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Tina Extols The Joys Of Jolt N Bolt

by Prince Of Petworth January 28, 2009 at 11:00 am 43 Comments


I’m going to let you all in on a little secret. A couple of months ago I joined the ranks of the unemployed. I won’t lie, some days are a little touch and go, but on the whole I am happy with my new status and am relishing in my newfound abundance of time to focus my energy on volunteering, finishing my graduate school applications (wish me luck!), taking up new hobbies like cooking and painting (not at the same time though), catching up on my reading, finishing the scarf that’s been sitting in the knitting bag since last winter, and finally getting to visit the museums during the quiet hours. For a person without a job I’ve managed to keep myself pretty busy. However, I do still have a good amount of downtime, and if it were warm I would spend much of it outdoors. But in these freezing temperatures, bike rides, leisurely strolls, and sunbathing in the park don’t sound like such great ideas. So, I’ve taken to toting my laptop or a good book over to one of the many neighborhood coffee shops.

Most of the time, because it’s so close to home, I end up at Tryst. I like it alright, the couches are comfy (though their cleanliness is dubious), no one bothers me if I order a cup of coffee and sit for two hours, and they have a good selection of treats for when I get a little hungry. But, it’s always so crowded, the service is slow, and more often than not I feel like the guy next to me is more interested in a pick up than his laptop. But anyway, this post is not about Tryst, it’s about another spot just down the road, Jolt N Bolt. I used to find myself wandering down here when Tryst was too crowded but lately, despite the freezing temperatures, I have been bypassing Tryst all together and setting up shop in the little converted row house at 1918 18th Street (just south of U Street.) Continues after the jump.

Jolt N Bolt is an old neighborhood stand by, at least since 1998 when it was listed as one of the Washington Post’s Cheap Thrills, a place where people jolt and don’t bolt but instead linger over some coffee, hold study group sessions, or just tap away at their laptops for hours on end (free wi-fi!). Since I don’t have much to study for these days, I spend most of my time there tapping away, and I’ve found it to be a great environment for just that. It’s fairly small inside, maybe about 15 little tables, and a window counter. In the warmer months there is outside seating available on the patio, I’d hardly call it an oasis in the city – but given the amount of space they have to work with I think it’s pretty cute.


As far as the food goes, the coffee is good, they have a decent salmon bagel sandwich, and even better – a decent bagel, the oatmeal is delicious and loaded with dried fruit, nuts and honey, and the fruit smoothies are a great treat on a hot day, sometimes even on a cold one! I would advise to stay away from the baked goods, which are sometimes stale. They look delicious, but I am usually disappointed. There’s also a decent selection of teas, and a mystery drink called Goji Juice. I actually thought it was a shampoo bottle, until further inspection and research told me that the Goji berry is some kind of superfruit health drink. I cannot vouch for its powers, though. I think the prices here are pretty fair but will say that the service can be a little lacking. I might be mistaken, but I believe there was a change in ownership a couple years back. Since then, I think the service has improved and the staff is a bit more pleasant, but it sort of depends on who you get behind the register. I didn’t actually get a chance to chat with the woman who I am pretty sure is the owner, but she is almost always there and is extremely friendly.


All in all, I really like this place so I recommend giving it a shot. It’s cute, a little kitschy, and I don’t think you will be disappointed. And if you are, that’s OK…it just means my table will still be open!

  • Anon No. 47

    Gosh it must be nice to be able to have hobbies, afford graduate school applications, and be unemployed and living in a nice neighborhood.

    I have a job and live in a decent neighborhood and can barely afford to do most of the things you list.

  • Emily

    You have got to be kidding me. I was unemployed this whole summer and I had loads of free time to knit, but couldn’t afford the yarn. I could have gone to museums but couldn’t spare $5 in metro and bus costs. I wanted to apply to grad school but application fees are well over $50 a pop. I wanted to hang out in coffee shops but I couldn’t afford to buy anything. And I lived in a cheap apartment, splitting all costs with my boyfriend. I didn’t have mommy and daddy and Uncle Mastercard paying my rent, just hard earned savings.

    It sounds like your unemployment is a dream come true. Why the hell get a job and ruin your mini vacation, since clearly money isn’t an issue for you?

    I like the review of Jolt and Bolt. No complaints there. But in this economy, your wonderful spin on unemployment is crass and insensitive. I hope you never find a job in this town.

