Arlington, VA 22201
Northside Social and the local Starbucks) both require a slight detour which, if you're late for work, is a huge detour for much needed coffee in the morning. Oby Lee let's me pull right up, get a coffee, maybe some breakfast, and not lose an extra minute. So, this past week, I stopped by for a couple of breakfasts and a quick dinner.
The one thing I had reservations about is that Oby Lee is located on a pretty busy intersection in Clarendon so finding a parking spot could be a hassle but fortunately, the times I went, I was able to pull right up to the curb. You know it's Oby Lee by the array of red umbrella and red chairs that make up a nice little patio area for the joint. I guess I'm partial to simple design with reds & whites (a la H &pizza) because I really liked the look of this place. From the umbrellas to the clean lines of the inside where they have table sprinkled throughout with a mix of white leather lounge chairs and more red chairs.
The two opposing walls on the inside reflect the dichotomy of Oby Lee's. On one wall is their variety of coffees and on the other is row upon row of wine. They also have this pretty ingenious wine machine where you pay to load up a sort of game card with money, insert it into the machine and then choose what kind of wine you want to try out. I didn't try out the machine on my visits there but it's definitely on the list when I go back. As for the coffee, the owner told me that they've applied to be able to put a roaster in the middle of the store so that they can roast coffee right in front of you. I don't know what that means exactly but it sounds pretty amazing.
My next breakfast I just got an apple and brie tart sprinkled with some basil out of their pastry case. I had seen it the previous day but couldn't get my head around the combination of apple and brie in a tart. I know apples and brie are a pretty classic cheese plate combo but it was the tart part that was holding me up. I don't know if I got all the brie cheesy flavors (made that up but has a nice ring to it) but the sweetness was definitely muted in the tart which made for a nice even keeled breakfast. There was only a hint of basil but it provided a nice refreshing kick to some bites.
Speaking of dinner, I order something called a Beef Krokiet. It's a Polish dish (I think one of the owners/chef is Polish) with seasoned beef and mushrooms that has been sauteed and then stuffed into a crepe (also included the great side salad). I don't know if the shiitakes imparted some additional flavor into the beef but I definitely tasted some slight curry/cumin overtones in the dish. Maybe it was a hint of paprika but when I asked what was in the crepe it was just a simple, straightforward beef & mushroom dish. It was also really flavorful and much lighter than I expected.
I did notice while I was eating dinner that there was Spanish music playing in the restaurant's sound system, I was eating a polish dish made with Japanese style crepes, there was a funky wine dispensing machine on the far end and some of the best coffee I've ever had just a few feet from me. My point is, for a place that looks like a nice, clean, and simple coffee shop, that there is a lot more going on than you would expect. There's wine, there's great coffee, and there's some eclectic food. I came into Oby Lee's looking for a dependable cup of coffee and an occasional breakfast. I came out having discovered a nice little cafe with so much more to offer.