Why is it so hard to find a good bagel in D.C.? When I lived in New York, I would go on bagel benders. Irving Place bagels got me through the first three years of my career, when I was pulling all-nighters at work (and at play) seven days a week.
Since I moved back to D.C. three years ago, the non-existent bagel scene has been hard to cope with emotionally, but a blessing in disguise for my waistline. My fellow New Yorkers who also reside in D.C., are acutely aware of this bagel crisis. I’d be lying if I told you we haven’t seriously considered quitting our day jobs, writing a business plan, and opening a District deli that simply served awesome bagels.
The best bagel I’ve found in the District is a Bullfrog Bagel from Glen’s Market. That is until The Royal, a coffee shop by day and bar/kitchen scene by night, opened in Ledroit Park. The restaurant is named after the location’s predecessor, the Royal Liquor Store, and is now owned by the Vinoteca family. It’s quickly becoming a neighborhood stalwart.
Despite looking like a regular café from the outside, The Royal is actually influenced by South American cuisine. You’ll find arepas, plantains, Guava pastries, and other variations of Latin-inspired dishes, mixed with American morning staples like bagels, corn bread, and a Nutella pinwheel.
Royal has quickly become our go-to coffee shop on the weekends. If we need to have a productive morning, or just a leisurely quiet cup of joe, we head two blocks from our apartment and land here. The space is inviting with large floor-to-ceiling windows, several outdoor tables, a long wood communal table, and a cozy upstairs space that entices you to spend the day.
There is no table service, so you grab a menu, pick a seat, and head to the bar to order your food. You receive a number for your table and the food is delivered.
We started off our laid-back morning with two iced coffees and a Nutella pinwheel. I haven’t had Nutella in a while, and after devouring this pinwheel, I’m not sure why. The pastry was a warm hybrid of a flaky chocolate croissant and a decadent cinnamon roll, topped with powdered sugar. Each layer we pulled back was better than the last. Good start.
Clearly, we were here for the bagel. So, we ordered the everything bagel sandwich and egg arepa. Each came with a fried egg, but the arepa was a lighter sandwich consisting of cojita cheese, tomato, and avocado stuffed between two arepa patties – think two mealy pancakes.
It comes in a bowl, which is a charming presentation, but is impractical. Inevitably, the sandwich falls apart and the fixins’ are everywhere – definitely don’t order if you’re on a first date. I almost always end up unwrapping the sandwich and placing it onto a flat plate to cut in half. It’s still messy, but at least there’s a flat surface to work from.
Now on to the bagel. The everything bagel (is there really any other kind?) was perfectly toasted. Royal uses some sort of secret cheese sauce that has a bit of a Southwestern kick and pairs perfectly with the red onion and tomato. Beware, one napkin will get you through approximately one half of the sandwich. Stock up.
We refilled our coffee and chatted about the upcoming week, before leisurely strolling two blocks back to our apartment to enjoy the dwindling warm weather on our rooftop.
The Bitches say: B. The Royal is great for a chill, productive morning with a worldly breakfast menu and great coffee.
501 Florida Ave N.W.