  • Anonymous

    Whoa! Those are some mean comments. Tina, best of luck with grad school and great review!

  • Sheepy

    Geez guys, lighten up! Is it so bad to try to focus on the good aspects of unemployment? Maybe she had a lot of yarn wasting away in craft storage (I’ve got two large trunks full of art supplies that I rarely touch — because I’ve got two jobs and am a full time grad student). Maybe she biked to the museum. Maybe she was wise and saved up enough during the good times so that she can relax during the bad. I have a pretty meager annual income, but even I’d be okay for at least 2 months without pulling out the credit card. I know from experience that there can be times when losing your job is a relief — you feel too guilty to walk away, but going to work every day is making you miserable and keeping you from everything you love to do.

  • It’s a matter of tact. In a week when 71,500 jobs were lost on Monday alone… it’s probably poor form to broadcast on a fairly popular web site just how amazing you find unemployment to be.

    While it is possible for someone to have saved up several months of living expenses, to the extent where they can not only not work, but take on expenses of new hobbies… that is very rare and if that’s the case then Tina should also write a personal finance blog.

    I’m curious to see how/if Tina responds. I just know too many people who are unemployed right now, and they have to make a lot of difficult choices that unfortunately do not involve which museum to go to, or which new meal to try to cook, or which coffeeshop to visit.

  • NAB

    The class warfare comments are a bit much, but they could’ve been averted by toning down the celebration of unemployment. It’s something that really sucks for people with families, debt, medical bills, etc.

  • Anon

    Jolt n Bolt rocks. But wtf commenters? Why critize Tina for making the best of a shitty situation. She wasn’t gloating.

    And wait, grad school application fees prevented you from applying, Emily? Making a decision like that, which will have life-long financial, academic, and professional ramifications, based on the cost of applying is absurd. Decent grad schools waive the application fees for applicants who can prove financial hardship. Paying for it once you’re accepted is the real issue.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe Tina got severance from her last job. I don’t know how common that is, but maybe that explains it? In any event, this is a good lesson for everyone: This unemployment fact was not necessary to the review, so why waste space writing it? People write too much unnecessary stuff, be concise!

  • Raymo

    I really have liked J & B for a long time, even before I moved to DC.

    Now I too have been without a job since Nov. I to found it great at times to explore lots of DC during the day. I did find a new job just last week. Like any responsible adult, had six+ months plus of living expenses saved up so I was fine especially since I made sure to cut way back on everything totally not necessary. The attitude by Dave and Emily confuse me. Assuming Pop is some sort of jackball and cursing her is nuts.

  • Emily

    Anon, what kind of fantasy world are you living in?

    “on the whole I am happy with my new status and am relishing in my newfound abundance of time” is not humbly making the best of a bad situation. She simply could have said “I have a lot more free time on my hands and here’s a cool coffee shop” and that would have been great. Instead the first THIRTEEN LINES are completely unrelated to Jolt and Bolt and instead are “unemployment is cool! I can paint and not have to eat ramen like everyone else!”

    (And decent grad schools do waive the application fee if you can prove financial hardship. Unfortunately if your tax return states you made $40,000 but you’re laid off before you can file for the next year it doesn’t really count. It’s not a matter of calling up Columbia and going “Yo, I lost my job! Waive that fee!” or “Hey ETS, I can’t pay $30 to have my scores sent to each school, can you spot me?”)

  • MGDC

    Yo, guys, lay off. She’s not saying unemployment rocks, she’s saying she is making the best of it. And she hardly described a life of European vacations and racing Maseratis — she said she’s finishing a knitting project started when she was employed, reading books, helping her community by volunteering, cooking herself dinner, visiting museums (most of which are free in this city) and using a coffee shop’s free wi-fi while buying an occasional bowl of oatmeal or a bagel. I know very well that there are many people who can’t afford even those small luxuries, but that doesn’t justify beating up on Tina for living her life.

    Maybe she was smart/lucky enough to build up significant savings during her last job, maybe she has a sugar daddy… but either way why do you guys have an interest in trying to make her feel ashamed. The point of the post was to tell you about an interesting coffee shop, and if you are unemployed and can’t afford coffee you can easily skip to the next post without trying to make Tina feel bad about herself.

