Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mid City Caffe: A First Look

This morning, the 14thandyous headed down the street to check out the neighborhood's latest venture, the Mid-City Caffe. The coffee shop's opening has been anticipated for a while now and, despite some setbacks, they were finally able to open their doors above Miss Pixie's to the public this morning.

The decor in the space is very much shabby-chic. They've kept the original flooring of the space, and built around it with warm colors that give the cafe a very relaxed feel. The view from the second story windows out onto 14th street is nice, and despite a relatively small space they've done a good job with the seating arrangements.

As far as the product goes, the latte that I had was prepared wonderfully--not acidic at all, but with a rich flavor nd jut the right amount of foam (in other words, not the dense, burnt-milk taste one frequently gets with Starbucks lattes). Mrs. 14thandyou enjoyed a cup of tea, and both of us also had a bagel with cream cheese.

As was expected, the service was a bit slow and haphazard, although things weren't that disjointed. There did seem to be some inventory issues (most of pastries appeared to be gone when we waltzed in around 11 AM), and we had to twice remind the kind people working behind the counter of our bagel orders.

The prices were a bit steep, although not outrageous: $3.75 for a latte, and an extra 95¢ for "extras" such as soy milk or vanilla shots. The bagels ran about $2 ea; cups of tea and French press coffee also came in around the $2. In other words, slightly hire than the prices at chain stores, but the quality of the drinks appears to be far better.

So, to others who have had a chance to stop in: what do you think? Our feelings are that, with a bit of time to iron out the kinks, Mid-City has the potential to be a great addition to the neighborhood.


Anonymous said...

I thought it was just meh. The staff had that "first day and we don't know what we are doing" vibe, which was to be expected, but my latte was not amazing or anything, compared to what you get at murkey coffee. but the strangest thing is they only have one size coffee--medium (?). either they ran out of cups or this is the weirdest coffee shop ever.

payro said...

Agree with Anonymous - it was odd. A few comments:
- People were standing at the register waiting to order, and the staff was seemingly wandering around not knowing what to do, finally asking "have you been helped"? Ah, no, that's why we are standing here.
- The espresso is not served to go? What?? You can only get it for in the store. Confusing and dumb. Ever hear about meeting customer desires?
- Yes, expensive, but the worth mentioning that the quality of the espresso was much better than Starbucks (burnt) or Caribou (watery and burnt). It was an excellent espresso.
- That said, what they claimed was a "double espresso" was really a single espresso at Starbucks or Caribou. It took me about 2 sips to down the coffee - hardly a double. So the small size with the outsized price? Kind of a losing deal.
- Decor seems cool.

They need to work on service and meeting customer needs. And they need to think about value to the customer, compared to other places. Starbucks may not make great coffee, but Java House, on Q at 17th, makes a mean espresso for much less.

I'll try Mid-City again, but I'm not sure...

DCkarma said...

I give this place a BIG thumbs up for being the first to reach this complete dead-zone with high end, quality espresso drinks. Until now I have had to travel on foot or bike a mile to Big Bear, or three miles to Sova.

Yes, the staff was adjusting, but that's to be expected the first day. I expected it and walked directly up to the smiling girl at the register and was served promptly and politely.

I'm a mocha drinker, which makes it even tougher to find the right place as you have to nail the espresso, know what quality chocolate is, and how to balance the two. They nailed a bullseye.

The espresso is top notch. They rank in the top 4 in DC... Sova (#1 for me), Big Bear, Peregrine, and now Mid City.

Though the espresso at Sova has more of that rich, roasted, and smokey flavor, the milder roast at Mid City is very well balanced and works wonders prepared as a mocha. It compliments the chocolate they have created perfectly, and has a wonderful aroma.

For those who have taken the time to scout out the DC locations, the closest I can place their flavor would be with Peregrine. But this is based on a mocha and not a straight espresso.

The chocolate they use in the mocha is clearly made on site and is a real treat (not powdered, and with subtle hints of caramel I think). Whipped cream is also made on site, along with incredibly moist and well balanced tasting cakes, cookies and so on (I tried the spice cake...WOW).

Like with the other top locations, the process takes considerably longer than your 2nd-tier coffee shops (Tryst, Java House...), and moves as fast as pond water compared to your chain stores, or low end mom/pop shops. Making true quality espresso drinks is an art, So even when they get the kinks worked out, I expect they will still prepare their espresso like all masters of a craft would...slowly. Those who frequent my other top 4 picks will be acustomed to the prep time.

No idea on the size thing. I saw 2 prices for mocha on the menu, ordered the large and the bigger of the two cup sizes i saw on the shelf.

I'm definitely happy to have them in the neighborhood.

DCkarma said...

Stopped by today for a second round. Definitely noticed smoother running service.

Also paid more attention to the traffic flow of the customers. When I walked in there were about 6 folks looking like lost deer, hesitant to do anything. There was a girl waiting at the register, so I walked right to her and she took my order.

