An Escape from the Noise

Big Bear Cafe

1700 1st St NW

Washington, DC 20001


When it comes to coffee shops, Big Bear Cafe is a DC Establishment. So I’m not sure why it’s taken me this long to blog about it. Big Bear Cafe is located in the Bloomingdale neighborhood, about a 15 minute walk from both NoMa and Shaw. It stands at the corner of 1st and R Street NW, right on the border of the Northeast and Northwest quadrants. Look for the vines and hanging lights, and you’ll eventually reach your destination.

When I arrived at Big Bear Cafe, I was confronted with many different possibilities. Do I order an iced coffee or a cold brew? Do I sit inside or outside? I’m hungry; should I order food? Do I order a slice of quiche or a breakfast sandwich? I needed to make some decisions, and fast.

As I approached the front of the line, I decided to order an egg and cheese sandwich and a cold brew coffee. I would sit inside to avoid the humidity, but by a window so I could take advantage of the natural light.

My cold brew coffee came in a glass, which I appreciated from an environmental standpoint, but also because it made me feel more at home. A large jug of water stood next to the milk and sugar station with little mason jars to fill up. So I hydrated my body with water while simultaneously dehydrating it with coffee.

Big Bear Cafe’s customer base is anything but homogeneous. Each person who entered the doors had a unique style, a specific ethos about them. Some were wearing sundresses or workout clothes, others fashioned long, bohemian dresses. Some were pierced, and others were tatted. One guy commemorated the good old days with an “Obama Biden” T-shirt. Needless to say, Big Bear Cafe is a prime spot for people watching. And I took full advantage of that opportunity.

As I drank my coffee, I realized that the décor at Big Bear Cafe is just as diverse as its clientele. The wall near the door hung signs promoting social justice. One read “Black Lives Matter” next to another that said, “All are welcome here. Our sanctuary cities stand tall.” Behind the counter was a chalkboard with a list of daily specials and upcoming events. A collection of liquor bottles, mugs, mason jars, and stemless wine glasses populated the space behind the counter. Hanging on the walls were historic photographs of DC’s Bloomingdale neighborhood, portraits that illustrate the complex and very real issue of gentrification in the District.

It can sometimes be exhausting to live in the nation’s capital. The constant political jargon and intense workdays are enough to drive someone insane. But if you ever need an escape from the hustle and bustle, somewhere to make you forget about the stress and anxiety of work, somewhere to remind you that DC has a diverse community of artistic, friendly, likeminded individuals, Big Bear Cafe is the place to go.

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