Dear PoP – Where Should I Study?

Photo of the Diner in Adams Morgan by PoPville flickr user icubaji

“Dear PoP,

I am taking the GMAT next week and I need a great place to study…silence isn’t necessary, something like the noise level in Starbucks would work for me. I would love to find a place to set up my computer, spread out my notes a little bit and even get something decent to eat while I am studying (planning to go around dinner time).

Any suggestions for places in the neighborhood? Was thinking 17th street, adams morgan, dupont, shaw, logan circle, U street. Also double points if it’s someplace also available on Friday nights. I went to three places last Friday that had either a stand-up comic, was closed due to a music show, or was just plain closed.”

We looked a this question last year and discussed some other coffee shops here but in the last year lots of new places have popped up. So where’s your favorite place to work and/or study?

I think Filter, Peregrine, Qualia, and Mid City Caffe not to mention Tynan and nearby Columbia Heights Coffee and Sticky Fingers are all good options.  What about non coffee shop options? I think the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum Courtyard could be a pretty sweet option.

57 Comment

  • If you are willing to travel to south dupont/west end, the illy has seating provided inside the marriot lobby with a bunch of tables and seating around that i found very helpful. Good coffee as well.

    I assume the lobby is generally open pretty late, even if the coffee shop isn’t.

  • I used to study for the GRE/work on grad school apps at a Barnes & Noble or a Borders. Bonus is that you can borrow their books.

  • Upstairs of SOVA. Upstairs of the Starbucks on 2nd and Penn Ave SE.

  • Old Post Office pavilion — but only when it’s not tourist season.

  • Domku in Petworth is really good for studying (comfy chairs, not too loud), and the food is good too.

    • Talk about snobby service! Man. The girl acted like I told her how ugly she was…

      (But yes, good for studying)

      • saf

        You know, I see comments like this sometimes and really wonder what happened. See, I spend a good bit of time there and have always been treated very well.

        So, what happened?

        • Well, maybe I’m asking too much, but when I walked in and said hello, she didn’t even look at me, mumbled something I can’t guarantee was a ‘hello’ or not, and moved around behind the bar, shuffling all the way (like I was waking her from a nap).

          Still without eye contact, she blurted ‘what can I get you’ while fumbling with her laptop.

          In essence, she was gruff, only paying partial, distracted attention to me, and literally never made eye contact with me.

          Happens a lot there – at least in my experience.

          • saf

            Wow, that’s not good. I would be annoyed too. Thanks for expanding the earlier statement.

          • I find them to all be generally distracted. It’s like it’s run by the DC government AND they’re all stoned or something. Brunch food is damn good though.

          • Yeah what IS it with the service at Domku! Went in there for a drink at 9 pm on the Thursday, the place is deserted and they look at you like they just smelled a fart.

          • There’s another Logan Girl on here?! Hey you stole my name!

  • I would be the lobbies of a lot of nice hotels would be great. The W is gorgeous! And nobody’ll bother you at most hotels, I’d think.
    I second the Portrait Gallery, and would note that even the National Gallery has some tucked away spots you can sit and read. And they’re pretty quiet.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Thinking about it, if you got a booth at the diner on 18th in Adams Morgan could be a great spot.

  • My money is on the Busboys and Poets on 14th and V.

    If you’re lucky enough to grab a seat at one of their communal tables (which, they apparently only have one now…), you’ll be able to …

    A) … have a power source to plug in your laptop
    B) … take domain over a fair amount of room to spread out your papers and books (compared to a cramped coffee house)
    C) … use their free Wi-Fi
    D) … have a never-ending supply of coffee (free refills!)

    As a substitute, you can also grab one of their lounge chairs or couches though you’ll lose out on a nice work surface.

    Alternatively, Big Bear Café, Chinatown Coffee (my wife’s preference), and the Caribou Coffee in Logan Circle are pretty decent.

    The Starbucks on 9th NW in the Renaissance isn’t an awful alternative. It’s less frequented than the other Starbucks in the general vicinity and you can leach off the free Wi-Fi from the hotel.

    Usually the problems I encounter, from most places, is lack of seating or lack of access to a an outlet.

  • I know it’s a bit out of the way, but my favorite place to do work is Baked & Wired in Georgetown. Part of the appeal is it’s somewhat inaccessible location. The coffee is great, the pastries are good and there is free wireless. Good luck with the GMAT!

  • You should try a place that doesn’t make money off of turning over tables.

    Apparently I am the only person who thinks this. I know.

    Try some libraries, a park (you do have a battery or two, right), or the place that you actually live in.

