Jump to content

Java Shack, Independent Coffee House on Franklin Street in Courthouse


dcs
 Share

Recommended Posts

Between Vienna (Jammin' Java) and Del Ray (St. Elmo's), which covers a *lot* of miles, I can't think of too many other truly awesome independents with character coming out the wazoo (which both of those have).

There is the cool little Armenian coffee shop in Westover. I love that place, very nice vibe. There isn't a lot of coffee shop culture, although Sidamo has that counter-culture (not the coffee the actual phenomenon) feel. But I definitely don't think of DC as coffee culture type place. Is it because we all have offices and free crappy coffee (we have pods in my office, some are better than others) that we are now fairly used to? Also there are so few independent coffee shops many of them get so crowded. I used to go to those types of places a lot in law school. Now it is more the places by courthouses or government buildings that I have meetings at and need a place to do some work. I think many people don't have the time to have a coffee culture. Maybe I am wrong, I don't know.

You really need to visit the Java Shack. Small shop. Independent owner. Good coffee. Friendly staff. Green practices. Strong community involvement. What's not to love? I drive past a Starbucks at 1/2 the distance at least 5 or 6 times a week to get to this place. It is exactly the type of business I like to support.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You really need to visit the Java Shack. Small shop. Independent owner. Good coffee. Friendly staff. Green practices. Strong community involvement. What's not to love? I drive past a Starbucks at 1/2 the distance at least 5 or 6 times a week to get to this place. It is exactly the type of business I like to support.

I'm so glad you started a thread for Java Shack! We love, love, love them. We've been in the neighborhood almost exactly as long as they have, and they have been amazing neighbors and members of the community. The coffee is excellent, the muffins are very tasty (and they have various other goodies, including some gluten-free things recently - but we usually go for the muffins), the staff are friendly and accommodating. My son pops over there for a muffin just about every week, and when he gets something different, they notice. They donate their time and coffee to various community events (for the nearby school and for a yearly event benefiting a fund for Children's Hospital, for bike races, and many more things). They do a float in the Clarendon Mardi Gras Parade, like other independent businesses do. When my son was little, we'd always bring him there at Halloween, when they had a little party for the kids. Dale, the owner, knows just about everybody who stops in semi-regularly. They've got a comfy little sofa and a few toys for the little kids, they have various coffee accoutrements for the coffee gourmets, they put out bowls of water for people's dogs . . . It's just a lovely place.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree that this is a special business in Arlington. I am there all the time, and the coffee is always very good, but the atmosphere regularly trumps it. They have recently freshened the place up a bit--new paint and the like, but the real star is a new espresso machine. The coffee comes from Lexington Roasters in Lexington, VA. They are a small, husband and wife team that gets great coffee, much of it small batch, organic and fair trade. It's the same roaster we use at Eventide. If you are looking for an alternative to Starbucks and Counter Culture, and you want to support a local, community centric, independent, go see Dale.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I really like Java Shack too. It has this weird vibe to it that makes it a unique neighborhood gem. My wife and I went there every Sunday morning between going to church and yoga for a long time and we loved it. Coffee and muffins were great, people were nice, and a nice setting to relax in. That's all in addition to its main redeeming quality: it's not Starbucks.

Alas, we had kids and our schedule changed so we don't get there as often as we would like anymore but always stop in when we are down that way. I wish there were more places like this around to compete with Starbucks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I always liked Java Shack. Good memories - nice to hear they're still rolling.

Weren't they christened "Sugar Shack" once upon a time?

When they first opened, indeed, they were Sugar Shack, but that was a different owner/manager, and it didn't last long (less than a year, maybe much less?). It's been Java Shack ever since Dale's been running it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks to everyone for these postings about Java Shack - I'd never heard of the place before reading about it on here. I'm going to make it a point to go, and soon.

Even though I didn't see anything obvious on their website, I called and they have WiFi available.

My personal policy for "WiFi squatting" is to tip just as much as if I'd been constantly drinking coffee. So if I squat for an hour (during non-busy times only, of course), I'll tip an extra $3 or so just for the privilege of sitting there (and if you think about it, with rent, utilities, salaries, etc., even this isn't enough). I don't have this down to a formula, but I always try and err on the side of "what would the business want me to do?" I hope everyone else is at least as courteous. Also, never squat when you're not actively drinking a drink when there are people waiting, and I don't care how much tip you leave. Modern Times actually has a sign on their door saying this same thing: Don't hog the tables when people are waiting to sit down!

