Nestled within the cozy confines of a turn-of-the-century Pennsylvania Avenue row building, lovingly restored by Karl Johnson and his co-owners, lies the newest addition to the Capitol Hill neighborhood, coffee shop and world bistro, Pound the Hill. Sporting an exposed brick and timber scheme and original plaster ceilings, Pound the Hill evokes a decidedly urban feel perfectly suited to its DC environs.
In complementary contrast to its historic interior, Pound the Hill has incorporated modern decor and technology to transform their space into one uniquely tailored to its intended purpose. The rows of red and white cups and mugs and similarly-colored staff attire reflect the restaurant’s DC heritage, while sleek granite counters and exposed wood floors convey a sense of efficiency and speed, two elements that are enabled by the wireless iPad-based POS system that allows the baristas to roam the store to remotely take orders and process payments. All these elements seamlessly combine in a stunning visual chemistry that transports visitors to the store away from the bustle of busy Pennsylvania Avenue.
Much more after the jump.
As the name suggests, Pound Coffee takes their coffee program seriously. Unique in the area in offering coffees roasted by Kickapoo Coffee, all the beans are certified organic and Fair Trade. The Wisconsin-based micro-roaster is a family operation housed in a re-purposed train depot, and sources their green beans from farmers around the world. Pound intends to highlight these farmers so customers can learn about the farming families and communities as they enjoy the finished product.
Several of Kickapoo’s coffees will be available at any given time, rotating based on seasonal availability, prepared in single-cup ceramic pour-overs or as drip from a tower for the morning rush. Espresso drinks are made on a gleaming silver La Marzocco machine and can be accompanied by milk from Pennsylvania’s Trickling Springs Creamery. In addition to their gourmet coffee, Pound the Hill will also be serving a selection of award-winning artisan teas from Mighty Leaf Tea.
Pound has developed a devoted following for their Nutella Latte – a mocha-type beverage prepared with a specially-crafted syrup they make from the popular Italian spread. This syrup is mixed with espresso and milk to create a sweet beverage that tastes exactly as advertised. In a move that is sure to be a hit, Pound will be giving away 1,000 Nutella Lattes as part of an opening-month promotion. For each of the first ten days they are open, patrons can claim one of 100 free Nutella Lattes by mentioning a daily promotion code that can be found on Facebook or Twitter.
In addition to their caffeinated offerings, Pound the Hill will feature a rotating menu of various ethnic dishes, hand-picked by the staff from their extensive world travels, which will be served on somewhat of a schedule. All menus will have vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Mondays, for example, will be Indian food days, featuring such dishes as Chicken Korma and the sumptuous Chicken Tikka Masala. American-themed Wednesdays might find Pound serving Shrimp and Grits, while Latin Thursday features tacos. I had the privilege of sampling the Masala, and with an incredible blend of spices and spiciness providing both flavor and bite, it might actually be better than any I have had at one of the many area Indian restaurants.
By focusing on a single cuisine and dish, Johnson has allowed his chef to take one dish and execute it brilliantly. The same thoughtfulness that has gone into designing the menu can be seen in the ingredients used for the dishes on it. The majority of the items feature ingredients locally-sourced from various ethnic markets and farm stands in the area, like Eden Center in Annandale and Eastern Market right down the road.
In both form and function, Pound the Hill aims to be much more than just a simple coffee shop; from the start they intend to be a local fixture, a nexus for the neighborhood to congregate, drink, eat, and socialize. The owners have added a number of features not found in a typical coffee shop to help achieve this purpose, such as comfy leather chairs, a laptop bar with numerous outlets, a cozy travel library in the back, and a patio in the rear. Within a few weeks, Pound the Hill will also sport a ten-person communal table (constructed of recovered wood from local barns), which the store hopes will serve as a focal point for business and community meetings. However, Pound the Hill has also thought of those patrons who don’t have time for a leisurely latte, including a stand-up espresso bar, where customers can pop in for a quick shot of espresso before dashing back to the House or Senate.
The new location is clearly generating buzz in the neighborhood: while I was there, a number of locals were peering in the windows, eagerly trying to catch a glimpse of the new tenant. Pound the Hill will be in soft opening mode next week, serving only drinks, before they open entirely on March 14th.
Pound the Hill is located at 621 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. The closest Metro station is Eastern Market on the Blue and Orange Line. For more information contact them at (202) 408-5282 or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
Part-Owner of Pound Coffee Karl Johnson was a regular contributor at We Love DC from 2008-2010