When the topic is coffee, a debate always seems a split second away. Obsessives argue over beans, equipment and, of course, where to drink it.
We all have favorite spots for different reasons. In Hampden, the picturesque Artifact Coffee plays a whimsical foil to the adventurous, no-frills Spro. The Daily Grind in Fells Point can get you in and out quickly. I have never had a bad cup of anything at the relatively new Tribeca Coffee Roasters in Mount Vernon, either, and that is just to name a percentage of the city's viable options.
But since opening last fall, Dooby's has emerged as my favorite new coffee shop simply because of its versatility. Its attractive space, which is in the ground floor of Mount Vernon's Park Plaza building, works equally well as a café and a bar because of its spacious layout, cozy combination of natural and imitation lighting and an unpretentious attitude at being two things at once. It is hard not to feel comfortable at Dooby's, whether you are there for a latte or something stiffer.
We came for the latter on a recent Friday. Over a satisfying happy hour, a friend and I tried a few of the signature cocktails at Dooby's, and none disappointed. This was not surprising, since bar manager Josh Sullivan, who created the menu, takes craft cocktails seriously. He even maintains a blog, full of recipes, dedicated to the topic.
Before ordering, we took two seats at the unoccupied bar, which is located next to the checkout register and smartly away from the entrance. There were only four or five chairs at the bar, but two communal wooden dining tables behind us opened the area up, and seemingly extended the space. The clever layout dispelled any sense of separation between bar and café, and proved the seamlessness of Dooby's is imperative to its appeal.
But why go to a coffee shop for cocktails anyway? At Dooby's, the answer lies in the high quality of the drinks.
The Cucumberous ($9) takes the popular combination of gin (in this case Magellan Blue Gin) and cucumber juice, and enlivens it with St. Germain elderflower liqueur, lime juice, rosemary simple syrup and orange bitters. Its spring green hue will catch eyes first, but it truly stands out because of its bright, clean flavor profile. The cocktail's name is no red herring, so those timid of cucumber flavor should avoid it.
Next was a classic, an intended hangover cure: Corpse Reviver No. 2 ($9), which uses Broker's Gin, Combier orange liqueur, Cocchi Americano vermouth, Absente absinthe and lemon juice. It's an appropriately strong drink, but the key here — with this many distinct ingredients — is to avoid the dilution of flavors. Sullivan's version tasted well-balanced, and not too sweet.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the best cocktail of the night was the Mamma Faretti ($8), which consists of Apollo espresso from Ethiopia, house-infused lemon vodka made with Tito's and Faretti biscotti liqueur. (Yes, biscotti liqueur is a real thing.) It was one of the most delicious coffee-flavored cocktails I've tasted in the city, thanks to the quality of the imported coffee and the surprisingly light touch of the biscotti liqueur. The citrus from the manipulated Tito's — a slick move on Sullivan's part — finished the cocktail with a welcomed edge. Still, it was easy to sip, and would make an ideal after-dinner cocktail.
Dooby's, which is owned by Phil Han, is not the only café to serve its own cocktails (Teavolve in Harbor East comes to mind), but Dooby's does it with a style all its own.
It is easy to fall for the space's warm ambiance and sharp design, but it is Sullivan's bar program that makes Dooby's worth revisiting at night. Han seems aware of what he has, too. In the fall, Sullivan will open a cocktail bar in Han's incubator space around the corner (formerly known as the Hatch and current home to Dylan's Oyster Cellar), because sometimes, an artist needs more canvas space.
Back story: Last October, this 75-seat coffee shop-meets-bar opened in the renovated Park Plaza building in Mount Vernon. Owner Phil Han said experiencing cafes in Milan - where he could order a pastry in the morning and come back to the same place for a cocktail later that night - inspired the duality of Dooby's. There is a full dinner menu as well.
Parking: Metered on the street
Signature drink: Drinks are served after 5 p.m. There is a rotating cast of 12 draft beers (at least four are local at all times), but to miss out on the seasonal cocktail menu created by bar manager Josh Sullivan would be a shame. We recommend the Mamma Faretti ($8), an espresso-flavored drink made with house-infused lemon Tito's vodka.
Where: 802 N. Charles St., Mount Vernon
Contact: 410-702-5144, doobys.com
Open: 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 7 a.m.-midnight Friday; 8 a.m.-midnight Saturday; 8 a.m.-5 p.m. SundayCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun