Modern Times owner opens La Mano Coffee Bar in Takoma

September 13, 2013

The logo glows neon red in the window: a solitary hand, positioned in a way to suggest a traffic cop ordering you to halt. Frankly, stopping for a pour-over or a freshly made hand pie at La Mano Coffee Bar in Takoma might just be the best way to start your day.

Give them a hand: La Mano in Takoma, D.C., near the Metro station. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
Give them a hand: La Mano in Takoma, D.C., near the Metro station. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

Spanish and Italian for "hand," La Mano is a joint project from Modern Times Coffeehouse owner Javier Rivas and his business partner, Anna Petrillo, the longtime manager of the coffee shop in the basement of Politics & Prose. The name of the Takoma operation, far from directing you to stop in your tracks, is supposed to conjure up images of products still prepared by hand, whether a pour-over of single-origin coffee or a buttermilk biscuit pressed out with a cutter.

The name underscores "the importance of the person behind the product," Rivas tells me during a phone chat. The hand, not coincidentally, is also one of the five essential components that Counter Culture Coffee apparently emphasizes when training baristas, Rivas explains.

La Mano sells only drinks prepared with beans roasted at Annapolis-based Ceremony Coffee. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
La Mano sells drinks prepared with beans roasted at Annapolis-based Ceremony Coffee. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

After months of delays and an online campaign to raise $15,000 to cover some unexpected electrical costs, La Mano officially opened Sept. 3. In keeping with its hand-crafted image, the shop sources almost everything locally. La Mano has a contract to feature Annapolis-based Ceremony (formerly Caffe Pronto) coffees at the bar. Petrillo and Bobby Dodd, a cook who previously worked at Ripple and Circle Bistro, buy ingredients from the Takoma Park Farmers Market or Common Good City Farm for the hand pies, salads and frittatas on their compact menu. Even the bagels (Georgetown Bagelry) and cookies (Goldilocks Goodies and Pollystyle) are local.

As good as the outsourced goods are, you'd be a fool to bypass the house-made hand pies (the blueberry one was a compact crescent of sweet, buttery bliss) or house-made buttermilk biscuits (crisp around the edges and fluffy in the center, with a kick of salt on the finish). La Mano even makes its own peach or blueberry butters to pair with those biscuits.

The housemade buttermilk biscuits at La Mano: a breakfast of champions. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
The housemade buttermilk biscuits at La Mano:  breakfast of champions. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

The specialty coffee bar keeps things simple. The drink menu is limited to pour-overs as well as an Americano, macchiato, cortado, cappuccino, latte, mocha, hot chocolate and a few teas. Brewed coffee is not an option. Rather than brewing up a drum of industrial-strength coffee for the morning crowd slogging its way to the Takoma Metro, La Mano prepares about two gallons of French-press coffee, which baristas then filter and hold in Luxus thermal containers.

"It's a good morning coffee," Rivas says. It satisfies "all those people who want their heavy, dark, bold coffee in the morning."

Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section and as the $20 Diner for the Weekend section, a double duty that requires he ingest more calories than a draft horse.
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Chris Richards · September 13, 2013