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Big Bear Cafe, Bloomingdale - Charming Coffeehouse on 1st & R Streets NW


marketfan
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So last weekend I took Nick Cho up on his offer . Had a blast. Learned a lot. Drank a lot of espresso, most of it pretty bad. Now that I have a real taste for it, where do I go to get the good stuff? Is there any in DC? Where are your favorite places, and why do you like them? [Murky coffee has its own thread. Starbucks need not apply] ...help?

I really like the espresso at Big Bear Cafe, although I mostly drink it as a machiato. It is Counter Culture Coffee, same roaster as Murky's. First and R Street NW. My favorite coffeehouse in DC. Simple, friendly place -- dark wood interior, LOOOONG espresso bar, huge windows, good sandwiches.

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If you're wondering whither the DC hipsters have gone...apparently a lot of them are congregating in Bloomingdale. I stumbled across the Big Bear Cafe (First and R Sts NW) before a visit to Artomatic, and loved the vibe of the place. It reminded my friend of the coffee house she worked at in Madison WI. Small menu, Counter Culture Coffee, good espresso, nice tea selection, and as of this morning, some sweet old ska and rocksteady on the stereo.

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Stopped by for a latte here yesterday on the way out of the city to Annapolis. Charming space with a nice vibe, and more importantly the coffee was just excellent. Anyone tried the (fairly limited) food selection?

The food is very very simple but tasty and during May-November they buy a lot from the Bloomingdale Farmers Market. The coffee is superb.

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The food is very very simple but tasty and during May-November they buy a lot from the Bloomingdale Farmers Market. The coffee is superb.

It is rather dangerous that I live right across the street from Big Bear. The paninis are delicious. And the coffee they serve is Counter Culture base out of North Carolina, I think. The pastries are dulish. The space is great.

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Made a stop here this afternoon just for a lovingly made latte, down to the leaf swirl drawn in the milky foam. By far, the best latte in town. Love this place. Great warm, communal atmosphere. Comfy, slightly shabby couch and chairs, some tables, one long table in the middle of the room as well as the coffee bar. This afternoon, Vampire Weekend was playing on the stereo. Visiting Big Bear Cafe is like visiting a friend's house for coffee, with the coffee freshly made just for the occasion of your visit.

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Can anyone verify that Big Bear Cafe is still open? Their website is down, and their phone number ((202) 470-5543) is not working.

I found something written about it on the internet from October 21st, so they were still open less than a month ago.

If my stop for coffee on the walk to work yesterday counts then, yes, they are still open :(

Their website has been in disarray for a long time.

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Still great coffee at Big Bear. And, as of a few months ago apparently, they now have a liquor license. About a half dozen beers in bottles, including Lagunitas IPA, Port City Porter, Avery White Rascal, and Victory Helios Ale. Eight wines by the glass, and a very few bottles of the hard stuff sitting behind the counter, but they include Plymouth Gin and Old Overholt rye.

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Easily one of the more underrated neighborhood coffee shops/restaurants until recently when they added their liquor license and a more robust brunchish menu. It is impossible to get a cup of coffee or breakfast here on Saturday or Sunday morning unless you are willing to wait in a 20-30 minute line. For selfish reasons, I find this incredibly frustrating, as that was one of my wife and I's favorite things to do to kick off our day on the weekend, but from a business perspective I am very happy for the ownership of this place.

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There hasn't been a post on Big Bear here in two years. And, though I get here from time to time, it's not that often and I don't think I've every posted on it. So, will rectify both those things here with a brief post. First, Stu Davenport is the owner here and he has done a wonderful thing for his community with that shop so his name should go into the topic title. :)

Big Bear has been part of the DC landscape for about 6 years, pre-dating nearly all the coffee houses now in town save what I'll term the grand big three (GBT) of Mayorga, Quartermaine and Swing's. Fun fact for trivia: Where did Big Bear get it's name?* (see below for answer).

The obvious comparison is with Northside Social. Like NS, Big Bear is very much in the tank for Counter Culture and that is not a bad thing. In fact, it's a very good thing and, while shops serving CC have gotten some flace in very recent years for taking the easy way out or supporting an out-of-town roaster taking over our world, both claims are dated. CC has made significant investments in DC; it's Adams Morgan training center just the most obvious example. CC has also probably lost some local market share to all the great new roasters based here and from regions further afield so CC is less ubiquitous than it once was. Finally, and as always has been the case, CC makes very good coffee.

Like NS, Big Bear has a pretty serious focus on food which sets the two shops apart from most. I haven't tried any savory food at Big Bear ever but the buzz around it is good. I have tried a few baked goods, which are also made in house, and they are definitely better than ICH average.

Most of all though, they do coffee right at Big Bear with a nice 3-group Marzocco and a larger selection of CC coffees than even NS offers. Two minor nits, both related, have to do with brew method. Big Bear is a french press shop and, while french press isn't my preferred method, it is loved by many people and I can enjoy a good french press also. Directly related, it bums me out they won't do a pour over at Big Bear but that's the way it always has been.

Lovely shop with some real history; warm, casual, non-glossily-packaged with some excellent joe, grub and plenty of space to gather with friends, take a break or even work. Open wifi (no password).

* Big Bear was the name of a grocery/market that preceded the cafe in less stable times. In fact, Big Bear is often cited as a major driver of Bloomingdale's resurgence and rising property values as this City Paper piece from a few years ago details.

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A good friend lives near Big Bear, and I've been in for coffee once or twice and always wondered about the food. Finally, in a search for light, summery food, we decided to give a try for dinner. The place is very good. Certainly not the creative oomph of a restaurant like Ripple or refinement of Palena, but the food was surprisingly sophisticated -- kind of like what a terrific home cook would make -- and very enjoyable. We started with a terrific melon gazpacho -- lots of acid set it apart from the standard, sweet melon soup. We also had a great middle eastern walnut spread with cucumbers and crostini, and an interesting plate of pickled vegetables which included little pattypan squash. All very good summer food. For entrees we had a roasted fish (rockfish I think), done with nicely roasted potatoes and vegetables, and a pasta with peas and corn. Although I usually like fresh pasta, I thought that a more al-dente, dried pasta might have been more successful. But both were solid entrees. It's worth noting as well that Big Bear is very reasonably priced: appetizers were all under $10 and the entrees around $15. Definitely a restaurant worth trying.

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