Photos by Rachel Kurzius
Photos by Rachel Kurzius

Looking to avoid drinking java on an empty stomach? When ordering a pick-me-up from the local coffee shop, traditional pastries (croissants, muffins, scones) often beckon but don’t always satisfy. Luckily, D.C. coffee shops are providing an ever-increasing variety of to-go foods for the hungry folks seeking something more exciting behind the glass. 

Energy Bites

Find them at: Gregorys Coffee, 1000 Vermont Ave. NW; 1990 L St. NW; and 1147 20th St. NW

Too frequently, opting for a pastry at a coffee shop means taking an unhealthy dietary turn just as the day begins. New York transplant Gregorys Coffee has a bevy of balls to prevent you from swallowing up your daily caloric intake before 10 a.m. With options like the Crunchy Power Bite, the PB Banana Energy Bite, and the Almond Butter Cranberry Coconut Bite, the gluten-free spheres with a peanut or almond butter base are filling without feeling heavy.


Find them at: Little Pearl, 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE

It’s no shock that the edible treats at this cafe offshoot of Pineapple & Pearls are delicious. Aesthetically speaking, Little Pearl eschews a pastry-filled glass case in favor of small cake stands that show off samples of its products. There are a couple of unique sweet and savory options baked on-site. Just as milk and cookies make for an unimpeachable combo, so too do coffee and churros. The long, sugar-coated Spanish treat comes with a spicy, salty chocolate sauce on the side. It’s a little messy to eat while walking, so take a moment to sit and consider how the churro’s soft center contrasts with the crystallized exterior.


Find them at: Compass Coffee, La Colombe, Zeke’s Coffee, Ebenezers Coffeehouse, Hotel Hive, Midnight Mug, Odd Provisions, Pear Plum Cafe, Rare Bird Coffee, and Vigilante Coffee

When someone compiles a sequel to this list a decade from now, it’ll be titled “Beyond the Kolache.” Since Republic Kolache launched in D.C. mere years ago, the Czech baked good’s reach has continued to grow. As with croissants, the “national pastry of Texas” boasts sweet and savory fillings, but the dough is fluffier. The Saag Paneer variety tastes like a gourmet Hot Pocket—a great way to sate hunger pangs on the move. 


Find them at: The Eckington Qualia Coffee, Eckington Place and Harry Thomas Way NE

Try Sri Lankan breakfast all day at the Qualia Coffee outpost in Eckington, courtesy of Short Eats, the people behind the expanding Sri Lankan street food pop-up at Ten Tigers. The coffee shop heats up roti—imagine a flattened spice-filled breakfast burrito with a flakier exterior—with options for vegetarians and for those looking for meat in the morning. Roti selections come with a condiment called sambol, a heady mix of ginger, coconut, onions, chili, and other spices. The sambol is the only reason you’d need utensils to tackle this treat.