    I, for one, will make a point of checking out Jolt N Bolt. Thanks, Tina.

  • Emily

    Raymo: let me get this straight. Assuming you pay on the low end of rent (let’s say $500 to be fair though that’s low for DC) and $100 for groceries, cellphone, and assorted bills (also shooting low on that one but hey, you seem thrifty), you had approximately $3,600+ in savings for six months? And could afford to pay for coffees, paints, and groceries that didn’t encompass ramen and knock-off Frosted Flakes, not knowing if you’d even find another job in six months and potentially could have to make that six-month fund last for 12?

    ‘Cause I had enough in savings to see me through until I found another job (which was four months later), but my issue was that I hoarded it because I didn’t know if I needed to make it last longer than the six months people usually give themselves. Saving is awesome, but what if you’re unemployed for a long time?

    Wow. Maybe you and Tina should collaborate on that personal finance blog.

  • Sarah

    To all the disgruntled commenters: you’re not alone and it’s not so bad


  • Raymo, I applaud you for having that much money saved up. Unfortunately, for most people in DC, six months of expenses would probably be somewhere near $10,000 or more. If you’ve only been working for a few years and are still paying off student loans and whatnot, it’s difficult to build that sort of emergency fund.

    That’s not even factoring in the cost of health care, extending benefits even under COBRA can cost several hundred dollars per month.

    Now imagine it’s not just one person, but it’s a family. Mortgage, food, clothes, all of that. While I’m sure some “responsibile” adults have saved up $20-30K for emergencies, it’s not something everyone can do.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Good lord. I, obviously, back Tina 100%. I think some are reading a bit too much into this. It’s a post about a coffee shop. This blog often purposely focuses on the positive. That is no accident. And if you reread this post you’ll see that it is very far from insensitive.

  • EchoWhiskey

    Emily, there’s a Burger King around the corner from me that’s hiring. It seems like a few hours there could help pay for your Columbia grad school app. But that would be beneath you right? Oh, look at me, presuming to know someone’s situation from one paragraph on a blog. I hate when people do that.

    In short, chill out. One can only speak about their own truth.

  • Raymo

    I made about 62K last year, 48K the year before. I had about 12,000 in cash savings when my job ended. No loans or anything. My rent is 1100/month. As I go back to work for a little less than I made last year, my savings are down to about 6,000.

  • I love the almost ridiculous bubble that this blog seems to exist in, where everyone has amazing earning potential and can save up large sums of money in a short period of time. And everyone can ponder buying fancy houses that go up for sale, and everyone can eat at fancy restaurants.

    I like this site because of the local slant and the fact that it gives some press to some good local businesses. I guess I’d overlooked this air of almost elitism. I suppose people who can’t afford such things or can’t make $60,000 in a year wouldn’t read the site anyway, so it’s a moot point.


  • Nichole

    Wow. I can’t believe the comments on here. I’ve been unemployed since September, and in my particular line of work, I knew I wouldn’t be looking for a job until after the Inauguration, so I’ve been enjoying having the free time and making the best of a less-than-ideal circumstance. It’s kind of a, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” situation.

    One Fourth of July many, many years ago, I was going to a roofdeck party somewhere near the Jolt n’ Bolt and my flip flop broke. I ran in and asked if they had anything to help, and they were nice enough to help me duct tape my flip flop together. They’re good people in my book. A little too far from home to spend any regular amount of time there, but good folks.

  • Anonymous

    Dave, you suck. That is all. What a pathetic loser…

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Alright, the ice is perhaps getting us down a bit. But let’s try and steer this back to Jolt n Bolt which is a great coffee shop!

  • @Sarah… it’s not so bad and you’re not alone? Uhhh… I watched that. I was hoping, at least, it would be some guy telling us how he re-evaluated his materialistic life and moved to a place he could reasonably afford, got rid of his $500/mo BMW, ditched cable TV, blah blah blah and found a much more fulfilling life by earning $8 an hour at the local coffee shop and spending all his newfound free time reading Sartre and skateboarding in San Francisco. That, I could get behind a little bit.

    No, instead, we have a guy who had 120 hours of vacation in the bank at his job (which I’m sure everyone does… right??) and got a decent severance, and starting living off the dole. And so was able to pay off all his irresponsible consumer debt with that windfall.

