When you meander into the charming Dovecote Cafe in historic Reservoir Hill, take a seat on a tufted sofa, behold the black-and-white “Harlem toile” wallpaper and the array of baked goods under bell jars, and soak in the warm and wonderful vibe of a spot that gets the cafe concept just right.
But if you want to look like a regular, know before you go, there’s nary a printed menu here. “We like to talk to our customers,” said co-owner Aisha Pew, as she rattles off the daily roster. Indeed, Dovecote (a birdhouse for pigeons, as well as “a settled or harmonious group,” according to Merriam-Webster) is that rare bird of a cafe that’s all about engagement. It’s a modern-day take on the 17th-century salon that serves as a sort of intellectual hub for the community—a place where locals go to work on their laptops, that hosts an “Artists Shouldn’t Starve” series, and invites small-batch chefs to use its kitchen to cook for the community.
Pew, along with her mom, Gilda, and partner, Cole, run the cafe, which offers some savory specialties but puts the emphasis on sweet—with everything sourced straight from the heart. We especially loved the tall-as-a-turban sticky bun ($3.50) swirled with maple syrup, loaded with cinnamon, sugar, and pecans. The airy peach upside-down cake ($4)—so moist and light it practically levitated off the square serving plate—was also a culinary wonder. “My mom’s peach upside-down cake will turn your world upside down,” promised Pew—and it did. Also on hand were assorted muffins, including a fluffy corn muffin infused with marmalade ($3.30) and a blueberry muffin ($2.50) densely packed with fruit and encrusted with fat sugar crystals. On the savory side, we ordered spinach pie ($5.66). The quiche-like caramelized onion filling was dense with spinach and the thin crust stayed sturdy (the downfall of many an egg-crust combo) to the last crumb.
Beverages include several brews of small-batch coffee that represent a personal travelogue for the trio. (Brewklyn Grind Coffee Roasters from Brooklyn, where Aisha was born; Red Bay Coffee Roasters from Oakland, CA, where Aisha, Cole, and Gilda last lived; and Café Los Sueños from D.C., where Cole was born.) In addition, there are house-made brews named after the cafe’s mascot doves. Whatever you order, you’ll feel the love when you flock here.
›› Dovecote Cafe: 2501 Madison Ave. 443-961-8677. Hours: Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Pricing: Baked goods: $2.50-5; savory specials: $5-8; beverages: $1.70-3.75.