Does everyone agree with this general line of thinking? The Golden Rule applies here. Be aware of your surroundings.

The world is a better place because of independent coffee houses such as Java Shack - let's not screw it up any more by driving them out of business.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks to everyone for these postings about Java Shack - I'd never heard of the place before reading about it on here. I'm going to make it a point to go, and soon.

Even though I didn't see anything obvious on their website, I called and they have WiFi available.

My personal policy for "WiFi squatting" is to tip just as much as if I'd been constantly drinking coffee. So if I squat for an hour (during non-busy times only, of course), I'll tip an extra $3 or so just for the privilege of sitting there (and if you think about it, with rent, utilities, salaries, etc., even this isn't enough). I don't have this down to a formula, but I always try and err on the side of "what would the business want me to do?" I hope everyone else is at least as courteous. Also, never squat when you're not actively drinking a drink when there are people waiting, and I don't care how much tip you leave. Modern Times actually has a sign on their door saying this same thing: Don't hog the tables when people are waiting to sit down!

Does everyone agree with this general line of thinking? The Golden Rule applies here. Be aware of your surroundings.

The world is a better place because of independent coffee houses such as Java Shack - let's not screw it up any more by driving them out of business.

I am sure they will appreciate your courtesy. BTW, they do not turn the WiFi on until 1pm on weekends and holidays for the very reason you point out. It is really a very tiny (but precious) place.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a problem with this at Northside Social -- a few times we've gone for dinner and people have been clearly squatting with their computers and an empty or nearly empty drink at many of the tables.

At Java Shack, take a look at their specialty drinks. I'm fond of Java the Nutt -- a latte with hazelnut, vanilla, and a drizzle of caramel (the "gold bikini"). Also check the walls - there's often (maybe always, I'm not sure) local artworks on exhibit and/or for sale.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks to everyone for these postings about Java Shack - I'd never heard of the place before reading about it on here. I'm going to make it a point to go, and soon.

Even though I didn't see anything obvious on their website, I called and they have WiFi available.

My personal policy for "WiFi squatting" is to tip just as much as if I'd been constantly drinking coffee. So if I squat for an hour (during non-busy times only, of course), I'll tip an extra $3 or so just for the privilege of sitting there (and if you think about it, with rent, utilities, salaries, etc., even this isn't enough). I don't have this down to a formula, but I always try and err on the side of "what would the business want me to do?" I hope everyone else is at least as courteous. Also, never squat when you're not actively drinking a drink when there are people waiting, and I don't care how much tip you leave. Modern Times actually has a sign on their door saying this same thing: Don't hog the tables when people are waiting to sit down!

Does everyone agree with this general line of thinking? The Golden Rule applies here. Be aware of your surroundings.

The world is a better place because of independent coffee houses such as Java Shack - let's not screw it up any more by driving them out of business.

I agree, and I also think that Northside and other places can get ridiculous--and it is not the fault of the business. A couple weeks ago I had to step over a power cord that was at least two feet off the ground and running across the aisle leading to the counter. I turned to the women who owned the PC, smiled and said "Really?" Then I lifted my daughter over the cord. She said in a huff, "Well, I just have nowhere else to put it," implying that perhaps it was the responsibility of the proprietor to provide more outlets closer to her. I couldn't come up with a response that would neither alienate the business I love to support nor my own business(pretty sure I was in an SK shirt), so I just shook my head and moved on. I swear, you think you have seen it all as a restaurant guy, but you never have.

I had a couple of talks with Dale when he was trying to figure out what to do with the wi-fi, and I thought his idea of selectively turning it off made sense. He is trying to appeal to all his customers, but he is a fool if he ignores the value of each seat turning over--we're talking pretty small check averages here. If you are that in need of working on your PC, and you are that unwilling to pay for your seat--really pay for your seat, then during prime time you should go to the public library, work from your house, stay at your office, rent space or use 3G. Or is it 4G now? I have no idea, but my iPhone is on it, so I don't have to siphon the wi-fi. Plus, I always get my coffee to go...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I tend to go to Java Shack a lot. These days they have a knowledgable and informative barista in George during the mornings. George has brown hair, a beard and mustache. George takes his baristing seriously. He entered a barista contest in Atlanta last summer/fall, and considering it was his first and he was competing against people with a lot of experience he finished quite well.

