Requiescat in pace, Coffee Messiah

Back in the day, the boyfriend and I lived on Belmont, just a few blocks away from Capitol Hill’s Coffee Messiah cafe. We tend to be early risers and on Saturday mornings I used to walk over after the Messiah opened at 7:00 (or was it 8:00?) to pick up two americanos with soy and a vegan breakfast treat. I remember with special fondness cross-shaped gingerbread cookies, sprinkled with powdered sugar, hot out of the oven. But about a year and a half ago we moved further away and stopped visiting as frequently, limiting ourselves to the occasional emergency coffee walk-by.

This past Saturday we went to a later yoga class and when we got done at noon we were quite hungry. On the spur of the moment we decided to stop at Coffee Messiah for brunch. A hand written note on the door warned that they were only taking cash payment (Bad Sign #1), but after rifling through our pockets we determined that we had enough money between us to eat. We started looking over the menu, but the barrista told us they might be out of some things because they were having “food issues” (Bad Sign #2). We discussed our options with the cook and ended up ordering tofu scramble, S.O.S., and a side of biscuits and gravy. (Like I said, we were really hungry after all that yoga.) Meanwhile, the barrista was engaged in a whispered conversation with a friend, clearly about difficulties the shop was having (Bad Sign #3). Despite the pervasive air of impending doom, our food was delicious and we ate every bite before waddling home.

Not too surprisingly, we learned on Monday that Coffee Messiah has closed its doors, apparently for good. It had been obvious that they were struggling for quite a while — I date the start of their decline from the day that the PeeWee Herman doll disappeared from the large crucifix behind the counter — so I can’t say that this comes as much of a surprise.

Whatever you might say about Coffee Messiah, it sure wasn’t Starbucks. It served as a home away from home for some of Capitol Hill’s freakier residents, but its barristas could also make a mean cup of coffee when they wanted to. I’m hesitant to interpret this closing as a sign of anything more than inept management, but it still saddens me to see the place gone.

1 Comment so far

  1. josh (unregistered) on January 19th, 2006 @ 10:25 am

    I hadn’t been in to Cafe Messiah for a while now, but I agree that it’s sad that they’ve closed. The shop added extreme character to the neighborhood and they had tons of great things inside. This morning, I saw a terse note on the door from someone offering to purchase one of the relics that decorated the cafe.

    At the very least, the neon coffee messiah sign needs to be preserved somewhere somehow.

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