    • Agreed. I thought the suggestion that you take up a booth for hours and hours in a place like the Diner to be a little inconsiderate of a business that needs you to eat and leave, please.

      And yes, I know there are times when they’re dead. And yes, I know that you would be spending money while there. And yes, [fill in whatever else you are thinking of burning me with]… but still. Try a library.

    • Double agree with this. Not only does it take money out of the pockets of servers when you occupy tables for 2-3 hrs., but you also block paying customers from getting service.

      I think the suggestion about the atrium of the American Art Museum/National Gallery is a good one — that’s a purposely created public space, and there are lots of restaurants around from which you can get food, which they don’t mind you bringing into the place. Restaurants, bars, etc. are generally interested in turning a profit, and I’m pretty anti- the assumption that just because a place has an open table and an unlocked door, you should feel free to come in, make yourself at home, and treat it as your personal office for the price of a sandwich or cup of coffee.

  • Why can’t you study at home?

    • Prince Of Petworth

      It’s not a question of can or can’t. Sometimes it’s a nice change of pace to get out of the house/apt.

  • What’s wrong with a library? Leave the cafe’s to people who want to sit down with a cup of coffee.

    Cripes, nice to know our next generation of business leaders can’t bear the thought of concentrating on their subject material in silence for an hour or two. You’ve got a great future in BP’s risk management division.

    • I so agree.. There is no place to sit down and grab a quick lunch at Tryst anytime I go. So many people sitting with their macs on facebook or gchat.

      I would be so pissed if I were the owner of such establishments where these people just come to mooch off of free internet and perhaps grab a cup of coffee and sit there all day.

      On topic.. I find the DC Public libraries excellent places to study. Quiet and they have internet as well.

    • SouthwestDC

      Limited hours? Loud kids? The DC library I frequent is always filled with teenagers using the internet and chatting loudly amongst each other, and no one tries to quiet them.

      I guess you haven’t tried studying in a public library in DC. A bar would be less distracting.

      University libraries are pretty good, though. I enjoy studying at the GMU library, but that would be a trek for someone coming from DC.

      • Surprisingly for me, I have sympathy for your plight.

        To be able to concentrate, I need a caffeinated beverage and have it not smell like stale piss.

        Coffee shop +2, library 0.

        • The Late Mt. Pleasant Library never had a problem with kids or smells… Maybe others do.

          I got a lot of studying done at the now closed for renovation Mt. Pleasant Library on 16th and Lamont.

          There is an occasional douche once in a while but the staff is pretty good about quieting them. I have also seen a lady cop working there several times.

  • SoHo on the corner of 22nd & P.

    • Totally second this. I passed the bar by living for 12 days in the Soho Coffee in Dupont. (By living, I spent 12-14 hour days there). The staff was incredibly friendly, kind, didn’t mind I camped out, and even encouraged me on the test.

  • My favorite study spots have tended towards Sticky Fingers, Tryst, and Busboys (both the 14th and the 5th street locations are good). Tynan is okay, but I don’t love it for some reason I can’t explain.

    Just remember: if you’re studying somewhere that serves food and drink, make sure you buy something pretty regularly (ESPECIALLY if you have a waiter – and if you do, tip big; if I’m studying at a waitstaffed place, tips of 60-80% are not atypical, and if I’m just getting refills of coffee or soda the tip has nothing whatsoever to do with my bill).

  • SouthwestDC

    I second the upstairs of the Starbucks on 2nd and Penn Ave SE. No music, no racket from the various beverage-making machines, and the patrons on that level generally try to be respectful and quiet. There’s also a separate study room if you want some serious peace and quiet.

    I’ve studied at the Portrait Gallery courtyard and it is a good place to get some work done, though there can sometimes be rowdy kids running around. If you get burnt out, it’s nice to take a stroll around the galleries to clear your head.

    One thing that I’ve always found maddening about DC is that very few coffee shops stay open past 10pm, and the ones that do (like Tryst) are not very good for studying. My little college town had several coffee shops that were open until 5am, with lots of tables and good lighting– perfect for burning the midnight oil.

  • At home – where you can actually learn.

    But don’t listen to me. I don’t need qualified, educated people who actually know what they are talking about.

    It’s easier to compete for jobs for people who read for 10 minutes then drink beer, eat and watch the game and think they have studied.

    • SouthwestDC

      That’s wonderful that you can focus at home. And that you have a space at home that’s conducive to getting work done. Not everyone does.

    • That’s funny! I need people who aren’t so sure that they have the one stop fits all solution to the worlds problem.

  • Cafe Collage at 14th and T next to Saint-Ex is easily the best study space I’ve used.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Just a side note: Please notice how awesome the book is in the photo above. Check out the title!

