all words and photos: Stephanie Breijo
Rare is it that a restaurant switches daily from your own living room to a bar right off of U St. It’s rarer still to find said restaurant serving nearly 100% home-baked goods, championing a(n adorable) blind dog, and offering specials on cookies and milk. Sounds pretty magical, right? Enter: Blind Dog Cafe at Darnell’s, one of D.C.’s newest popups designed to bring you local food and the kind of laid-back ambiance you’d find in your own home.
And homey it certainly felt. Greeted instantly by a heavy selection from “Whatever and Ever Amen,” I felt immediately at ease as I walked into an open, sunshine-filled cafe full of labels, bottles and signs all hand-written with the same loving care you might use to craft a love letter by candlelight (if people still do that. Maybe you do, I’m not here to judge).
The mirror-menus above the counter spell out unique sandwiches, salads and sides in all their hand-drawn glory, posing difficult choices between sandwich meats, ailois, and salts–yes, gourmet finishing salts–all made in-house.
“In terms of food, there are a few important points,” co-founder Noah Karesh tells me. “Keep it local, have really great products and do as much of the cooking as possible.”
The temporary-for-now Blind Dog has only been open one week but it’s easy to see how these three rules could work long-term. Trays of homemade espresso bark, gorgeous chocolate chip cookies and other drool-worthy goods surround the register, which is in turn surrounded by nooks and crannies full of pillows and love seats–the perfect place to perch and enjoy a bite and a cup of organic tea (might I enthusiastically suggest the coconut oolong).
What isn’t made at Blind Dog is imported from local farms and organizations–all of their dairy hails from Trickling Springs Creamery; the bread arrives from Panorama Bakery in Virginia. The farthest any of their fresh products travel is an import from Massachusetts: the Chorico sausage from co-owner Cullen Gilchrist’s hometown.
This tender lovin’ care even extends to their coffee, from their beans to the brewing process to finishing touches of the latte art. Coffee enthusiasts rejoice; this popup exclusively serves PT’s, a “beyond fair trade” coffee company that strikes individual deals with farmers and helps them to store, package and ship their beans to improve quality. Blind Dog’s brewing process of choice is Chemex, a slow-brew nearly as thoughtful as the beans it prepares.
Their sandwiches are flavorful and fresh, served with salads and homemade dressings (the mozzarella with walnut pesto ailoi is especially delicious). Their granola–made in-house, as usual–is a fantastic choice for lighter fare or breakfast, chock-full of pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds that have been tossed in butter and brown sugar until they’ve been fully caramelized. Try it with a cup of their yogurt/dried fruit/honey and it’s almost heavenly.
Swing by for a coffee, a homemade hazelnut/chocolate buttercup, a meal, a soda made with their own syrups, some mimosas or a stiffer drink–anything, really–and feel 100% at home doing it. Lounge around inside or on their patio and meet any one of the popup’s three friendly neighborhood co-owners, their talented/creative baker (pastries change daily) or even Baxter, the Blind Dog himself. They even sell dog treats (soon-to-be homemade of course).