I think the confusion is occuring because the layout doesn't really allow for a traditional line to form. So the customers are afraid that everyone else is in front of them waiting to order.

I suggest until everyone gets used to the place, that if you walk in and see a cluster, make a decision as to weather they are trying to order, or just loitering. If the register is clear, and there is a staff member waiting at it, then I say it's free game to walk right past everyone and place your order if you know what you want.

Anonymous said...

What a major disappointment. The service was horrible, even by the standards of a new place. There was no sense of where to stand, where to order, and who to order from, and those are basic and easy issues to resolve. The space itself is not very pleasant. There are very few places to sit, and they are right on top of one another. The windows are relatively small. There are two small rooms instead of one big room. These factors, plus the fact that you are on the second floor, makes it a highly unpleasant place to sit for a bit. I was supremely excited about this place, but I was profoundly disappointed by it after two days. I will try again because I want them to succeed, but I am skeptical.

Anonymous said...

Went by on my way to work today. Place had about 9 people already settled in having coffee at 8:30am.

I was very happy with both the service and the espresso. Not sure about the problems mentioned...maybe it was the first day or two kinks?

Seating is packed in tight. I think this can be resolved easily by removing that wall between the two seating areas. It would open the place up big time and make it both look and feel more roomy.

Regardles, I will be a regular. I like the decor. Like the fact that they went for a totally different feel than a place like Tryst.

Very happy there is finally good coffee in the neighborhood.

Emily said...

I spent today working at Mid City, and loved every bit of it. Service was excellent, and the tables were set up well for folks who actually want to accomplish something, work-wise. I wish they had more food options, i.e. PROTEIN. The bagel and cream cheese wasn't enough to tide me over. Could they just sell pre-made sandwiches? How about some salami deliciousness from Cowgirl Creamery?

DCkarma said...

Cowgirl Creamery deliciousness...What a great thought! The idea of having a salami, ham or cheese bagette of that quality to choose from, along with Mid City coffee and patries sounds pretty darned good!

Espresso4Here said...

An espresso to go??? Who the hell orders an espresso to go?? Starbuck's (the fast-food of coffeeshops) has groomed you people to order whacked out coffee drinks, different sizes in another language, and programmed you to follow the fast-food chain motto "Have it your way." Just like their vintage, old school decor, Mid City Caffe is bringing-it-back with their coffee. They are knocking the hype off the Super-sized Nation and going against the grain of corrupt capitalism. They are educating the public on what a REAL coffee drink is by preserving the integrity of the bean. Temperature plays an important role in consuming a coffee drink, and to order an espresso to go, you should be ashamed! Expensive?? I think they need to charge MORE for their great coffee and the service they are providing to our community! Stop drinking the Haterade and do your research. Kudos to Mid City Caffe! Finally, someone got it right.

Anonymous said...

Ok, thanks PR shill.

Anonymous said...

went back again today. can confirm the coffee is still just ok and the "only one size" is actually a deliberate choice. still don't see the logic in that. again, if it was the best coffee I ever had, I could overlook the service and weird size thing, but frankly, it wasn't all that.
and espress4here--get over yourself. if I want a coffee to go, put the damn think in a cup and give it to me.

payro said...

Yeah! Corrupt capitalism is what is forcing us to drink coffee the way we want it! Mid City is taking it to those corrupt capitalists with their old skool wayz! That's why they are going to force you to drink your coffee there, in only one crappy size, and make you pay more for it!! They'll preserve the "integrity of the bean", man!! Oh, and the service will be beat too!! So take that, all you corrupt capitalists!! We'll treat you like the idiots we think you are, and you will LIKE IT!!

Oh, and by the way, no, I won't. Dude, get over yourself, it's a freakin' coffee shop, not a protest march.

Anonymous said...

ok I re-read espresso4here's post and I've concluded it was actually just a joke. I usually am better at picking up on sarcasm.
good one!

Anonymous said...

i guess it's that i'm not a big coffee drinker, but don't we have like ten coffee shops in the neighborhood already?

Anonymous said...

Espresso to go is stupid.

Anonymous said...

Coffee to go, yes. Espresso to go? ......really?

Anonymous said...

espresso is to go, at least in Italy. you drink it right away at the bar. that shot expires in 30 seconds, no need to even take it out of the shop! let's bring back EUROPEAN old school to the new world.

Anonymous said...

My espresso was delicious. The help friendly. I enjoyed the inventive interior & artwork by local artist/partner. Nice glow of light from the eastern facing windows. Much more interesting than any other coffee spot on 14th.

Anonymous said...

Recently A friend and myself tried out the new cafe, We found the service slow, coffee uninteresting and NO where to sit because all chairs / tables were taken by Laptops. This and any other business that allows Laptopers to sit all day with one cup of coffee are boound to loose potential returning customers.