Coffee lovers in the District have resigned themselves to some inevitable truths. That in the morning, every coffee shop has a line out the door. That the coffee in chain stores has no taste, and that all the independent spots like Tryst are constantly crammed to the gills. That there are more Starbucks than people in the city. But believe it or not, most of these are simply not true. Except maybe the part about Starbucks.
Imagine the following: a coffee shop, centrally located, with bright colors and artwork bedecking the walls. There is always a place to sit. Classical music softly plays in the background. The coffee is good, the food is prepared fresh in front of you, and the service is always friendly. Now stop imagining, because this place is real.
Cafe Collage is right next door to U Street darling Cafe St. Ex, and yet for some reason, few seem to have heard of it. In an urban jungle where condo developments seem to pop up overnight, Cafe Collage is a charming, personable diamond in the rough. Even though it's a step or two away from 14th Street's perennial chaos, it offers an unshakably calm environment where you can sip your coffee, do a crossword, and forget about the rest of the world.
Managed by Tez Menisher and Biza Gebre, Cafe Collage specializes in serving dark, bold Ethiopian coffees and teas. It reopened in 2008, following several years of being shuttered due to a fire code violation (laymans terms: they didn't have a fire escape, and now they do). The revamp was celebrated in style with a traditional Ethiopian coffee roasting, and the cafe has remained a Northwest mainstay ever since.
Every neighborhood needs a Cafe Collage. It is 14th Street’s closest coffee shop equivalent to Cheers. Everybody may not know your name, and Norm may not be slumped over a venti espresso, but the staff will greet you with a familiar smile, and you'll always have a place to unwind, regroup, or catch up with old friends. I'm probably doing myself a disservice by gabbing about it here, as this will probably boost its traffic and make me have to start (gasp) waiting in line. But such is life, and such is what Café Collage deserves.