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The wind was blistering cold, churning the frigid air, molding it into icy torpedoes gusting through the narrow streets of Old Town Alexandria. Right in the heart of town lives Misha’s Coffeehouse, a local favorite known for its addictive Route 66 blend (roasted in-house, like all of its blends and single-origin varietals) and cozy atmosphere.

The centerpiece of this coffeehouse is the vintage refrigerator, featured prominently next to the main entrance. Draped with all sorts of local community news and announcements, the fridge, which is still used regularly, shows how deeply Misha’s is integrated with Old Town.

I can sum up Misha’s as “vibrant.” The amount of red used in a cafe, let alone in any interior design layout, could be frightening. But the red used in Misha’s is anything but that. Rather, the red is inviting, complimenting the rows of freshly roasted beans, loud but not boisterous jazz music, and the unassuming black and white exterior.

In terms of cafe design, I prefer minimalist approaches, lots of black and white, modern metallic pieces mixed with vintage items, and bold colors used sparingly as highlights. If color is to be used, in any amount, it needs to make a statement without screaming at you. Misha’s interior accomplishes that at some level.

Fresh batches of coffee are roasted several times a week. While its signature Route 66 blend has customers incessantly storming the counter, Misha’s also roasts an impressive lineup of single-origin varietals, from Yemen Mocca Matari to Kenya AA. The barista’s pour over technique was less than impressive (did not pre-soak the paper filter to minimize the paper taste, and I always cringe when there is a row of commercial Bunn coffee makers displayed at a coffee bar), and the “French Roast” for certain beans seemed too dark to bring out any of the unique flavor notes of the coffees. That said, with a little training, this coffeehouse has potential to brew delicious coffee in a delicious, historic neighborhood.

Misha’s Coffeehouse & Roaster

A crazy Friday night, one thing leads to another, and we end up in Old Town Alexandria. Streets are relatively empty, just a few fleeting cars here and there, and the occasional pedestrian – some single, some in pairs, a few groups.

Our first Eamon’s experience was in the scorching summer. Streets were bustling with seasonal tourists, humidity was creeping up to get-out-of-my-face levels, and the fish fry joint was too damn crowded.

Who figured, the cooler autumn breeze is a better match for fish and chips. And dinner too. Late night dinner. The scorching heat and the hustle of an early afternoon tourist crowd takes away from the whole experience, and you feel robbed. Friday had the breeze, it had the glimmering October moonlight, and there were no crowds. Just an empty bench, some folks chattering over a round of Guinness, and the smell of beer-battered fish.

The classic cod is always perfect. A deep golden-brown crunch, still steaming hot, with a perfect blend of buttery and beery. The fillet is fresh, moist, not too flaky or dry. Goes well with classic tartar sauce, and of course, those thick-cut chips with a dash of malt vinegar.

The ray melts in your mouth. It’s almost indescribable, but if I may – it’s like a combination of hamachi fillet, crab or lobster tamale, and lobster claw meat. Not fishy at all. Creamy. The meat is stringy, but only by it’s looks. On your tongue, it’s soft and buttery at the same time, especially the meat along the long, white cartilage. A spiced chili sauce best accompanies the milkiness of the ray.

Eamon’s had it’s share of fame – even Bourdain dined there. But to soak in its true flavors, to really dive into the Old Town experience, go at night, after the crowd disperses. Go when it’s colder, October, maybe November. Have a whole bench to yourself. A couple fillets, hot chips, a Guinness.

The night has just begun.

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