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Rappahannock Coffee & Roasting, Independent Coffee House and Roaster on Columbia Pike and S. Adams St. in South Arlington


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My expectations of Rapphannock Coffee & Roasting were so low that it wouldn't have taken much to exceed them. However, despite its flaws, Rappahannock is one coffee house that South Arlington or North Alexandria residents should be aware of.

I walked into Rappahannock, and was immediately caught off-guard by Beethoven's Emperor Concerto playing on the speakers (at this point, it was theirs to lose :)). There was one lady working the counter, and about ten customers on a late weekday morning. Looking around the room at some of the decor (including several types of Ethiopian coffee beans), it's possible that there is an East African ownership of, or influence on, Rappahannock - there's also a large parking lot in back with plenty of off-street parking (there's a stone walkway up to the front of the store, so I assume parking here won't result in your car getting towed (check the signs more carefully than I did, just to be sure).

I ordered a Large Americano ($2.85), and added a fourth shot of espresso ($.60) - the barista is quiet and reserved, but opens up once you say more than two words to her. She smiled as she gave me the WiFi password.

Taking a seat in the sunlit back seating area, with the roaster merely feet away in its own sun room, I plugged into Rappahannock's WiFi and set out to enjoy my coffee. Reading some of the reviews online, one gathers that Rappahannock's roast is on the dark side (it is), but my Americano is a level up from what you'll get at Starbucks. They have simple syrup at the fixins bar, and did I mention the Emperor Concerto was playing when I walked in?

Rappahannock's website is here, and there's a fairly accurate description from The Washington Post's Alex Beattie here. Reports are that the bagels are above-average and the thing to get here, but Rappahannock also has a selection of panini sandwiches, salads, and soups in the $3 - $7.50 range. A recycling container sits in a little nook in the back. Online bean sales have been temporarily discontinued, probably because of lack of demand.

Rapahannock Coffee & Roasting, operating under the name JCL Coffee, Inc., is an above-average independent coffee house. It merits serious consideration by people along the Columbia Pike corridor, but is essentially a local destination. For putting out a decent product at a reasonable price, for offering WiFi in a funky, sunlit seating area, and for not vaporizing the squalling, demanding little brat and his inept mother (for whom I feel pity, rather than anger), Rappahannock is initialized in Italic in the Dining Guide, alongside of most independent coffee houses. While top-flight independents can rest comfortably, the sorry state of South Arlington coffee is the buoyancy that pushes Rappahannock up to the top of its neighborhood.

As I was walking out, I heard Chopin's 3rd Piano Sonata playing, so I took a seat along the front wall, overlooking Columbia Pike through the large front bay windows, and continued to work and enjoy my coffee, still hot after nearly thirty minutes.

PS - The Florida Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice (Large, $2.79) is nothing more than Tropicana Pure Premium, poured straight from the carton.

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