First Taste: Car Wash Coffee

First Taste: Car Wash Coffee

Kensington coffee house serves up community clubhouse ambience along with tasty coffee

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A Reuben sandwich at Car Wash Coffee

Rick Chessen

Don’t be confused. Car Wash Coffee is not a coffee shop inside a car wash. It’s a stand-alone operation next to the Mr. Wash in Kensington (both owned by the same family). That’s important because Car Wash Coffee aspires to be much more than a waiting room. It wants to be a full-fledged community center and hangout.


Unlike many coffee shops, this is a spacious, light-filled room that once housed a Roy Rogers and, more recently, Savannah’s American Grill. There are 85 or 90 seats inside and another dozen or so outside, all spaced far enough apart to allow easy conversation. Diners can choose from booths, tables, or several clusters of couches and easy chairs for serious lounging.

Sometimes the community clubhouse vibe clicks perfectly. On one visit, folks in the next booth were playing Scrabble. On the other side, two older gentlemen were on their third cup discussing the minutiae of MoCo politics. And families seemed to be everywhere, with strollers dotting the aisles and a couple of the more restless kids playing on the couches. Hipster coffeehouse it ain’t.

Sofas and comfortable chairs are part of the seating options at the coffee house.

Food and drink

The very good coffee is supplied by local roaster Vigilante Coffee in Hyattsville. In addition to regular coffees and espresso drinks, try a trendy cold brew or “nitro” cold brew—the addition of liquid nitrogen gives it a creamy head and slight carbonation that makes it taste almost like an alcohol-free Guinness (it’s even served in a beer glass). Blended coffee drinks, hot chocolate, and iced and hot teas are also available.

The breakfast food choices include pastries and bagels brought in from various local purveyors (the bagels hail from Bagel City), as well as egg sandwiches. The pastries are generally solid—try the sticky, raisin-filled Nutty Stick—but the egg sandwich is a disappointment; the rubbery egg-puck either pre-cooked or a dead ringer for it.

Lunchtime brings a handful of straightforward sandwiches such as turkey, ham and cheese and egg salad. They won’t compete with the offerings of most sandwich shops but they are homey and freshly made. The Reuben is the most ambitious, featuring tender shavings of lean corned beef and well-balanced toppings.

The chicken salad is basically chicken mixed with mayo and could use a little celery or onion to wake it up. The “spicy” tuna has a slight-but-manageable kick. Be sure to specify what condiments you want with your sandwiches. The sandwiches will come unadorned, without even lettuce or tomato, unless you ask.


The counter is friendly and well-staffed. Owners Steve and Maddie Harris are there on each of three visits, sweeping under booths, spraying down tables, chatting up customers. They clearly keep a close eye on things.

The staff at Car Wash Coffee

Go or skip?

Go if you’re looking for a place to meet someone for coffee and want to be sure you won’t be on top of other people or feel rushed. Go as well if you have kids and want to know they’ll be welcomed while you enjoy a latte and read the paper.

Skip if the food is your primary concern. There are decent enough things to nosh on, but this is more about about coffee and community than cooking.

If you do go, remember this is a daytime-only hangout. Car Wash Coffee is open daily from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

10700 Connecticut Ave., Kensington


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