    Sho’ must be nice buddy! Most of my friends getting laid off are getting a month severance, and trying to find people to rent rooms in their houses so they can even cover their mortgage. Which exceeds the value of their house, of course, so they can’t sell or refinance.

    Honestly, I don’t mind Tina’s whimsical response to losing her job, and I think people should lighten up a little bit. But she’s clearly in the realm of “minimal responsibilities and/or roots” where whatever happens is a-OK. Most people aren’t.

  • Anonymous

    🙂 i love positive coffee-drinking people! 🙂

    🙂 thanks for a good review, tina!

    and thanks for making me re-appreciate why i surround myself with positive friends who make the best they can of really hard, crappy, not-fun, challenging situations, complainers! half the challenge of being unemployed is maintaining your attitude while managing your finances. hey, at least you got the finance part down.

  • Sheepy

    Dave, I make 20k/year before taxes and I love this blog. I don’t have any help from my parents, a sugar-significant other, or a previous life with a large income, but I do have a roommate who splits the cost of rent, groceries, and internet with me since we split the benefits of all of those, too. I find 6 months worth of savings to be a little ambitious, but I live within my means and am able to maintain a reasonable cushion should the worst happen. I eat pretty well because I cook from scratch, and I go out occasionally because I don’t make unnecessary purchases. Does that make me an elitist?

    Tina: Thanks for the review. I’m always looking for a change of scenery to study in. Especially one that might not be as holy-cow crowded as Sticky Fingers or Tryst. The stale baked goods makes me sad, though.

    PoP: Sorry, I couldn’t stop my fingers from typing a response.

  • Tina

    I apologize to anyone who I may have offended, I never intended to make light of a bad economy or brag about how much freedom and money I have. Believe me, I don’t have a whole lot of either right now. Being unemployed is shitty for a lot of reasons, but I’m trying to make the best of it.

    Thanks to everyone who left positive feedback.

  • Solives

    I used to live around the corner and have very fond memories of Jolt and Bolt. while the starbucks at CT and R was always overcrowded and had crappy food, Jolt and Bolt made me happy everytime.

  • FH

    I used to live by Jolt and Bolt and Tina’s review is right on! They are nice, the coffee is good, but steer clear of the baked goods.

    For the commenters who seem to only glean pleasure from pissing on a poster or another commenter’s positive input, PLEASE move on and gum up another site that has a more cynical slant, or start your own jealous/fussy blog.

  • Anonymous

    Big fan of Jolt n Bolt, especially the bagel, egg, and cheese sandwich. Although I did once get a fresh-squeezed lemonade that, I’m pretty sure, was just water and lemon juice. Not the most delicious.

  • ColHeightsChic

    I hate to say it, but ever since they changed ownership, I think Jolt & Bolt has gone downhill. Granted, I stopped really going there after 2 bad experiences a few years back, so perhaps they finally have their act together.
    When they first changed ownership, their coffee was weak, their baked goods were pretty bad and seemed Safeway-bought, and the smoothies were made from tons of juice (although they claimed they were using fresh fruit). I really would love to love this place, so maybe they’re back on the right track again. I’ll have to give it another try, I suppose, but I did prefer the previous ownership.

  • Crystal

    Good blog Tina. My friend in grad. school used to call Jolt N Bolt his secret coffee shop with free wifi and good drinks! I always appreciate your upbeat and positive attitude, i find it refreshing! I can’t wait to read about your next adventure and please… don’t listen to these negative people, you are making the best out of a bad situation. I am impressed that you had sense to prepare for the unexpected by saving your money… maybe you could give me a tip or two about saving!

  • AverageAtBest

    Jolt N Bolt serves a dirty cappuccino, and by that I mean it tastes like dirt. Worse than Starbucks? Yes.

  • FH

    I get it now, “Dave” is a jealous, fussy person who purposely posts mean-spirited things simply to divert traffic to his own jealous, fussy blog. Silly me, it took me awhile to figure that out because I don’t spend all day on the Internet tearing down everything and everyone.

    Obviously those of us who enjoy the positive nature of this blog should simply ignore comment trolls like him.

