Meet Cullen Gilchrist and Jonas Singer.
Cullen and Jonas run Blind Dog Cafe, a pop-up coffeehouse located a few blocks north of the U Street Corridor, inside Darnell’s bar during the day. Serving unbeatable coffee, house-made eats, and drool-worthy confections alongside all the free Wi-Fi you can handle, it’s no wonder Blind Dog is rapidly establishing itself as a favorite meeting place for locals. Luckily, the duo had time to answer a few of FamousDC’s questions between pulling shots of espresso.
From left to right, Jonas Singer and Cullen Gilchrist, owners of Blind Dog Cafe. Photo credit: Meg Smith.
1. What inspired you to open Blind Dog Cafe?
We saw that there was a need for sandwiches, salads, and good coffee in the neighborhood and we wanted to fill it. We had been talking about this idea for a while and the opportunity just so happened to cross our path.
2. Tell us about your famous gigantic (and delicious) chocolate chip cookies.
My sister, Greer (who is the best sister ever!), is the baking force behind those gigantic cookies. Our common upbringing has led us to agree that if you are going to make cookies, you have to make them over the top. Besides the regular fixings, the cookies are loaded with disks of milk and dark chocolate and a touch of salt to round them out. They are pretty awesome and, of course, are great with milk or even a latte.
3. You host a lot of pop-ups and local events — can you share your philosophy about involving the community in your business?
As a cafe, we involve the community in our business, because the community is our business. We’d like to be a place where you get a great sandwich and terrific coffee, but also wonderful, genuine hospitality that, if you are open to it, isn’t just about service but about forging real and lasting relationships. We strive to be an inviting communal space where everyone knows your name.
4. What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone looking to open their own place?
The advice we would give is the same we took in getting the Blind Dog Cafe open at Darnell’s — don’t limit your chances of being successful by taking on a large burden of debt. The food industry has small margins, so any debt severely cuts into the small profits you would hope to gain. Do it smart and cheap.
5. What makes DC’s food scene so unique?
DC’s food scene is unique because DC is a very unique place. It is full of people from all over the country and the world, in a mix that, I think, you won’t find anywhere else. The food mirrors this uniqueness. The food scene serves the community, and therefore reflects the diverse community that exists here. Whether people are from El Salvador, Ethiopia, or Wisconsin, they have different tastes and the restaurants and cafes provide those tastes and memories people are craving.