clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

A Two-Part Penn Quarter Cafe Plans to Open in May With To-Go Açaí Bowls

The 4,000-square-foot space has room for coffee, cocktails, crepes, and empanadas

Retail shelves will be stocked with wine and coffee beans.
Retail shelves will be stocked with wine and coffee beans.
Urban Roast/official photo

A new graffiti-filled coffee shop with an adjoining business selling fruit bowls, crepes, gelato, and empanadas is set to open for takeout early next month inside a 4,000-square-foot space in Penn Quarter.

The owners behind Urban Roast DC and District Bowls were targeting an April 1 grand opening before the novel coronavirus pandemic hit Washington, forcing restaurants to shut down their dining rooms and pivot to to-go service. Now that the city’s dine-in ban is extended through at least mid-May, the two-part project is set to open Monday, May 4, at 916 G Street NW. The location is across the street from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, which is expected to reopen this fall following a $211 million renovation.

Managing partner Kamal Azzouz, who opened Dupont Circle nightclub Decades, is leading the two-part venture located in an art deco-era condo building,

Urban Roast will serve organic coffee and espresso drinks made with a pricey Astoria machine. To-go food options will include bagels, breakfast sandwiches, quiches, meatball-and-cheese baguettes, salads, and treats like baklava or chocolate eclairs.

Vintage window frames and dim-lit streetscape vibes at Urban Roast.
Vintage window frames and dim-lit streetscape vibes at Urban Roast.
Urban Roast/official photo

Next-door, District Bowls will serve bowls with three bases: açaí, banana, or greens. A “Rock the Red” bowl ($12.50) includes strawberry, raspberry, granola, coconut flakes and honey. The space also sports sections devoted to making gelato, crepes, wellness shots, juices, and smoothies. District Empanadas, an offshoot of farmers market vendor DMV Empanadas, will sell flaky, Latin American pockets at a separate counter holding a display case.

The third piece of the project — a barbershop — will aim to capitalize on demand for haircuts when nonessential businesses can reopen.

“It’s something fun and new D.C. doesn’t have,” Azzouz says. “My friends have no idea what it really is. They think it’s a small coffee shop.”

At Urban Roast, a 3D mural depicts a scene from Venice at dusk, accented with street lamps and twinkling string lights. It comes from D.C. graffiti artist Christopher Lynch, whose murals are splashed across walls at Roy Boys chicken and oysters and Kitsuen ramen. The coffee shop is lined with live-edge wooden tables and lots of power outlets for (future) remote workers.

Venice vistas at Urban Roast.
Urban Roast/official photo
A coffee and sangria bar at Urban Roast DC
A sangria and cocktail bar at Urban Roast DC
Urban Roast/official photo

A neon-lit bar in the back is stocked with top-shelf liquors to build cocktails such as a matcha mojito, watermelon jalapeno margarita, and vegan pisco sour. Sangrias, wines, and local beers will also be served.

Azzouz, who used to own Lima lounge on K Street NW, says he’s not going for a club vibe, even though the space has a capacity of 200. Urban Roast and District Bowls have separate entrances on G Street NW but connect in the middle.

District Bowls/official photo
District Bowls will sling empanadas, crepes. and acai bowls.
Urban Roast/official photo
Pop art plays off District Bowl’s placement near the Smithsonian’s Portrait Gallery.
District Bowls/official photo

Eventually, the plan is to open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Opening takeout and delivery hours servicing surrounding condos haven’t been finalized. The owners signed a 20-year lease in September, but permitting and construction — the space was converted from a theater — added months to the opening timeline.

Here’s a look at the draft menus for Urban Roast and District Bowls:

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater DC newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world