly organic independent cafes across the country. The place feels warm and old fashioned. The casual, intellectual vibe existed both inside and outside, where we ended up enjoying our cups of direct trade brew. They know how to prepare a good cup of coffee, and they do it with a smile.

The coffee was great – strong, well balanced, a perfect pick-me-up after a morning at the farmer’s market. They get their beans from Counter Culture Coffee, a well-known distributor in the area that prides itself on all things coffee. I take that as a promising sign, and the staff at Big Bear agree.

I felt like a regular sitting outside, drinking and chatting with my friend the day before I took off to continue my cross-country trip. I took a button from them that had they’re adorable “Big Bear” logo on it, a memory distilled, even after several future experiences of coffee consumption.

Next time I visit DC, I plan to revisit this place.

Big Bear Cafe
1700 1st St NW
(between N Florida Ave & N R St)
Washington, DC 20001

Review originally published on Yelp.

Coffee Country: Tryst Coffee House

Tryst Coffee House Bar & Lounge

2459 18th St NW
(between N Belmont Rd & N Columbia Rd)
Washington, DC 20009



Tryst is one of those coffee shops that feels like home to locals, and hell to tourists. I was a tourist, but I actually really enjoyed the atmosphere. Granted, there’s no pleasure in hunting for a seat at peak hours, but the payoff is in the traditional cafe experience.

Small tables with chairs, couches and coffee tables, places by the fireplace (do they work?) where you can read a book, write a book, or talk with others. I was there to write a book, and enjoy a coffee. Waitstaff bring your orders straight to you, lest you lose your seat, and they don’t mind you camping for hours. Just be sure to tip them.

Their coffee is great, and that’s with options. You can have a house drip or their french-press, whatever your pleasure, and I like that. And, if you want to get drunk, then good news! It’s a bar as well.

Their food menu is really… bohemian. They didn’t serve eggs, which is less than ordinary, but they have black forest ham, and honey, and tasty bagels, among a wide variety of healthy items. I made my own sandwich, and the waiter actually took it down as a possible item to add to their menu. No matter, be prepared to try something different. Their baked goods looked good.

I was well-cared for, and definitely would make that a regular hangout if I lived in DC. My fondest memory of that experience was when I reached the end of my stay. A trio was hovering around me, sensing my departure. One of them was wearing a legitimate sports racing jacket, and when I started to collect my things, he jumped on it like a tiger on it’s prey. Expect that when no other seats are available.

On the Train – 6

Washington D.C.

Waking up the next morning, I was not upset that I would spend Valentine’s Day without a lover in my arms. The trip and this journey would be me ethereal companion, and with Epstein’s help, as with everyone else’s help on this trip, I would make the most out of this fleeting moment on the train. Happy Valentine’s Day. My gift – a memorable walk up and down the National Mall, a two hour excursion, full of discussion about our nation and our beliefs. Half the walk was dedicated to the beatnik wisdom of Alan Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, and the other half, from the monument to the capital building, was wholly devoted to the connections and differences between Buddhism and Judaism.

“Buddhism elaborates on the concept of compassion. Infinite, everlasting compassion.” Even as I said those words, I coughed or hiccupped at the unbearable truth that I don’t know a damn thing about Buddhism. I only know how to be compassionate. It’s a hard concept to tackle, especially when Epstein knows so much more about Judaism and spirituality overall. All that aside, I know now how fundamentally different the two dogmas are. It opened the floor to a discussion about forgiveness, and Epstein was having a hard time finding the divide between forgiveness and condonation. There is a difference, but more importantly, to forgive is to personally relieve oneself of the stress induced by another’s wrongdoing. Whether or not you condone it is individual of your ability to forgive the negativity influenced on you… Epstein dropped me off at Union Station after that, and my odyssey through unknown frontiers would truly begin.


On the Train – 4


Washington D.C.

Photo Credit – City Guide

Hammer took me to Yum’s Carryout on 14th and U to finally try some mumbo sauce. Mumbo sauce is a tangy blend of duck sauce, barbeque sauce, and a third (secret) ingredient that makes it a DC-specific slice of culture. Go to any carryout in the city (Chinese carryout, to be precise) and ask for it by name. Ask for it on your fried chicken, your fries, and your dumplings. Hell, ask for extra sauce on the side, and dip whatever you want in it. The subtle blend of sweet and tangy goes well with anything. It was worth having fried chicken and chicken-fried rice for breakfast that morning because I got to taste that authentic flavor of inner-city culture. The juices made my palette yearn for more, new, things.

Just wait, my senses. Just wait for what’s ahead.


On the Train – 3

Washington, D.C.

Union Station. Just like the many Metro stops in the city, the grandeur of its layout reminds me of that luxurious sense of space I felt the last time I spent a weekend in DC. My friend Hammer was on his way to pick me up, and following a moment to capture this sense of space, my peaceful appreciation of the station was interrupted by a homeless man who sat next to me. He looked at me with cold eyes and spoke at me with a warm voice until I turned to acknowledge him. My brother warned me about these types; it was just odd I would have to heed his advice so soon after leaving Brooklyn.

Despite my obvious aversion to eye contact, he continued the conversation. He spoke of hitchhiking from Florida to dispute the lack of recovery efforts being made to support the growing number of homeless veterans in the country. Underneath it all, he was planting seeds of guilt and sympathy in me. If he knew I was unemployed, perhaps he would not have led me on so much. “Are you a veteran?” He asked me, but we both knew the answer before I said anything. “Us veterans, we got to help each other out.” I did not feel like helping him out, unfortunately, and welcomed the text message from my good friend Hammer, telling me he was outside. I picked up my bags, wished him well, as well as I could, and left that awkward air for good.