Escape the grind at Misha’s casual, artsy coffeehouse

Finding good java in Old Town Alexandria is as easy as asking someone with one of those ubiquitous orange cups in hand. They’ll direct you to Misha’s Coffeehouse and Coffee Roaster on Patrick Street, and you’ll never look back.

Misha’s has a relaxed, artsy feel to it, with colorful red, yellow and blue walls and a menu spelled out in children’s refrigerator magnets. It’s a great place to stop for a little caffeine pick-me-up or liquid relief from the Old Town summer heat, but it’s also a nice place to spend some time alone or with friends over a cup of fresh, bold coffee.  On any weekday morning, the cafe is abuzz with commuters en route to the District. Weekends are more relaxed with children and pets in tow.  Alexandria is a dog-lovers town, and you’re sure to find a few of man’s best friends chilling outside in the morning sun. 

Walking through the front entrance into Misha’s reveals a lot of things going on at once. Beyond the counter lined with rows of large, glass jars brimming with specialty coffee beans, customers sit by windows sipping coffee and reading newspapers, some working on crossword puzzles, others chatting about their day. This casual din blends with the sounds of jazzy music and the bean roaster churning away in the next room.

That’s the place to find the affable Andrea Seward with buckets of coffee beans in hand. The Misha’s CEO has a warm welcome and a smile.

Seward started working at the coffeehouse when she was 19 years old. Now, 20 years later, she is still there, managing the roasting operation and satisfying her customers to the last drop.

Misha’s coffee is made with care. The beans imported by the owners are from places including Indonesia and the Caribbean are all hand-picked and 100 percent Arabica. 

Customers can now purchase by the pound six blends and 18 flavor varietals roasted on-site or in one of six local Whole Foods stores.

The iced coffees – easily the best bet for summer tourists – come in surprisingly large cups and are more than refreshing after a few hours of walking around in the summertime heat. 

The Route 66 Blend is Misha’s most popular brew, and is one of the three house blend coffees offered daily (the other two being the Caravan Blend and the Earl’s Private Stock “Dekaf”). A different special brew is also offered each day.

The iced Route 66 Blend is rich in flavor, so take the time to enjoy the taste of each sip instead of downing your icy beverage in a few big gulps. But while Route 66 may be the most popular, don’t neglect the Caravan Blend (the other regular, non-decaf brew).  It’s flavorful and has just the right amount of bitter, making the addition of milk or sugar unnecessary.

Misha’s also offers an assortment of treats from local bakeries, including biscotti that have just the right amount of crunch to them and flavors reminiscent of Grandma’s homemade cookies as well as cupcakes, carrot cake and pastries.

Try the Caravan Blend/carrot cake combo. The carrot cake is doled out in large slices (great for sharing or enjoying all on your own) and has just the right proportion of thinly sliced carrots and walnuts baked inside to complement the thick layer of pudding-like cream cheese frosting that covers its top.

Big names such as Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and his wife, Callista, have visited Misha’s in the past, but Seward said she and her co-owner (Misha, himself) have never dwelled upon the occasional presence of D.C. celebrities within their walls. The employees and owners of Misha’s are interested in every customer that comes in, not just the ones who might later appear on C-SPAN.

It’s the delicious coffee and the comfortable atmosphere that bring people back time and again to this three-room, no frills coffeehouse. Word of mouth, not paid advertising, is what has kept this local business thriving for so many years.  Customers see their coffee freshly roasted and brewed before their eyes and served with a friendly smile.

The connection made here stretches across the miles. On the refrigerator and wall you’ll find customers’ personal pictures of the famous Misha’s orange coffee cup at locations far and wide, from Afghanistan and Iraq to London and France and beyond. Next time you stop in for a cuppa, check them out. Then you’ll understand why Misha’s is special.