Murky Coffee

I have to give credit where it is due. For the past several weeks I have been enjoying Murky Coffee at Clarendon. This place is where I wanted to be all my life, except for the lack of helper monkeys and free stuff. A better cup of coffee cannot be found in the area, as far as I can tell

For years I went to Starbuck’s and felt like I was dumbing down my world by ingesting such harsh, bitter coffee. They make their name by the stuff but I could never see how. It must be one of those fads I never understand, like people going nuts over places like P.F. Chang’s or Wolfgang Puck’s. They aren’t really bad places but they certainly aren’t that special either, in my estimation.

I discovered Caribou Coffee when I was in college at NCSU. They were certainly masters of the hot chocolate (and still are) but still lacked something in the coffee department. Their brew is a little milder than Starbuck’s but still has a bit of an edge.

Finding Murky Coffee was like a godsend. The coffee is full-bodied and rich but never harsh. The hot chocolate is rich as well but could be just a tad sweeter. All the same, it’s an excellent drink and topped with real whipped cream, not that canned stuff from the supermarket that teenagers do whippits with. Plus, the free wi-fi means I can spend quite a bit of time there, away from my office at home and can get some good work done as I sip a beverage of my choice.

Two suggestions to make Murky Coffee a better place. First: food. There really isn’t a great selection of foods, mostly just sweets and such. How about a nice selection of prepackaged sandwiches? Of course, they are probably banking on turning over seats probably once an hour or so, so having people eat and stay longer could really impact their customer throughput. Second: helper monkeys. Do I really have to go get my own napkins?

If you haven’t tried Murky Coffee yet, definitely go check it out.

21 Comments so far

  1. Krempasky (unregistered) on January 6th, 2007 @ 7:13 pm

    Yeah, I actually liked it a lot more when it was Common Grounds (and when I worked a block away) – the food selection was really good.


  2. Joseph LeBlanc (unregistered) on January 6th, 2007 @ 7:30 pm

    Another suggestion: get more mugs. About every other time I’m in there, they’re out of them and start serving everything in paper cups. We should take up a collection for them.


  3. Stacey (unregistered) on January 6th, 2007 @ 7:57 pm

    Carl, good review. When this place was Common Grounds back in the day it was VERY different – I liked it a lot more, and went there a few nights a week. And that says a lot since Murkey is still a great place. Common Grounds days had great food (almost an entire menu), more community, a lot more events, nicer staff, etc.

    That all being said, Murkey is a great place to go for coffee, hanging out, etc. Jammin Java in Vienna is the same, but it’s so far for us Arlington folks.


  4. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on January 6th, 2007 @ 9:40 pm

    I *love* Murky, and I spend more time there than perhaps is healthy. The baristas are great (especially Ryan and Maryanne), the coffee is delicious and the atmosphere is just what I need. Yeah, there’s nothing but pastry, but with O’Sullivan’s across the street, along with Silver Diner, getting out of the coffee shop for some lunch is never a bad thing.


  5. Carl Weaver (unregistered) on January 6th, 2007 @ 10:17 pm

    O’Sullivan’s… I don’t know that place. Time to go try it out. The Silver Diner is pretty rockin’ when it comes to decent food.

    See you at the office Monday, Tom. Haha.


  6. Nick (unregistered) on January 7th, 2007 @ 3:43 am

    Thanks for the nice post, Carl.

    Sorry Krempasky and Stacey… but it’s not called “murky food.”

    Of course, they are probably banking on turning over seats probably once an hour or so, so having people eat and stay longer could really impact their customer throughput.

    Umm, you obviously have no idea how long someone can nurse a single cup of coffee… especially when they have a laptop to keep them occupied.

    We have a limited food menu because we’re not food-people. We’re coffee people. My philosophy is, if you want a sandwich, go out and find a GREAT sandwich (we usually direct people to the Italian Store a scant 1.5 miles away). When it’s time for you to have a great cup of coffee, you know where to find us.

    If we expanded our menu, we’d be diverting our attention away from the coffee. Do one thing, do it well.. do it the best. *shrug* Sorry… that’s the only way I know how to do it.

    Another suggestion: get more mugs. About every other time I’m in there, they’re out of them and start serving everything in paper cups. We should take up a collection for them.

    Duly noted. We’ll be ordering more ceramic this week. Sorry for the inconvenience; coffee is truly more enjoyable in the proper vessel, and we’re not excited about sending out so many un-recyclable lined paper cups. We’re actually exploring more environmentally sustainable to-go wares.


  7. smouie kablooie (unregistered) on January 7th, 2007 @ 11:40 am

    I’ll also chime in about how much I enjoy Murky Coffee – and while I still think Misha’s is still the best (I give them extra kudos for roasting onsite) – I actually think the changes made since Common Grounds became Murky have been great!

    And I really like the attitude that comes accross on their website – don’t like us? “Walk on. Go find yourself something that is boring enough to make you happy.” Love it!

    Plus I really like the revised layout. If only they could expand the building to meet the growing demands of us “work from Murky” folk.


  8. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on January 7th, 2007 @ 12:02 pm

    I’ve also been enjoying their tea selection of late, which is cool. Mmmmm peppermint tea.


