A note from the Bitches: this restaurant is now closed.
The best brunch recommendations are the ones that come from friends.
My Saro and his boyfriend Dan recently introduced me to their local brunch spot. Actually it’s not really their brunch spot. It’s their I’m-hungover-and-want-to-grab-breakfast-quickly-and-get-back-in-bed spot. And it’s a hidden gem.
“I just want low key,” Saro texted, poo-pooing any sort of sit-down, pay-a-check, have-a-server, fancy-pants brunch that I might have suggested. And so I’m pretty sure we were all in our pajamas the first time we met there.
The unpretentious U Street Café is semi-hidden in the thick of U Street’s storefronts, next to U Scream Ice Cream. It truly is U Street’s local breakfast joint, where you can walk up and order plenty of coffee and eggs, just how you like ‘em, straight from the ladies at the counter—to go or to dine in.
But the real beauty of U Street Café is not just its location, speed, and convenience; it’s the fact that you can literally customize your breakfast dish down to the minutiae that you never even thought possible.
When I ordered the Ellington Special, I was presented with no fewer than 15 questions about how I’d like certain aspects of my dish. They were fired at me in rapid succession, and I made snap breakfast decisions without thinking. Of course, when I sat down with my plastic number for my order, I immediately started rethinking all the choices I’d made.
The menu is big and listed on the wall when you walk in. You can get breakfast or lunch all day every day, but it’s open only until 3 p.m. For those who are hurting, there is coconut water in a cooler right at the entrance, so you can hydrate while waiting to order. I thought this was very kind of them.
The menu has everything from breakfast to lunch food, sandwiches, and salads. Plus its coffee menu is pretty impressive: coffee, espresso, frappe, sparkling tea drinks, smoothies, and chai hot or cold. My boyfriend felt adventurous and went for an iced chai vanilla tea, which he said tasted like a cinnamon roll in a cup.
There are also chai smoothies and loose leaf tea. I went for the straight-up coffee, which was piping hot and served in a big yellow mug. My favorite color, and appropriate to add some sunshine to a hungover morning. On the counter-top there are all sorts of delicious baked goods: scones, muffins, cookies for the taking.
My Ellington Special came a million choices: Which type of waffle? I ordered the chocolate chip, of course. How do you want your eggs? Scrambled. Do you want cheese in your eggs? Yes. What type of cheese? Goat cheese. What meat do you want? Bacon. It went on and on and on.
The big waffle arrived on a plate of its own, with a huge dollop of whipped cream, fresh strawberries, and drizzled chocolate sauce. The chocolate chips were baked inside. It was so much sweetness, I couldn’t even put actual syrup on it. The bacon was small but crispy enough, and the eggs—with goat cheese inside—were just perfect.
My boyfriend’s tuna salad sandwich came with even more choices. What type of bread? What type of cheese? Mayonnaise? What do you want in it? What do you want on the side? What dressing on your salad? I was the one doing the ordering, as he was holding the table, so I was totally guessing on his behalf.
Turns out, the sandwich was perfect. Refreshing and tasty, and the bread was nicely toasted.
Saro got his usual: the breakfast sandwich on a bagel. It’s made with eggs, cheese, and your choice of meat, and it comes by itself on a small plate. A small breakfast, but good enough for Saro.
The walls of the café are painted with a mural that depict Washington and the U Street corridor. It’s the kind of art that makes spots like this café and Ben’s Chili Bowl and other local haunts truly local.
Also, the joint serves up free WiFi, so it’s the perfect place to cozy up at a table with a mug of coffee and some work, when work is calling on a weekend morning. And it often does for me these days. Thank God for great, convenient local joints like U Street Cafe.
The Bitches say: A. A solid, classic D.C. local breakfast haunt.
U Street Café
1301 U St. N.W.
U Street Café serves breakfast every day until 3 p.m.