Tryst, Washington DC

What a vibe, what a vibeeeeee. Surely my favorite spot in DC, Tryst Coffee sits atop 18th Street NW in the Brooklyn-y Adams Morgan neighborhood just north of Foggy Bottom. Parking’s a bitch and there’s no easy train to get here by metro, but any late afternoon arrival is sure to send you off into a zone of productive, caffeine induced activity, where even on Wednesday, Tuesday will care for you throughout your stay. Yes – Tuesday the waitress dexterously floats throughout the room, facilitating your needs with ease and a smile. The service staff is welcoming and open, Available for a chat and some warmhearted banter. This is needless to say – such a rarity. And if a space sets a tone, a staff sets the invitation. I always find this hospitality as the entry point to an afternoon of significance.

The latte’s are served with two animal crackers, the OG ones that used to come in the little boxes flashing me back to summer camp and games of capture the flag. The cashier was fast and attentive, today’s 2% decaf latte was no problem for him (you’d be surprised), and the barista delightfully pleasant when I checked to make sure I had said “for here”, even offering to bring it out to my table for me.

It’s lunch service all-day, and once you figure out that they actually do table service (I always forget!), a coffee is really all you need to order to keep yourself from feeling like you’re taking up space. I met no entanglements having ordered up at the counter and then sat, though I’m sure it would’ve been more their flow to order from the seat. It’s a slightly odd adjustment, but one that feels more like the disarming quality of arriving to a friend’s house and having a need met you didn’t know you had- “Why yes, I WOULD like a warm poncho to wear, thanks!” There’s really no problem sitting for as long as you like, though every time I’ve been here the flow of customers keeps me aware that sharing is caring and a two hour linger window is perhaps the best case scenario for everyone. Not that you’ll get any tude, it’s just good to take care of establishments that take such good care of you.

The two hour window is nice as it gives me a goal when I sit. Time frittered away getting comfortable and getting everything in the right place before I can perfectly focus is greatly alleviated by the boundary. I’m off in a flash, diving into whatever’s brought me here before I know it.

Low-fi jams beat through the speakers at an appropriate work-conducive volume mingling with indistinct chatter wafting up and bouncing off the tin-style ceiling. Two large support columns are the only solid thing in the giant space, and the large room breathes that magical paradox of collective isolation the longer I sit.

My favorite spot is the pew-seating against a wall off in the back, or right up front in the windows. There’s an eclectic assortment of tables scattered throughout the room, five/six seater study tables, a row of two tops in the back, some high-tops up front, and of course – the BAR.

Yes. There’s a BAR. The exact hours of liquor service elude me- but it’s always tempting around three or four to treat myself to a little bourbon in the rest of my coffee.

Tryst retains what so often seems to be fading these days in our lightening-fast culture – a sense of a traditional coffee shop – busy, yes, but a center point of meeting and community, a place to work, study, relax, meet a friend. So few shops and cafés seem to be able to hold all of these elements in such harmony, and the couches are a nice touch, bringing me back to a bygone era of lived-in cafés, where smoke and thought and angst pushed the culture forward.

You’re left with a sense of sitting in a piece of history in the making. Living history. Right here. And it’s you, and you’re a part of it. Happy working.


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