Panamanian Coffee and Cocktail Spot Café Unido Opens in Shaw

On tap: coffee omakase tastings, Panamanian eats, and geisha pour-overs.

Panamanian coffee and cocktail bar Café Unido opens in Shaw (pictured: the geisha martini). Photography by Brian Oh

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Cocktail and caffeine fiends can get their kicks at Café Unido, a Panamanian coffee shop, cafe, and bar opening in Shaw. You may recognize the name from their stall at La Cosecha near Union Market, where the team started pouring their coveted geisha coffees for the first time in the United States. This latest venture, opening November 1, is larger and primed for dining and drinking—as well as special coffee “omakase tastings”—similar to Unido cafes in Panama. 

“It’s a better representation of our Unido flow,” says co-founder Benito Bermudez. 

The kitchen turns out an all-day menu with bites like empanadas, hojaldres (flatbreads), pork belly, and Caribbean crab cakes. Photograph by Brian Oh.

The 69-seat cafe—partnered with a large patio for nearly 40—will run morning through night with an all-day menu and bar stocked with local beers, natural wines, and coffee-infused cocktails. The kitchen turns out wallet-friendly dishes made with Panamanian ingredients such as zapallo (sweet squash) pancakes with butternut syrup, or a riff on eggs Benedict with yucca patties in lieu of muffins and sofrito hollandaise. Lunch items include empanadas and a coffee-rubbed burger, which also comes in a vegan-friendly version. Coffee also makes its way into a banh mi-style sandwich with pork braised with cascara (dried coffee cherry skins).

Guests can try a coffee omakase tasting with cocktails and snacks. Photograph by Brian Oh.

The Unido team made a name for themselves in Panama, where they operate ten cafes, thanks to their meticulous sourcing and experimental techniques like fermented and aged coffees. The company directly procures sustainable beans from 15 small farms, all with terroir and distinctive flavors in mind. Patrons can dive into Panamanian coffee culture as deep as they want—whether it’s a $4 to-go cup of quality drip, or a $45 “coffee omakase” that also includes cocktails and snacks.  The tasting, which takes about 40 minutes, includes geisha pour-overs, single-origin cold brews, and Unido’s riff on an espresso martini.

Unido’s riff on avocado toast comes with changa waffles. Photograph by Brian Oh.

“It’s clear for us that Panama coffee is entering a more luxury status. To really represent the coffees, we put them in the fine-dining setting and landed on the omakase, something you can’t get in a to-go cup,” says Bermudez. 

Burgers get a coffee rub and cascara ketchup. Photograph by Brian Oh.

Café Unido. 901 W St., NW.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.