1351 H St NE
Washington, DC 20002
My friend Ryan once told me that DC has an underground scene like no other city. On the surface, Washington is a city of nine-to-fivers. But if you look beyond the congressional sessions and press conferences, what you’ll find is a place filled with idiosyncratic and unique locals who all want a good cup of coffee.
Perhaps the most obvious example of this “DC Underground” is H Street’s Maketto. Located between the legendary Rock and Roll Hotel and the neighborhood favorite Bullfrog Bagel shop, the sign for Maketto is so small it’s easy to miss. And when you enter, you experience a brief feeling that you may have just walked in to the wrong place. Because the first thing you see when you walk into Maketto is what looks like a high-end, edgy, retail store. Shirts and shoes and hardcover books dress the store like a more avant-garde and less commercialized Urban Outfitters.
But once you spend a few minutes looking around the interior, you quickly realize that Maketto is much more than just a retail store. It is also a restaurant, bar, and café.
If you’re looking for a cup of coffee or a snack, as I was when I arrived at Maketto, head up the stairs to your left. Much to my surprise at 11:30 AM on a Saturday, there was a plethora of open tables and chairs. I ordered the pork steamed bao and a double espresso over ice, an odd but surprisingly complimentary combination. My double espresso, or iced dopio as the fancy people call it, was served to me in a small glass on a wooden board with a shot glass of sparkling water and a rectangular sugary snack that was somewhere in between a cookie and a cracker.
In a word, the atmosphere at Maketto is modern…chic even (okay so two words). The black furniture against the white brick walls makes for a clean, atmospheric contrast. And the blend of blues and funk and hip-hop playing in the background is almost as experimental as Maketto itself.
But if you don’t want to spend the entire day inside, Maketto also offers a spacious outdoor seating area where customers can occupy space at one of many picnic tables and chairs. Maketto’s backyard resembles a European garden, trees and umbrellas blocking the violent heat of the sun.
There’s no doubt that the H street/Atlas District neighborhood has a lot to offer in terms of food and nightlife. But as far as coffee is concerned, there isn’t a ton there. So if you’re craving caffeine and looking for something a little off-beat, Maketto is the place to go.