The warmth (or heat) of a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon in June begs for an excursion. Maybe you don’t have too much time – an hour or two, maybe three – but you’ve simply got to get out; and your family looks like they need to get off their devices for a spell. You could just drive around aimlessly with the windows down but it’s nice to have an actual destination. A coffee shop, café, ice cream parlor, or winery anchors the outing and gives you and your party an actual landing spot even though sometimes it’s the drive itself that you most need.
Here are the Gordon’s top ten list of local snack/drink destinations, starting with the most local and branching into the regional. A special thanks to my family for being so adventuresome and helping me find these gems:
- Barking Mad Café, Gaithersburg – squeezed into a cute little mixed-use mini-plaza just north of Rte. 124 on 355, this tasteful spot serves real food but features all the usual espresso drinks which you can consume inside but, weather permitting, will want to take outside to the lovely patio that adjoins the square. Sometimes they even host live music. Charming and very
- Coffee Republic, Rockville – a similar vibe minus the food selection – mainly just good coffee and nice atmosphere down in the center of King Farm in North Rockville. A most relaxing and quiet place to spend time with good company.
- Sunday Morning Bake House, Rockville – a destination within a destination, namely, the new Pike & Rose pedestrian hotspot at the corner of Old Georgetown Pike & 355, a very trendy, upscale area featuring high-end shops. The Bake House has some exquisite pastries, great coffee, and a clean, streamlined service counter that can get you out on a sidewalk table with drink & croissant in hand in no time. If you do go Sunday morning, you may even find a parking spot on the street! If not, parking garages are just around the corner.
- Java Nation, Rockville – This is the genuine article: artisan coffee with all the options for the serious coffee drinker. Small but quaint setting even though it’s right on the Pike. Not much ambiance out on 355 but they make up for it once you walk in.
- Paul, Bethesda – This café’s biggest draw is its location: right smack in the heart of Bethesda Row, the pedestrian area of downtown Bethesda with nice shops on the same block. And yes, sidewalk tables galore. Grab a bite and then stroll down Woodmont Ave to window shop. Or bring your bike and hop on the Capital Crescent Trail which passes right by. Great for those who love the buzz of city life without the congestion of DC.
- Sugarloaf Winery, Comus – Getting out from the city, this beautiful establishment sits at the foot of Sugarloaf Mtn. on the far Northwest side of Montgomery County. They have wine tasting but also nice snacks and eats (a little pricey) to enjoy at one of their many picnic tables on the lawn. Live music on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. If the weather is nice, you really won’t want to leave!
- Rocklands Farm, Poolesville – offering even more wines & food than Sugarloaf, this place also has a lot more vibe and tends to be packed on the weekends. In fact, if tables are all taken, you can bring a picnic blanket and are welcome to spread out on the lawn. This is a full functioning farm, wedding venue, and winery all packed into one. A little further out but well worth the drive!
- Blue Bottle Coffee, Georgetown, DC – Georgetown is of course DC, with all the traffic & congestion that comes with it, but if you can get there, parked, and on your feet, this is a refreshing refuge tucked away below M Street right on top of the canal. Excellent coffee, outdoor seating, good scenery, and once you’re done, all the shops are right there. Or if you prefer, head down the hill and enjoy the Georgetown Waterfront Park.
- Dolci Gelati, Alexandria, VA – Featuring both great ice cream and great coffee, this tiny shop fronts the famous Market Square where, if you’re there Saturday morning, you can buy local produce in the same spot George Washington did centuries before (continuous market since 1753!). Try the Espresso Gelato – it will knock your socks off!
- Beans in the Belfry, Brunswick – My personal favorite sits on the main drag (Potomac St) above the historic C&O Canal and B&O Railroad below. I love this place because they took the sanctuary of a church that closed and transformed it into a coffee shop – and it works! The décor has a Crate & Barrel feel to it, very homey and reeking with history but charming in its own way. They have a full menu of sandwiches et al as well as good coffee. You can even take your meal up in the balcony! All with great service and warm atmosphere.