George is choosing roasts for the expresso and is willing to explain the various specialty coffee's at Java Shack with any customer.

George is a terrific addition to a long line of "friendly java shack employees" though few if any had his expertise.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks to everyone for these postings about Java Shack - I'd never heard of the place before reading about it on here. I'm going to make it a point to go, and soon.

Even though I didn't see anything obvious on their website, I called and they have WiFi available.

My personal policy for "WiFi squatting" is to tip just as much as if I'd been constantly drinking coffee. So if I squat for an hour (during non-busy times only, of course), I'll tip an extra $3 or so just for the privilege of sitting there (and if you think about it, with rent, utilities, salaries, etc., even this isn't enough). I don't have this down to a formula, but I always try and err on the side of "what would the business want me to do?" I hope everyone else is at least as courteous. Also, never squat when you're not actively drinking a drink when there are people waiting, and I don't care how much tip you leave. Modern Times actually has a sign on their door saying this same thing: Don't hog the tables when people are waiting to sit down!

Does everyone agree with this general line of thinking? The Golden Rule applies here. Be aware of your surroundings.

The world is a better place because of independent coffee houses such as Java Shack - let's not screw it up any more by driving them out of business.

Surprised by but also agree with the thinking. Surprised just because I think your approach is an extremely unusual one, Don. If even half the ICH-going public did that, there'd be no issue or controversy around all the WiFi approaches taken by different ICHs.

As one who has believed that really only Buzz and Northside Social offer top shelf coffee in NoVa close to the river, I'm now keen to try Java Shack also. Besides Eventide, Lexington is also on offer at Grape + Bean. I haven't had Lexington's coffees that much (maybe just 2 or 3 times) so eager to try Java Shack for that reason also. Sounds like a wonderful spot.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think yhou

Surprised by but also agree with the thinking. Surprised just because I think your approach is an extremely unusual one, Don. If even half the ICH-going public did that, there'd be no issue or controversy around all the WiFi approaches taken by different ICHs.

As one who has believed that really only Buzz and Northside Social offer top shelf coffee in NoVa close to the river, I'm now keen to try Java Shack also. Besides Eventide, Lexington is also on offer at Grape + Bean. I haven't had Lexington's coffees that much (maybe just 2 or 3 times) so eager to try Java Shack for that reason also. Sounds like a wonderful spot.

You should go to Java Shack for no other reason that it's a piece of Clarendon history - I think this was the place that used to be called "Sugar Shack", and popped up around the same time the long-lost Bardo Rodeo, Strangeways, and other local haunts came in.

At least that's what I remember. Details were fuzzy when I was going through them. No knock on Clarendon now, but there's a bit of nostalgia mixed with pre-homogenization going on there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Okay. What's the protocol when you experience a place universally praised and feel even a bit different? This topic has 13 posts--all of 'em super positive. Have to tell it like it is, right?

Went today.

For me, the Java Shack screams community in a nostalgic and heartwarming way. I do truly wish there were more places like this. Places that have awards from local military, schools and cycling teams on the walls. Places with a mission statement (also posted) about being about and for community. This is how more places used to be. Rockcreek was right--you get a wonderful sense for the history of Clarendon here.

At the same time, Java Shack also reinforces that forming an opinion about an Independent Coffee House (ICH) is a very personal thing because there are so many different aspects to be considered and weighted and we all do that differently because we all have different prefs, different backgrounds and the like. More interesting that way.

I love the Java Shack for its heart and soul. For the place that it is. Also for the place it's not trying to be. Not a smidgen of hipsterness here. It is what it is. Refreshing. Love all that about Java Shack.

Unfortunately, didn't as much go for the coffee.

They don't brew to order using any method. A big drawback in my book. They have beans from both Lexington (with which I'm a bit familiar and which I'm not yet sure measures up to many others available in and around DC) and from another VA roaster called Winchester, with which I wasn't familiar. Some bags had no dates and, for those that were dated, beans were anywhere from 6 to 20 days old since roasting.

