Can No One Beat The Buck?

Each year, the Washington Post holds a reader's choice contest to rank the best of D.C. restaurants, nightlife and recreation. And each year, the winners in most categories read like the strip mall signs in Generic City, USA. And each year, people whine and complain about how chains shouldn't be allowed to win and how Maggiano's can possibly be considered the best Italian restaurant in the area.

Well, allow me to bring up the clichéd topic of Starbuck's bashing. The winners, which were announced Monday, include Starbuck's for best coffee shop. And for some reason, that one got to me more than any of the other generic winners. The mega-chain has a clear advantage, being located on every other street corner in the city, and voting is a matter of sheer numbers. In fact, a May DCist post reported on data that showed that among small cities, Falls Church, Va., has the most Starbuck's per 10,000 people with 7.7.

But what was going through the minds of the people as they voted. "Well, the only coffee shop I can think of is Starbuck's." Really? In defense of the masses, Tryst did place second.

I'm no holier-than-thou coffee drinker. I struggle with my own inner turmoil over patronizing Starbuck's. When the slow-as-molasses Café Collage (now closed for permit violations) opened around the corner from me on T Street, I tried so hard to like it. The harrar Ethiopian coffee was great, but it took about 12 minutes for them to make a latte. There were times, I admit, that I tucked tail and sheepishly snuck over to the Starbuck's instead. I'm trying to give the new Mocha Hut on 13th a chance; they have an admirable sense of community with local art, poetry readings and jazz nights. But it still sometimes takes an unreasonable amount of time to make a drink. I'm a fan of Sparky's on 14th and Tryst, but sometimes I'm weak and Starbuck's is omnipresent.

What's your take? Starbuck's: the root of all evil or simply standardized, efficiently made coffee? And where's your favorite (independent for the sake of this post) coffee shop? If you can't think of one, check out the Starbuck's Delocator, and then come back.