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A New All-Day Cafe Just Signed a Lease Near Amazon’s HQ2 in Crystal City

The Freshman will open in early 2020

The Freshman comes from Nick Freshman, co-owner of Spider Kelly’s.
The Freshman/Facebook
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

The Amazon HQ2 effect has officially begun. A new all-day destination for coffee, food, and cocktails just signed a lease for a space in Crystal City, marking the first of many service establishments hungry to cash in on the tech giant’s plans to plant half of its new headquarters in Northern Virginia.

A cafe called the Freshman will slide into a 3,400-square-foot space formerly occupied by Noodles & Company in early 2020. The location (2011 Crystal Drive) sits a few blocks south of the Crystal City Metro.

Amazon announced its decision to split its mega HQ2 project between Crystal City and Long Island in late 2018, and the Freshman is linked to a new initiative by developer JBG Smith to lure homegrown businesses to the area.

City officials in Arlington and Alexandria are attempting to completely rebrand the district surrounding HQ2 — including Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard — as “National Landing.” The hope is the new name will unify the neighborhoods, woo tenants, and help Crystal City drop its stale reputation.

The Freshman comes from Mothersauce Partners, the 3-year-old restaurant advisory and investment company behind NoMa’s adult arcade, The Eleanor, and Takoma Beverage Company.

Menu details at the Freshman are slim for now, with plans to serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner made with local ingredients alongside tea, coffee, and cocktails. Detour Coffee in Arlington has a similar all-day setup, as does the Royal in Shaw.

Mothersauce founder Nick Freshman also co-owns Spider Kelly’s, a bar in Clarendon geared toward the neighborhood’s hard-partying crowd of young professionals.

Designed by D.C.’s Studio 3877 (Slipstream Navy Yard, Succotash Penn Quarter), The Freshman will sport 120 seats inside and a 50-seat outdoor patio.

Freshman says his namesake cafe will hope to make guests “feel at home in the morning with a cappuccino and in the evening with a Manhattan.” He adds “the best way to achieve that is simplicity of design.”

That can be a difficult vibe to execute correctly, he says, and he spent a year visiting all-day models across the U.S. to see what works and what doesn’t. He was especially impressed by spots in Austin and Nashville that sported a sense of approachability and effortlessness.

He wants the Freshman to stray from trends and instead adopt “timeless” features. Early ideas include contrasting concrete elements with natural wood, along with engaging local artists to create murals.

“I want to avoid a place that feels like the perfect stop for right now and then in two to five years it won’t look right,” Freshman says.

The full-service bar will likely open at 11 a.m. “We don’t judge,” he says.