Since they don't brew to order but did have a cool Marzocco espresso machine, I ordered a cappuccino. Just okay at best unfortunately. Ratio of milk/foam to espresso make it more a hot milk with notes of espresso as opposed to the more balance drink it should be. The foam was very thick almost as if it had been sitting around before being served but it hadn't been.

From a pure product perspective, I think not even close to Northside Social nearby. And I'm not a huge Northside Social fan either though I think it's still the best spot for coffee (notwithstanding many other drawbacks) in NoVa close to the river.

Again, I really appreciate Java Shack and my drink could charitably be called passable. The owner must be a truly wonderful person. I'd love the place and frequent it if I lived in that 'hood. But, since I don't, it's probably not a place I'd go back to. Much more about the place and it's role in the community than about the coffee in my most humble of opinions. And, that's okay. The world would be a better place with many more Java Shacks.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Okay. What's the protocol when you experience a place universally praised and feel even a bit different? This topic has 13 posts--all of 'em super positive. Have to tell it like it is, right?

Went today.

For me, the Java Shack screams community in a nostalgic and heartwarming way. I do truly wish there were more places like this. Places that have awards from local military, schools and cycling teams on the walls. Places with a mission statement (also posted) about being about and for community. This is how more places used to be. Rockcreek was right--you get a wonderful sense for the history of Clarendon here.

At the same time, Java Shack also reinforces that forming an opinion about an Independent Coffee House (ICH) is a very personal thing because there are so many different aspects to be considered and weighted and we all do that differently because we all have different prefs, different backgrounds and the like. More interesting that way.

I love the Java Shack for its heart and soul. For the place that it is. Also for the place it's not trying to be. Not a smidgen of hipsterness here. It is what it is. Refreshing. Love all that about Java Shack.

Unfortunately, didn't as much go for the coffee.

They don't brew to order using any method. A big drawback in my book. They have beans from both Lexington (with which I'm a bit familiar and which I'm not yet sure measures up to many others available in and around DC) and from another VA roaster called Winchester, with which I wasn't familiar. Some bags had no dates and, for those that were dated, beans were anywhere from 6 to 20 days old since roasting.

Since they don't brew to order but did have a cool Marzocco espresso machine, I ordered a cappuccino. Just okay at best unfortunately. Ratio of milk/foam to espresso make it more a hot milk with notes of espresso as opposed to the more balance drink it should be. The foam was very thick almost as if it had been sitting around before being served but it hadn't been.

From a pure product perspective, I think not even close to Northside Social nearby. And I'm not a huge Northside Social fan either though I think it's still the best spot for coffee (notwithstanding many other drawbacks) in NoVa close to the river.

Again, I really appreciate Java Shack and my drink could charitably be called passable. The owner must be a truly wonderful person. I'd love the place and frequent it if I lived in that 'hood. But, since I don't, it's probably not a place I'd go back to. Much more about the place and it's role in the community than about the coffee in my most humble of opinions. And, that's okay. The world would be a better place with many more Java Shacks.

There is not one thing in this post that I disagree with.

Ask the owner to show you the picture of what the building used to be next time you're in - you won't believe it (nor will you want to).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Had a pour over at Java Shack today.  Java Shack is a wonderful local stop...but I've experienced far better quality coffee shops in the region.  For me its incredibly convenient, the folks are nice, and I get to know the staff, even as it turns over fairly rapidly.

Ahhh...but the pour over.  Simply the best quality drink I've had at java shack....maybe ever.  I do love pour overs.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dale Roberts sold the Java Shack.   Per the Java Shack FB page  Dale is pouring all day long today.  That post from a few days drew an outpouring of love.

I stopped in today.  The place was jammed.  It was families.  I'm sure local.  Parents and kids.  Really jammed.  Dale was getting a lot of "love" and good lucks.

I suspect he made some kind of deal where he is either a "consultant" for some period or remains as a partner, in that he'll stay connected for some period.  I really don't know the details, but he will be around...possibly for a short time, possibly for longer.

Nice day to stop by if you are in the neighborhood.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was there as well. I had a chance to meet Robert, who is taking over. He has a roasting company that is doing pretty well and looking to expand. This will be a chance to gain some more exposure in a good market. Their coffee is in Water & Wall and some other spots in VA. Nice guy, and the shop seems like it will be in good hands.

