sidamo-exteriorH Street is getting plenty of publicity lately, with popular dining locations like Granville Moore’s and Sticky Rice and nightlife destinations such as the Rock n’ Roll Hotel and the Red & the Black.  And with Joe Englert’s next big project – the H Street Country Club – just a few weeks from opening, the eastern end of the street is about to get even hotter.

Unless you live in the neighborhood, though, it’s likely you’ve never heard of one of the real hot spots on H Street.  For a little over two years, Sidamo Coffee & Tea has been drawing in crowds with the smell of fresh-roasted coffee beans and a welcoming atmosphere.

Coffee connoisseurs may perk up at the name – Sidamo is a province in Ethiopia whose coffee beans are prized for their rich, spicy aroma and flavor.  And those Sidamo beans can definitely be found here, as can other Ethiopian varieties like Yergacheffe and Harrar.  Owners Kenfe Bellay and his wife, Mimi, are both from Addis Ababa, and their love for the coffee of their homeland shows through in every cup.  They also make it a point to buy fair-trade, shade-grown coffee beans; the former because those growers are “their family,” and the latter because Kenfe believes they just taste better.

More about this true neighborhood gem – including their cafe-style menu and some additional pictures – after the jump.

coffee-roasterLocated on the 400 block of H Street, Sidamo is easily recognized by its artistic signage.  A traditional Ethiopian coffee pot tilts above a painted white coffee cup, and the name shows through between them.  Looking closer, it’s even easier to tell you’ve come to the right place – there’s a giant red coffee roaster in the front window…and if you’re arriving early enough in the morning, you may be fortunate enough to smell the goliath in action.  Kenfe roasts coffee every morning, asserting that freshly-roasted beans are the key to a truly delicious cup of coffee.  Is he right?  Taste for yourself and I dare you to disagree.

sidamo-interiorSidamo’s attraction goes deeper than the coffee, though.  The warm space, the cafe menu, and the embrace of the neighborhood add up to a great place to enjoy a caffeine fix.  Walking in the front door, you’re greeted by a long counter of reclaimed wood along the left-hand side and four small tables along the right.  Artwork by local artists adorns the walls, and the hand-lettered chalkboard signs announcing the menu add an extra touch of homespun charm.

The selection of loose-leaf teas, which can be served either hot or cold, is more than a dozen deep.  Chai?  They’ve got it.  Rooibos?  Check.  Tutti Frutti?  I couldn’t tell you what it is, but it’s here.

If all that hard work of deciding on a drink makes you work up an appetite, Sidamo’s got you covered there, as well.  They offer a variety of breakfast sandwiches (the usual combinations of egg, cheese and meats) on bagels or toast.  They’re good, but nothing out of the ordinary.  Far better are the lunch options.  A club panini combines turkey, ham and cheese on a pressed sandwich with a little bit of spiced mayonnaise to give it an extra boost.  The house salad features almonds and parmesan cheese – another unexpected (but pleasant) touch.  Everything I’ve had has been tasty, though the food is certainly secondary to the caffeinated beverages at Sidamo.

sidamo-courtyardIn addition to the warm, inviting interior, Sidamo boasts a small courtyard in the back with three tables for soaking in the beautiful spring and early summer weather.   They offer free wi-fi access throughout the space, and there are plenty of outlets (even outside) for those who do their best writing in a coffeehouse setting.

Perhaps their most unique offering is the weekly Ethiopian coffee ceremony.  Held at 2 PM on Sundays, this is a re-enactment of a traditional Ethiopian ritual.  Not even diehard java fans are likely to have taken part in one of these anywhere else in the area.

Sidamo is open from 7 AM to 7 PM Monday through Friday, 8-6 on Saturdays and 8-5 on Sundays.  Like everything else on H Street, it’s accessible via the X2 and several other metro bus lines.  Sidamo is also just a short walk from Union Station.

Whether you’re a hardcore coffee lover or a more casual drinker looking for a good place to unwind, Sidamo is a great option and a true fixture in the neighborhood after only two years.  Next time you’re in the area on a Saturday or Sunday morning, do yourself a favor and stop in.

Sidamo Coffee & Tea
417 H Street, NE
Washington, DC
(202) 548-0081
Sidamo Coffee & Tea on Urbanspoon