In Northern Virginia, my neighborhood was filled with aesthetically-pleasing locations that promised great coffee and even greater study vibes. I was slightly disappointed at the apparent lack of options for similar cafes in close proximity to first-year dorms.
After two months of relying on Newcomb Starbucks and Java City, I decided to take matters into my own hands by venturing out to find the perfect cafe. I intensively scoped the opinions on Yelp and other sources before heading to my first location on the Corner.
Grit Coffee on Elliewood
Conveniently located on the street between the well-known locations of Mincer’s and Starbucks, Grit offers a wide array of great quality coffee, tea, baked goods and plentiful seating for those who dare to embark on hours of pure productivity on one of their patio tables outside. This would be the first coffee shop to recommend to any newcomers to the University — it has all the right scents and sights to produce the perfect “hipster” coffeehouse ambiance.
Not to mention, their seasonal drinks are phenomenal. On this particular fall day, I figured it would only be fitting to order their limited-edition Pumpkin Pie Latte for $4.25 for a small latte. The drink had just the right amount of sweetness and pumpkin.
Although there are multiple Grit Coffees in Charlottesville, the Elliewood location is easily the most accessible to first-years and University visitors alike, as it is within a five-minute walking distance from the Rotunda. Besides, their thick mugs — that may differ from order to order — and abstract, yet comfy sofas upstairs make the experience all the more personable.
Grit is wheelchair accessible except for the outdoor patio that is only accessible by stairs.
There is nothing as simple and ordinary as this next coffee shop hidden in the plaza next to Asado and the Corner Grocery — and in this case, ordinary didn’t seem so bland. Corner Joe features coffee beans from locations such as Brazil, Costa Rica and El Salvador, allowing for students to get a taste of the world right on-Grounds.
I opted for the classic small latte which cost $3.50. I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of coffee I received for a fairly good price. I would have to say that I appreciated the ample space and concealed, intimate location more than the quality of its coffee, which seemed to slightly pale in comparison to its competitors.
One aspect of Corner Joe worth mentioning is their choice of music. I wasn’t sure who was in charge of the playlist this day, but I found myself voluntarily choosing to work along with the music playing in the shop rather than my existing, curated coffeehouse playlists on Spotify.
Corner Joe would be an ideal place for an interview or meeting, as it hits the mark on an old-fashioned coffeehouse aesthetic minus the crowd. This location is also within a seven-minute walking distance from the Rotunda. This location is wheelchair accessible.
I was very excited for this location as I had never walked this far up the Corner. Sheepdog Cafe is inside The Graduate, a hotel located on Main Street. This is one of those places you pass by and marvel at, wondering if you’re even allowed inside — trust me, you are.
Sheepdog’s interior design evokes a strangely familiar feeling of home, inviting you to sit at any of their long, wooden tables with outlets that remind you to be grateful of the simple things in life. The seating area also features a rather quirky display of Thomas Jefferson on the wall, along with a bright neon wall quote that emphasizes “WE ARE ALL STUDENTS.” Oddly enough, I found the fluorescent tint against my laptop screen soothing.
I tried a small $2.50 Cafe Au Lait, and I absolutely loved it. The drink itself exceeded my expectations for something cheaper than $3. It was the perfect combination of creamy, yet subtly nutty and strong. I may or may not have been a little too excited over the quantity given at this price. It almost felt as if they knew we were broke college students in dire need of new study spaces and caffeine.
The Sheepdog Cafe is also a seven-minute walk from the Rotunda. It is also located across from the W Main Street stop on Jefferson Park Avenue, which is part of the Inner Loop bus route. Sheepdog Cafe is also wheelchair accessible.
I hope this guide will provide even just the slightest bit of motivation to get out and get grinding in this busy season. To my fellow busy, or simply caffeine-loving, first-years out there, I can confirm that this beautiful city offers a variety of coffee grounds from different locations beyond Grounds.