Wizards Star Opens DC Cafe With Strawberry Pop-Tart Lattes and Sea Moss Lemonades

Kyle Kuzma channels nostalgia at Childhood Cafe off U Street

Photograph by Arya Hodjat.

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Childhood Cafe. 1926 17th St., NW. Open from 7 AM to 3 PM daily. 

It was a rough season for the Washington Wizards, who finished with the NBA’s second-worst record as owner Ted Leonsis attempted (and failed) to move the team to Virginia. But Leonsis kept the team in DC, and now, their star player is opening up a business in the District.

Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma launched a coffee shop, Childhood Cafe, off U Street today in the space previously occupied by ThreeFifty Bakery and Coffee Bar. The cafe, which riffs its name off of Kuzma’s lifestyle brand, Childhood Dreams, offers pastries and classic coffee drinks, as well as lemonades, non-alcoholic spritzes, and more specialized creations, like a strawberry Pop-Tart latte.

“You see Prada, you see Dior, they’re all opening small, really high-end cafes as well,” says co-owner and manager Joe Perez, who’s also the NBA player’s personal chef. “So we figured we’d get ahead of the trend, and we love coffee, we love pastry. So why not?”

While the inspiration may be luxury, Childhood Cafe is a casual spot with accessible prices (a small coffee is only $2.40). Perez says he and Kuzma designed the menu to channel memories of what they ate growing up, like the Pop-Tarts (which inspired the latte), or monkey bread (he describes his version as “doughnut holes meet French toast.”) But Childhood Cafe isn’t all kid’s fare; the shop offers lemonades blended with sea moss, which Perez says he incorporates into Kuzma’s personal menu for its alleged health benefits. You can also buy jars of sea moss at Childhood Cafe for $12 apiece.

The interior of Childhood Cafe.
Photograph by Arya Hodjat.

Perez says he plans on expanding the menu in the coming months, with new drinks like a blueberry muffin latte or a tiramisu cold brew as well as food options like sandwiches or avocado toast. The shop is also working to get a liquor license.

With J Dilla and OutKast on the speakers, and a gaggle of patrons outside working on their laptops, you’d be forgiven for mistaking Childhood Cafe for any other coffee shop in DC—just one that happens to be owned by an NBA player. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Adriana Trigo, one of the aforementioned patrons, told Washingtonian she kept an eager eye on Childhood Cafe’s development after ThreeFifty closed.

“I’ve been joking saying there’s like a power vacuum for coffee shops here, that they’re definitely going to fill in,” Trigo says. “It’s just another added bonus of having the players invested in the neighborhood.”

Arya Hodjat
Editorial Fellow