Books & Brews
Stroll around downtown Leesburg these days and alongside all the cafés, coffee shops and espresso bars you will see something else: bookstores. In an age when we spend so much time on screens and if we read a novel it's an e-Book on our phones, it’s inspiring to see Leesburg buck the trend with a slate of actual bona fide bookstores. Of course, nothing pairs better with a book than a great cup of java, so next time you’re browsing the shelves or tucking into a good read, try these Leesburg coffee shops for the perfect accompaniment. We also suggest a couple of authors - or books - to read in them.
Leesburg Coffee Corridor: Cafes On and Around King Street
This former shoe shop with the secret garden out back is a local favorite and rightly so. Coffee drinks are made with Lone Oak beans (the Winchester roastery of Loudoun native Sam Keyser), while the extensive dessert menu includes slices of pecan and apple pie from Mom’s Apple Pie up the street, caramel turtle cheesecake, chocolate torte and white chocolate raspberry cheesecake. The secret garden out back is a quiet spot to while away an afternoon with Jane Austen or Margaret Atwood.
Around the corner from cozy community bookshop Birch Tree Bookstore, this popular organic and local food café does a range of espresso drinks and drip coffee. They also do delectable baked goods, a legendary Farm Bowl salad and farm fresh ice cream. Order an iced latte and in keeping with the local ethos, crack open the pages of one time Waterford author’s Geraldine Brooks or Tony Horowitz on the sun-drenched patio.
We’re betting that even the most exacting caffeine snob will be wowed by SideBar. Order Italian-style from the street-front counter or enter the shoebox sized space through a creaking low-slung doorway. The exposed brick and distressed walls of the historic building is redolent of New Orleans while the espresso drinks – rich, perfectly poured lattes, cortados and macchiatos – are straight out of Rome. In keeping with the Continental atmosphere, it’s a cool place to crack open Albert Camus, Umberto Eco or Hemingway’s ode to Paris in the 20s, A Moveable Feast.
This popular local coffee house is better than ever. Friendly baristas grind Lone Oak beans to perfection and serve everything from espresso drinks, pour overs, French press and cold brews to iced coffee, filter coffee and even a decadent affogato (ice cream with a shot of espresso). Hipsters read Toni Morison at indoor tables while regulars might try a James Paterson page turner on the red Adirondacks outside.
Just off Leesburg’s Coffee Corridor on East Market Street and adjacent to Bespoke Books and Archives with its highly curated selection of new, used, vintage and antiquarian publications, this Parisian-style dessert house does excellent coffee. The main attraction, however, is the house-baked confections: everything from cotton candy and cupcakes to cookies, cakes and macaroons. The owner also sells huge portions of superb farm fresh ice cream. In keeping with the French ambience, read Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities or Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past.
This sleek café roasts its own beans, sourcing from Zambia (Kasama), Ethiopian Harrar and Honduras, and sells bags of retail alongside perfectly poured flat whites, cortados, lattes and machiattos. They transition to cocktails after 5 p.m. and always do great food. Owners Ahad and Zaara Raza are transplants to the area from Texas, so read Lone Star State icon Cormac McCarthy or one time Loudoun resident and Texan literary giant Larry McMurtry.
Loudoun feline fanatic Heather Donahue combined her love of cats with her love of coffee and cozy spaces when opening this unique café in downtown Leesburg. A foster mom for cats, Donahue invites fellow cat lovers to come in, order a beverage and hang out with – or adopt – the furry feline creatures that occupy the space. Catuccino anyone? Recommended book: Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Part of the faith-based Trinity House Community non-profit, this welcoming downtown café has an extensive menu of breakfast items, sandwiches, salads, soups and baked goods as well as a large selection of espresso drinks, drip coffee and teas. Indeed, several of the teas are named for literary giants: the C.S. Lewis Latte (Earl Grey with steamed milk) or the Tolkien Latte (Black tea with foam). What to read? Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia or Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, of course. The sofas are perfect for reading on and the café also hosts events such as art classes, exhibits, talks, live music and children’s programs.
Dubbed “Coffee with a Cause” this Tree of Life Ministries’ café on Edward’s Ferry Road offers workplace and internship opportunities for the special needs community. On top of good causes, discover exceptional coffee drinks, an extensive breakfast and lunch menu and frequent live events including acoustic music nights.
Loudoun Co-Co: Cafes Outside of Leesburg
Lovettsville has a slate of great restaurants in its historic downtown these days, but did you know the town has fine coffee, tea and pastries, too? Tucked away in a rustic house on Pennsylvania Ave, just off main street, is this curiosity shop of a café serving Lone Oak coffee, all manner of tea and a variety of baked goods including gluten free options. We love sitting outside on mis-matched found furniture, soaking up the sun and watching the neighbors walk by.
This spacious, exposed brick location with comfy sofas, live events such as trivia nights and excellent sandwiches and pastries reminds everyone of Central Perk in Friends. Warm and welcoming atmosphere aside, it’s the expertly poured espresso drinks and delicious nitro infused cold brew that brings you back. Dessert wise, the coffee bar also sells fresh baked apple fritters, crumb cake and sticky cinnamon rolls. Make it your living room.
This aptly named horse country staple on East Washington Street does a great line of pastries, bagels and smoothies alongside richly textured, well balanced drip coffee and espresso drinks. The toasted cream cheese everything bagel with a double shot latte is a go to for locals.
This popular neighborhood café on West Washington Street serves an excellent breakfast and lunch menu and has beans roasted specially for the café. We like the breakfast sandwich paired with an extra shot latte in the mornings; return for wine and beer later in the day.