There are great independent coffee shops in Washington DC in between all the Starbucks. These are 3 great spots with local flavor and cool beans, but not a lot of seats.
Swing Coffee House
The only explanation for people going to Starbucks in downtown DC is because they don’t know about Swing’s where you can get an incredibly good large cup of coffee for $1.98. The Swing family has been in the coffee business since 1916 back when it’s scary to remember what most Americans were drinking in the morning. They still brew their own coffee at their roasting facility in nearby Alexandria, Virginia. The seating area is very limited even with a small plaza area in the rear, but the longs lines move fast. While you wait, you can admire the old time fixtures including vintage burr grinders and wooden coffee bins. You can also buy their beans to take home, and the pastries are excellent at this Washington DC coffee shop. (1702 G Street NW, 202.628.7601, open Monday through Friday from 7 am to 6 pm)
Jolt & Bolt
You can find lots of independent businesses to support in the Adams Morgan neighborhood including coffee shops. Jolt & Bolt is one of the best values with free wi-fi, outdoor seating, and generous sized portions of mostly healthy foods like salads and fruit smoothies with everything under $10. It gets very crowded on weekends so it’s better suited to chatting than to getting any serious work done. The service can be erratic, and the coffee itself is nothing special except for the cold-brewed iced coffee which is a relief after all the places that just serve regular coffee iced and watered down. Everything tastes best relaxing outside in the shade on their alleyway patio. (1918 18th Street NW, 202.232.0077, open every day from 7 am to 8:30 pm and until 9 pm on Sunday)
Over on Capitol Hill, this coffee shop serves great coffee and pastries at reasonable prices. There’s free wi-fi, but you’ll almost always find that the tiny seating area is already full even when their small patio is open. Still, that gives you a chance to stroll through the historic Eastern Market next door. The high quality single-origin drip coffee is a bargain at $2. The monthly specialty drinks are big sellers, and the service is very friendly and accommodating of special requests like soy milk. (660 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, 202.629.4381, open Monday through Saturday from 7 am to 9 pm and on Sunday from 8 am to 8 pm)