Mid City Caffe Closing Oct. 1st in Logan Circle

First Sparky’s Cafe closes then Cafe 14U and now this…

Yesterday at 5pm I got the following sad press release:

“Logan Circle’s Mid City Caffe has announced that it will be closing for business. The final day of normal operation will be September 30, 2011 with limited hours of operation on October 1. The café was opened in 2009 by a pair of entrepreneurs who turned the interior of the former auto-body shop into a comfortable environment for the neighborhood’s residents to work, relax and socialize.

Unfortunately, the second-story location outside the downtown core proved underperforming. Limited accessibility restricted morning commuter and daytime foot-traffic, and while the café was blessed with a coterie of dedicated regulars, ultimately the volume simply was not there.

Known particularly as a gathering place for the neighborhood’s freelancers and creative professionals, Mid City Caffe proudly served coffee from Counter Culture Coffee and Caffe Pronto prepared by an expertly trained staff. The café’s closing will leave a gap in the expanding, but nightlife-focused, Fourteenth Street corridor.

It has been a pleasure to serve the Logan Circle neighborhood and to be apart of the city’s burgeoning specialty coffee scene. While the ownership and staff are excited to move on to other opportunities, they will miss their devoted customers.”

Mid City Caffe, located above Miss Pixie’s (also likely moving in 2012) at 1626 14th Street, NW, opened up back in Aug. ’09.

Coffee fans will now have to head to Peregrine which opened up down the block at 1718 14th St, NW in May ’11.

Do you guys think that the neighborhood couldn’t support both Peregrine and Mid City or do you think “the second-story location outside the downtown core” was Mid City’s downfall?

48 Comment

  • I was a co-owner of a second floor coffee shop years ago. The second floor location really is a problem, since it drastically reduces take-out orders. People don’t know it’s there, it doesn’t seem as convenient to just pop in, etc. At least in our case, take-out was essential (the shop was packed, but we were still struggling).

    So, imo, the second floor location was probably a big cause of the demise…

    • I’ve lived here for 2 years. I didn’t realize that coffee shop was there until about 9 months into living in the neighborhood. I can’t imagine random passerbys figured it out very often. I thought their signage was very discreet from the sidwalk level.

    • On the other hand, it could be the greedyass commercial landlords here who plain-vanillaize neighborhoods.

    • It seems like Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks have coffee markets cornered around this area. I think it would be better at this point to start a franchise of one of those instead of a one-off shop. Unless you have some sort of environment like Tryst or excellent food to complement the coffee bar, its hard to say I’d be compelled to go anywhere else than the mainstays of the coffee biz because I’m so used to consistency when it comes to coffee.

  • I would guess it was too small and the regulars were freelancers who would nurse $4 worth of coffee over 5 hours… Thus Peregrine’s almost no seating approach.

    I also thought it was involved with the Miss Pixie’s owners?

    • Re: Freelancers: That’s a pretty big problem for coffee shops around town. There seem to be loads of semi-employed people around town who like to spend inordinate amounts of time on Facebook on their laptops in coffee shops, while ordering a single cup of coffee.

  • I thought it just wasn’t very comfortable in there or not big enough. The two room split wasn’t very appeal. Also I always wished they had more food choices. The few times I went they were out of some of the small food choices listed on the menu.

  • I live on 14th street. I loved Mid City; it reminded me of my favorite, college-era coffee place in Davis, CA.

    I used to go all the time, but in April, I severely injured my knees and have been unable to take stairs since. That location isn’t very accessible to the mobility-impaired. If they had an elevator, I was unaware of it.

    I go to Peregrine now, because it is street level and the coffee is great. But if Mid City were downstairs instead of upstairs I never would’ve left.

  • While I enjoyed Mid City since its inception, I think it was a combination of things that led to its demise. For one, not being on the ground floor and having that “presence” probably did hurt the business. Sure, they had a sign out front, but Mid City marketing was purely word of mouth. In my opinion, the biggest problem was the lack of space behind the bar. Yes, the space was great for people who wanted to hang out, do work, etc, BUT the lack of space the baristas had to work with made it hard to make more than one drink at a time. There were some Saturday’s were I would have to wait almost 20 minutes for my drink. Now that’s not their fault per se, but I think some people may have just become frustrated with that long of a wait.

  • OMFG! WTF am I going to do now? This is/was hands down the best coffee shop in the area.

    I talked to one of the owners and he said as much about the second story location. Unless you know that place is there it is kinda hard to find. One time I was walking home with my coffee and I was at the corner of 14th and R and a couple stopped me and asked where the nearest Starbucks was. I asked if they actually wanted a Starbucks or a coffee shop and then pointed them to Mid-City. They had walked right by it.