  9. Krempasky (unregistered) on January 7th, 2007 @ 4:28 pm

    Nick – I can’t say with any certainty that the coffee is better now than when it was Common Grounds. I’d highly doubt it – and therefore doubt that the grand distraction of making a sandwich would hurt the noble pursuit of the blessed java.


  10. Carl Weaver (unregistered) on January 7th, 2007 @ 4:42 pm

    The coffee is right fine but I agree with you, Krempansky, that offering food wouldn’t hurt. Even just prepackaged ones from some local catering company would be fine. Yeah, they are coffee specialists, but it doesn’t hurt to offer food to act as a caffeine sponge. I doubt the coffee quality would suffer greatly.


  11. Jan (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 11:05 am

    I like Murky in Arlington a lot, but I often find it quite dusty on both floors. I know they get a lot of people in there and that likely adds to the amount on the floors. I second more mugs, and prepackaged sandwiches.


  12. Nick (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 1:38 pm

    I can’t say with any certainty that the coffee is better now than when it was Common Grounds.

    I can.


  13. Krempasky (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 2:07 pm

    Nick – I think you misunderstood my original comment as some sort of attack on Murky. It wasn’t. Regardless, I hope your baristas are friendlier with potentially less knee-jerk reaction to a customer suggestion.


  14. Don (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 3:51 pm

    Exactly how much friendlier do you want? He responded to your suggestions and offered his reasoning. Your reaction to that is to further argue with his reasoning for how he runs his business.

    Even then the extent of his response is to say he is certain his coffee is better. That’s a knee-jerk reaction? He heard you out. I certainly hope that his baristas respond more or less identically – I’d just as soon not get stuck waiting behind someone who wants to get into a protracted discussion about something that isn’t their decision. “Thanks for your input. NEXT!” sounds exactly right.

    If Murky doesn’t meet your needs, vote with your feet.


  15. Krempasky (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 5:10 pm

    Don, now you’re just being a jackass. Or letting your view of my politics cloud your vision. Or both.


  16. misschatter (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 5:15 pm

    I’m hesitant to post my thoughts/personal opinion after that exchange, but I also preferred Common Grounds. It just doesn’t feel the same to me anymore, but maybe I’m rather change-averse. I used to go there to write one night a week, eat a dinner of a delicious sandwich, and drink coffee til closing. I also got my city roast house blend coffee bean fix for home (I was addicted to those beans and now I can’t get my fix!). Since I have limited time with kids at home, I’d take the metro to Clarendon, set up shop inside or outside to write, eat, and drink coffee without needing to go anywhere else and get as much writing time as possilbe. So I think the sandwich thing is huge, even if they come from somewhere else. I’ve only been maybe three times since it changed over.


  17. Chris Peloso (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 10:26 pm

    I prefer Java Shack, which is a few blocks away, towards Courthouse. The coffee taste better and the service is way faster, and it’s never as crowded. On the other hand, Murky’s has free wifi. Since I live equidistant from both of them, I usually decide which one to go to on the basis of how badly I need to be on the internet.


  18. Don (unregistered) on January 9th, 2007 @ 9:45 am

    Pfft, peddle your political victimhood somewhere else Krempasky. You respond to a polite message from Nick with sarcasm like “the grand distraction of making a sandwich” and some damning faint praise and you’re gonna accuse me of being a jerk?


  19. JOeS (unregistered) on January 9th, 2007 @ 4:29 pm

    I’d like to challenge the conventional wisdom that says that coffee taste is subjective- Murky Coffee offers better coffee than Common Grounds. That is a fact. The coffee is a better quality and is prepared by people who know what they are doing. While commom grounds had a lot of nice things going for it, the coffee was not good. Maybe the atmosphere was better, definately not the coffee.

    It’s the difference between a high quality cut of meat and wendy’s burgers. I’ll eat Wendy’s, sure. But not if I have a choice of better meat. Better yet, the difference between a nice wine and Yellow Tail.

    Nick was humble enough not to say this himself and he should be applauded for that.

    While they can be a bit on the snobbish side about coffee, it definately pays off. I don’t want to sound as if I am putting down common grounds, but you guys need to realize that Murky is one of the best coffee shops in the country and they train their employees on a level that no one else does.


  20. Carl Weaver (unregistered) on January 9th, 2007 @ 4:45 pm

    No offense intended to anyone, especially the previous poster, but I have to say that taste is subjective. You may say that Murky’s brew is subjectively better but that’s hot air. When the rubber meets the road, it’s about whether you like a product, not whether someone who supposedly knows best says it is better. What are the rules for empirically good or great coffee?

    I agree that Murky Coffee is great stuff but I wouldn’t impose my judgment on others like that.

    If it tastes good it is good. (Adapted from Dizzy Gillespie, who was quoted as saying, “If it sounds good, it is good.”)


  21. Nick (unregistered) on January 9th, 2007 @ 11:59 pm

    Taste is subjective. Quality is not.

    You can say that you like the taste of a steak from Ponderosa more than you do a steak from Ray’s the Steaks or Charlie Palmer’s… but there’s no question about quality.

    That said, one of my oft repeated spiels is that you should always drink what tastes good to you, and never let anyone tell you what you should like.



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