The coffeehouse and roaster will have locations at 917 King St. and 6 Prince St.
By Boyd Walker
ALEXANDRIA, VA-The origins of Misha’s Coffeehouse and Roaster, like its owner, are mercurial. Michael (Misha) Von Elmendorf got his nickname in high school from his Russian teacher, and it stuck. The coffee shop started out differently too, and it was called “Kofihaus” for its first 10 years, but when it came time for a new logo, everyone was already calling it Misha’s and the move was natural. And while Misha himself is rarely behind the counter at 102 S. Patrick St., his influence is all over. First is the careful attention given to the coffee, the origin of the beans, and roasting in small batches.
Misha’s started in 1991 in one-third of the space it has now, with sample coffee grinders on the tables. Co-owner Andrea Smith was hired a few months after it opened and now is in charge of all the roasting.
“I still maintain total control over every batch we roast, and every drink we serve, by focusing our work at Misha’s in one location,” Misha said. “In 1996, five years [after opening], we were doing $1,000,000 of business from 1,000 square feet of floor space, and we were voted the Best Coffeehouse in the entire Washington D.C. metropolitan area by the readers of the Washingtonian Magazine…”
The coffeehouse and roaster, which is also known for great music [mostly jazz], is now breaking with that [single location] tradition and going to two locations: around the corner at 917 King St. and at 6 Prince St. on the waterfront. [The latter will include rooftop dining.]
Some of the quirks customers have grown to love will remain in the new spaces, including the clown tip jar, which is now an elephant, the talking Pee Wee Herman dolls, the old refrigerators, and the Harlequin artwork. Hopefully the pictures of Misha’s cups carried all around the world will also be in the new location.
Misha promises that the moves will not be a shock to the system, and the new spaces will have more storage and a new roaster at the King Street location. Incidentally, employees who do the roasting must go through training, and part of the atmosphere of the shop is the burlap bags of raw beans stacked around the roaster.
There are always two flavors, Caravan (a medium roast) and the Route 66 (a dark roast), and one special blend. Several other single origin and blends are displayed in glass jars to take home to brew. Misha’s cups have always been orange and the coffee inside the cups won’t change.
At the old location, there was no room to toast bagels, but that will also change. And there will be a case to display baked goods instead of resting them on a countertop.
Misha’s move has been delayed a couple of times, but when the old location closes, you can count on the new spot opening bright and early at 6 a.m. the next morning. So, Misha’s is making some changes after 28 years, but it will still be serving its coffee to regular customers and perhaps new ones, too. And as they say, it will still be “The best coffee you’ll ever have.”