    • +1 on the wait. That was the main culprit for locals who knew about the place and liked their product but chose to go elsewhere. I would’ve loved to support it, but didn’t have the time – especially with all the other options in a 3 block radius. Local business employees also said the same.

  • I think the location set them up for failure from the beginning. I don’t think Peregrine put them out of business as they chose not to renew there lease but it would have eventually.

  • Sad to hear that this place is closing. Very good coffee and as another poster mentioned, reminded me of studying in college. Wish the owners the best of luck on their future endeavors.

  • This is sad news, but the possibility of Miss Pixie’s leaving is down right horrifying.

  • Mid-City sold excellent coffee — at least when one could find seating there (frequently a problem on weekends with laptop users hanging out). Nevertheless, we found ourselves going there considerably less frequently once Peregrine opened because Peregrine offers an even better product, one didn’t have to hike up a flight of stairs to get there, and the lack of wi-fi or even much in the way of tables prevented patrons from lingering all day and allowed seating to turn over. It is a shame that both businesses could not prosper.

  • andy

    funny, it always seemed so crowded every time i went up there. i guess it must have just been full of regulars who paid their $3.95 for 8 hours of parking space.

  • I live on 14th street. I loved Mid City; it reminded me of my favorite, college-era coffee place in Davis, CA.

    OMG, do you mean the old Cafe Roma on e st? Or Delta of Venus? I used to love those places … Mid City does remind me of them, with its small rooms and coziness.

    However, I don’t think the Mid City business model can be supported with DC’s high rents … too labor intensive for takeout (the pour-over method is so slow) and too many people lingering over a $5 purchase.

    Anyway, I loved Mid City and this really sucks. The city ought to provide grants for businesses that provide needed, affordable third-spaces, like cafes.

    • No, the city should provide money for more police officers and higher quality education and opportunities for young people. That way you don’t have to worry about having your bike stolen after leaving it sitting on its own for 30 seconds.

      • There’s room for both. better urban amenities = more people on the streets = more safety = more business = more jobs = better city for everyone. The cafes could even be used to train young people!

        also, lock your bike up every second, we’re in a city and that requirement is never going to change.

  • seems like an excellent opportunity to bring back sparky’s

    • I worked at spark’s back when Jeff owned the place, good coffee but the vibe want to shit. The employees exuded a level of contempt for the living (themselves included)on par with a pissed off yet lazy zombie.

  • Second floor location certainly didn’t help, but I think the big problem was that every time I went there back when I was funemployed it would be packed to the gills with semi/un/under employed people dicking around on their powerbooks for god knows how long. I wasn’t able to get a seat half the time and eventually I just stopped going. Also, the second (smaller) room to the wasn’t particularly comfortable and didn’t seem like a great use of space.

    Cafe Collage at 14th and T became my go to coffee shop during this time — always possible to get a seat, good classical music, good food and drink options.

  • Will very much miss this one for the somewhat grungy and quirky atmosphere, good lattes, and some eclectic music.

  • Too bad to see my neighborhood turning into an Arlington or Bethesda (and how it will support the 5+ condo/apartment projects I have no idea!).

  • -not enough foot traffic over.
    -on the second floor.
    -wall-to-wall wi-fi’ers working on their resumes.

  • The problem awas all about the second floor. I like a good coffee place; I go and hang out though without a laptop so my parking time is not all that long. The thing is, being on the second floor eliminated a big chunk of people watching – the view to the stret. To be honest, I only went to MidCity a few times. Although I didn’t wish them ill, their closing won’t make any difference to me.

  • Lots of stories. At the end of the day my understanding is great management, indifferent owners. The owners are the ones who choose to pay the rent. Peregrine is run by coffee people straight up, no wifi, no bs.

    Greedy landlords still have to pay increasing property tax so greedy aka money losing landlords should be given a bit of a break. You can always move to Madison, WI, or Boulder and hang out at coffee shops and work on your resume there.

    There will always be great independent retailers who do great biz, like the following, Cork, Eatwell DC (Logan tavern etc), Estadio, Church Key/ Birch, Pitango, Rice, Jeff Black (the least vanilla restaurant I have seen in DC), Saint-Ex and Pillar,

    I could go on and on, but dont cry for the poorly operated independents, instead cheer for the great ones that make 14th st a great place to live work and play.


    Peregrine ain’t doing it for me. uncomfortable layout (not including the lack of seating), horrible sunshine in your face in morning, and their pastries are crap.

    I’m gutted.

    • I hate to agree with you b/c Peregrine on the Hill is my favorite coffee shop in DC.

      But the new location is really unfriendly for “stay” drinks and you’re right about the morning sun – they really need to figure out a way to let people enjoy a cup there without being blinded.