    • if you are studying Ukrainian tractor history I think a little distraction is justified 😉

    • That book is quite funny – not about tractors at all.

      As far as places to study – Baked and Wired is great (best cupcakes in the city). Whole Foods has booths/tables, free wi-fi and doesn’t make their money on those tables. So grab a cup of coffee, a snack and hunker down.

    • I’ve been looking for a copy of that book for almost a year. I read another by the same author – Two Caravans – about Easter European/African/Asian migrant workers in the UK. It managed to tell a truly tragic story and made me laugh all the way through. Thoroughly recommended.

  • Azi’s at 9th and O Street, NW is always a good bet.

  • Is there a “Long History” as well?

  • As someone who recently spent months studying for the bar, I can sympathize–when you are studying that much for something (GMAT MCAT, LSATs, whatever), you go crazy studying in the same spot. I moved around regularly. Different strokes.

    However, as someone who waited tables at a restaurant during that same study period, I have never been so infuriated in my entire life as I was by this one group of jerks who took one of my precious tables from 7-9pm on a Friday night. They ordered cokes. I probably lost at least $50 in potential tips. Management didn’t want to anger “guests,” so I guess that leaves it to the guests to be more considerate.

  • I should have mentioned, it was a study group.

  • BARS! I love to study at bars during the day, because they’re usually not crowded at all and no one is clanging on keyboards and people don’t generally bother you. I do a beer every hour with lots of water/diet coke so I don’t get too intoxicated to pay attention. During the day you’re not taking up a spot – the bartenders are usually happy that someone is actually at the bar.

    Yes, I’m that girl who studies at the bar.

    • yeah, I saw you there! I was working up the nerve to come talk to you and asked you about your book of Ukranian tractor stories…

      • And by “Ukranian tractor stories” you mean “sexy brain photos” — yes, yes that you!

  • The libraries at Georgetown, Howard, and American Universities are open to visitors. And if you’re looking to study in the summer –after exams– they should be very quiet and quite comfortable.

  • Busboys & Poets on 14th & V NW wins hands down with me. Busboys in that location has it all: tables, OUTLETS, food, full bar, FRIENDLY SERVERS, good light. Opens early

    also in that area:

    Cafe Collage: coffeehouse next door to Saint Ex (corner of 14th & “Tea” St NW). tables, good food and bev for reasonable prices, wine in late afternoon. love the owners here–very gracious and friendly. opens 7:30??? not sure

    Mid-City Cafe: coffeehouse over Miss Pixie’s second-hand store on 14th somewhere around R or S ) OR

    Commissary: restaurant with free wifi on P St NW (across from Whole Foods) (no tables, and only scarce plugins) but good food & bev, friendly staff, full bar. Opens early, not sure when.

    Soho: tea & coffee shop on corner of P St NW & 22nd st. (Other side of Dupont Circle from the ones around Busboys on 14th & V.)wine & beer, great food, though limited. cash only (has ATM). Open 7:30 am

  • Never been, but I’ve heard great things about the study atmosphere at Steam Cafe on 17th & R. Pretty sure they stay open really late, too.

  • While I love hanging out in many of the places mentioned, I have often failed at studying due to lack of tables and outlets.

    Here are a few random gems:

    Bruegers Bagels (21 and L NW): They have free refills, free wifi, large tables that are usually always open. Great spot for the day time.

    Au Bon Pain at 13rd and L NW: I usually hate these places, but this one is almost always empty after lunch and they used to give me free coffee. They also have ample outdoor seating.

    JX Coffee Inc (above McPhearson Sq. metro at 14th and I)

    Tynan: Not so random… while I would figure it would be impossible to get a table here, I seem to always get lucky.

    Java House (17th and Q NW) If you do not need outlets, the patio here is one of my favorite places to study.

  • As far as coffeehouses go, when I was in school I studied a lot at Jolt n’ Bolt (18th just south of Florida). Good variety of food and drinks, and they let you sit for a while (provided that you actually buy stuff every hour instead of nursing a single cup of coffee).

    But my favorite place to study is the courtyard at the Portrait Gallery/SAAM. Free wifi, nice tables, soothing fountains, and you can bring your own food in. That place is the best.

  • I would love to know of places to study that are open after 9pm. I’ve been wanting to finish studying for the GRE but my roommate is so loud and annoying that I can’t study in my own apartment when she’s there (which is constantly). I’ve found that the Teaism in Penn Quarter is open until 10 pm weekdays and there are plenty of tables and no waitstaff to piss off. Any ideas for places off of the 42 bus route?

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