Best of luck to Dale.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I stopped off today.  Dale was there with the new owner (or one of them).  He is assisting them in the transition.  I commented on the very nice, really beautiful outpouring of neighborhood love.  It was tremendous.  Evidently throngs of people visited in waves during the day.

Per Dale, the FB page got something in the 5 figures of visits.  That is astonishing.  His FB page probably receives something in the low hundreds of visits on a normal post.  Tons of people commented there and elsewhere sending their affections.

Really a testimony to the efforts of a local independent operator or more specifically a food operator making him or herself a part of the community.  The community responded.  Very nice.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 7/13/2016 at 3:50 PM, jondagle said:

Went to the new Junction Bakery & Bistro at Mt Vernon Ave & Monroe in Alexandria. They serve Comonwealth Joe coffee. I had the drip. Do not put on this list! Not terrible, but not good. Will sample the espresso service soon.

I agree.  Commonwealth Joe's purchased the Java Shack, which now only serves their drip.   Its simply not good.  I wouldn't use the word terrible, but I don't like it.  I'd choose starbucks over it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I miss Dale, but Commonwealth seems to have taken up the reins of Java Shack successfully. Was there two weeks ago. Very nice espresso (well, macchiato actually). Staff was very pleasant. Still had somewhat neighborhood vibe, which I say as someone who is not from the neighborhood. Also, I think Commonwealth does a great job with their iced coffees. They have at least two different ones on nitro tap--I think 4 total? I used to get them the push carts they operated in Crystal City, before the brick-n-mortar locations. 

Commonwealth seems to have a good training program, but I would agree with DaveO that their drip coffees are not my favorite. I am generally not a fan of the trend in lighter and lighter roasts. (Not all Commonwealth roasts are light by any means!)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Java Shack no longer carries Junction Bakery croissants and other items.  I hadn't seen the everything croissant for a while and finally asked.   What I heard was they changed bakeries because of pricing.   Maybe.  I don't know.  Of course that could mean that Junction Bakery in Alexandria may no longer carry Commonwealth Coffee.  

Dang I miss those Everything Croissants.  They are delicious.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 minutes ago, dcs said:

Java Shack to Close Unless Buyer Can Be Found, October 18, 2019, on ARLnow.com.

hmm.  I saw that article.  I work across the street.  Go there often.  Still go there, even as I don't like their brews...(Commonwealth Joe's)  (but it IS across the street).  I'll ask but I assume it was a surprise to the staff.     They have nice staff now;  I wish them well.   Ah well, two Starbucks in equal distance.  Even better coffee a bit further.  Life goes on.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

47 minutes ago, DaveO said:

hmm.  I saw that article.  I work across the street.  Go there often.  Still go there, even as I don't like their brews...(Commonwealth Joe's)  (but it IS across the street).  I'll ask but I assume it was a surprise to the staff.     They have nice staff now;  I wish them well.   Ah well, two Starbucks in equal distance.  Even better coffee a bit further.  Life goes on.

Have you been to Blümen Cafe? 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 minutes ago, dcs said:

Have you been to Blümen Cafe? 

Only once or twice.  I don't really get it.  Tell us more!!!   OTOH, if we are speaking of that neighborhood. try Takeshi Sushi and Ramen.   Their spicy pork ramen is incredible!!!!!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, DaveO said:

Only once or twice.  I don't really get it.  Tell us more!!!   OTOH, if we are speaking of that neighborhood. try Takeshi Sushi and Ramen.   Their spicy pork ramen is incredible!!!!!!

I haven't been. Never saw the need.  It is a coffee shop that doesn't open until 9am, which pretty much made me skeptical of the operation.  Just wondering if you had any intel that I might be mistaken.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/18/2019 at 1:45 PM, dcs said:

Java Shack to Close Unless Buyer Can Be Found, October 18, 2019, on ARLnow.com.

....and on the small news front....I spoke with a long term Java Shack employee today.  She knew the lease was up for renewal as far back as 10 months ago and knew they weren't getting close last spring, as did most or all of the staff.  That information is different from what was reported in the article.   Ah well in the near term we'll have another empty space in the neighborhood.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...