Bean & Bite in downtown D.C.
By Nevin Martell
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
It’s heartening to know that childhood dreams can come true. Bean & Bite owner Mark Weiss had long fantasized about opening a coffee shop modeled after those that his parents had owned in Auckland, New Zealand, but the timing was never right. However, after finding an amenable space in downtown Washington, the 42-year-old Chevy Chase resident, who also owns the gastropub Againn, resuscitated family tradition in late August.
This grab ’n’ go opted for an urban farmhouse vibe, utilizing reclaimed wood alongside concrete. The shop was designed with expedience in mind, so you should be able to be in and out within just a few minutes. A regularly rotating selection of top-notch brewed coffees from PTs, Madcap and Intelligentsia is lined up by the windows, while the self-serve espresso drink machines are on the left. Tea drinkers will appreciate a non-coffee-machine-related dispenser for hot water (tea, $1.50; brewed coffee, $1.95).
Sandwiches and salads are made throughout the day in the peekaboo kitchen by chef de cuisine Nicholas Deluca (who’s also responsible for the baked treats), so the refrigerated case on the back wall gets refreshed about every half-hour. Right now there are half a dozen sandwich options and a quartet of salads, but Weiss says the menu will expand and change seasonally as the staff finds its sea legs.
Your focus should be the praiseworthy sandwiches, built with bread from Sterling’s Baguette Republic and Uptown Bakers in Hyattsville. The chicken and avocado ($6.75) is laid down in a chewy baguette trough along with chopped tomato and lettuce from local farms, then modestly seasoned with salt and pepper. At first I was put off by its humble approach, but before I knew it, it had been nibbled to its last nubbin. The surprisingly colorful interpretation of chicken salad ($6.25) is brightened with yellow kernels of corn, purple onion bits, shredded green lettuce and vibrantly red tomato cubes. Think of Bean & Bite as Pret A Manger with heartier portions.
With the exception of the bagels, baked goods are made fresh daily off-site by Weiss’s team. The dense lemon muffin ($2.65) is packed with zest and poppy seeds, rivulets of a citrusy icing running down its crags. The butterscotch cookie ($2.15) just happens to include oatmeal, which gives it a texture of healthfulness; rich flavors of brown sugar and butter happily dispatch that notion promptly. The red velvet cupcake ($2.25) -- which could use just a smidge more cocoa in its batter and a tad more cream cheese in its frosting -- sloughs off onto your fingers when you tilt it toward your waiting maw. It reminded me of a kindergarten birthday party, where I wished for nothing more than a lifetime of sweet treats.