  • poo poo likes turtles

    Jolt and Bolt (from my understanding from friends since ’96) was one of the first independent coffee houses opened up in dc by a gay couple. i dunno. i think that’s pretty cool. especially since they opened it up during a down period in that neighb’s history, and it’s still around.

    it’s a great way to get away from the jokesters that frequent other places.

    i like ’em (yeah, even the new ownership), and stop by just to show support.

    as for knocking tina for making the best out of unemployment, give it a rest.

    a lawyer friend of mine was unemployed and found a job making $100k at cactus cantina on wisconsin, by chance! don’t be dorks people, unless that’s all you know. haterz always get hated upon.

    KARMA folks….

  • Anonymous

    We need a gay coffee house in Petworth!

  • bogfrog

    Bartenders at the Front Page Arlington earn about $90K too

  • Beth

    Does anyone else remember when Jolt N Bolt used to have a small serve-yourself section of indian food? I don’t remember the specific dishes or how long they did that (probably under the previous owners) but we thought it was the most random choice. Perhaps because of that randomness, we often grabbed some when we were there to save for after our coffee and wifi excursion.

  • reuben

    I am in accord with Tina and my man the Prince. I don’t think Tina was saying that her life was a lark-but I do appreciate her balanced perspective. No one wants to be “downsized”, but ( and I do think this is a kind of revelation for a workaholics paradise like DC) there is a world beyond the office. One many of us don’t necessarily explore even when things are just ducky. Best to you, Tina. And I am also a fan of Jolt ‘N Bolt.


  • Karen

    Jolt n Bolt is right across the street from my work and I go there almost every day. Their coffee isn’t that great and it’s way overpriced, but they have the most fantastic shrimp and mango salsa wraps! And I absolutely love sitting outside when it’s nice–they have definitely made the most out of the space they have.

    I really like the new management, really nice people even if sometimes service is slow. The other day a girl in line in front of me was having difficulty making herself understood because she had a cold and the barista just made her a cold remedy then and there, free of charge, just to be nice. I love seeing things like that happen 🙂

    Glad to hear that the pastries are stale. It makes me feel better about passing them up every day despite intense yearning….

  • Man, I should quit my job so that I can do this! Why didn’t I think of it before? My god!

    Oh, that’s right. Because I have rent, car insurance, a car loan, a student loan, and living expenses to pay for.

  • TheNeufisonFire

    Wow, if everyone is so damn worried about the economy and counting their money then why are they spending so much time attacking this blog entry? Emily, quit your whining and sell your laptop.

    Tina- you are a rockstar and all the a-holes who are hating on your ability to enjoy your time away from a cubicle are JEALOUS!! Keep writing and living your days as you like! Even though I’m in grad school, live in campus housing, in student loan debt up to my eyeballs and buy my fruit on the street I would like to be your sugar mama.

  • TPS

    When I was younger I would have been beating myself up about the job market, what will I do next, etc. I am not stupid; of course I am concerned. But it makes absolutely no sense for me to be miserable, deprived and all around unwell at this time. It’s only been a few weeks for me, but at 41 years old, I know that while I’m waiting for the phone to ring after sending out resume after resume, it’s perfectly sane to enjoy the simple, inexpensive pleasure I could not only a month or so ago. A bubblebath in the daytime; going to the grocery store during the day when it’s practically empty instead of packing myself into crowded aisles on a Saturday; getting a full eight hours of sleep every single night just because I can. I download audio books for free from the public library so I can keep the tv off and enjoy something new, fresh and engaging.

    While friends of mine (I’m sure) are certain I’ve lost my mind, I just can’t imagine how running around like a chicken with my head cut off would do me any good. I might be unemployed another month or another six, but is it any better to feel and look depleted, anxious and stressed when going to interviews? I think not, so I’ve got to run now. Time for my steam facial. NO matter what I do, the phone isn’t going to ring any faster, so why not be gorgeous, healthy and content while waiting? I start every morning with a delicious breakfast, a good workout, time for prayer and then I’m off and running to the sites. This economy might break my bank, but I’ll be damned if it’ll break my spirits. As Ali would say, I’m just too pretty!

  • Ada

    TPS- You are wonderful.

  • Fonty

    Some of the people here are just like the characters at diehipster.com. They cry about what everyone else is doing, rather than worry about their own business.

    To the writer of the article: Good for you. There’s nothing wrong with you enjoying your new-found free time and it is great that you’re also using the opportunity to apply to grad school. Good luck!


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