  • It’s the middle of the workday. Shouldn’t you have something better to do than go on Prince of Petworth and complain about semi-employed people dicking around on laptops?

  • The one time I went there I was blown away by the prices. $8.00 for a coffee and crossaint. Given the location it didn’t really make me want to go back there.

  • Great coffee, prepared with care. They’ll be missed.

  • I went for the first time just yesterday. I was chatting away to the women working behind the counter about what a neat venue it was, I wish I lived closer, they must be crazy busy, yak yak yak as usual. They were awfully subdued in their responses, I left wondering if I’d just overdone the crazy a bit or if they had attitude issues. Now I guess I understand. Feel really bad now.

  • While I agree that the second floor location is a drawback…it’s not like the owners/managers wouldn’t have realized this from day one.

    Look at Filter. When I first read about them on PoP, I remember thinking yuck, who wants to go have coffee in a tiny basement? And its not like that little stretch of 20th gets a ton of foot traffic from folks wandering around looking for refreshment. But the coffee is great, and the place is usually packed.

    Sure, it would be better if the place was bigger – more seating (less parking, as discussed above), more baristas so the wait wasn’t as long – more food options and better street-watching options…but Filter has been able to overcome all of those (potential) handicaps. Better coffee? Better marketing? Better staff? I give it up to the owner for knowing what he was getting himself into and working it the best he could.

    That said, if Miss Pixie can’t afford the rent, it doesn’t surprise me that a much younger business with a less loyal following can’t absorb it either. But I’m always sad to see a place like this close.

  • Like many others, I quit trying to go there because I could never find a seat with all the laptop parkers. Really liked the coffee and the place otherwise.

  • This makes me worried for Qualia. If Qualia closes then I’ll have to leave DC and move to Oakland or Madison or god forbid back to Davis! Hopefully Qualia has cheaper rent and fewer freeloaders …

  • As a frequent parker there, it will be sorely missed. But, blaming all of us people who like to get out of the house/office to do work is a bit much.

    Lots of places (Tynan, U St Coffee, etc) have internet and lots of parkers. The key is timed internet. While its annoying to get up every two hours to buy something, I would much prefer that to not have coffee shops or (like Peregrine) having coffee shops minus internet.

    My main problem with MCC was other than the sweet potato cake, their food was lacking, so I would get a coffee, park, get hungry, go somewhere else and over pay for food, as opposed to over paying for food at MCC.

  • Interesting set of comments. One of the strongest running themes is blaming the “laptop parkers” who supposedly camped out in the shop all day. Are the people who complain about this angry because they came to the shop to park with their laptops but couldn’t because too many other people had the same idea and got there first? Or were they really just going to sit an enjoy a cup of coffee for 5.7 minutes and then leave so someone else could have a seat?
    Every Starbucks that I have been to has a cadre of “laptop parkers” and often there are few if any seats. But it doesn’t seem to be affecting their business.

    • Maybe it’s the combination of the “laptop parkers” and the steps:
      – Folks who want 10 minutes to drink a latte won’t climb the steps if they know “laptop parkers” probably are filling the seats
      – Folks who want “to go” won’t climb steps

      Just a thought. My experience, as somebody who likes to drink my coffee while sitting down, is that MidCity was always a second choice for me since I never though I’d be able to find a seat. But their coffee was always excellent.

    • how about the one on Conn ave in Cleveland Park? or the other two coffee shops that were up there? All closed. low traffic locations and parkers are the kiss of death. Even Tryst cuts off the wifi on the weekends to keep you moving.

  • I think it is just tough to make it as a small business period. Not to mention in this economy. But if the risk takers weren’t out there we wouldn’t have such great local gems. So I guess I would just say good luck to everyone who is thinking about taking the plunge into business!

  • I just want to go on record and say I am flat out heart broken. I love this place, it had such a nice vibe . DC has been blessed with some great new coffee places , but it is nice to have diversity depending on your mood. I loved sitting and looking out – it’s too bad they didn’t have upstairs & downstairs as an option like good ol’ Top Pot in Seattle.

    Everyone go buy something to drink at Flying Fish – that place is so great as well…


  • The world changes. Businesses come and go. No great loss.

  • Bring back Sparky’s!

  • Agreed that it’s not OK for people to be “parking” in a place for hours at a time without being courteous enough to buy another beverage. But would just note more generally that a lot of the people you see in places like Mid-City during the day are not semi- or un- but simply employed, and FYI “freelancer” isn’t a dirty word. I do a lot of freelance editorial work from home, and sometimes I just need to get out of the damn house and go join the other humans for a bit. Now I wonder, the next time I go to Flying Fish or someplace, is somebody giving me the evil eye for “parking” when I get a coffee and a pastry, then sit down with my laptop for an hour to get a work assignment done?

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