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Full Kee & Chinatown Coffee Company

One of the great things about having a twin sister is sharing friends. To be completely honest, ever since Anna and I were little, she was often the one who would go and find a friend, and then I'd join in. Luckily, she also loves my friends in DC, so I feel like I've paid her back for all the friends she brought into my life.

This past week, one of Anna's friends from CIA (the Culinary School, not the Central Intelligence Agency), Wendy, was in town. And as we've done any time Wendy is in DC, we met for lunch. Previously we've visited Oya, Zaytinya, and others. This time Wendy wanted to go to Full Kee. I was game.

I've been to Full Kee many times: some times were better than others. Luckily, the restaurant wasn't packed (like it usually is for dinner), and we were able to get seated quickly.

Wendy ordered a shrimp dumpling soup, and was quite a fan of it!

I decided to go with wide noodles and a brisket. But I wanted some color and asked our waitress to put some vegetables in the soup. She said "sure," but did not let me know what would be included. When the bowl of soup came to the table, I was shocked by the generous portion (for under $6!), and happily surprised to see rapini! After adding a bit of hot pepper sauce, I was ready to dig in. The noodles were soft and almost melted in my mouth; the brisket was tender and well seasoned. I just wish there weren't fatty pieces floating around: fat grosses me out! I would have absolutely taken leftover noodles home, but I did not want to deal with the fat chunks.
After soup we decided to get coffee (specifically, Wendy was going to get coffee, and I was planning to get hot chocolate because my personal trainer allows only one caffeinated beverage a day, and I've already had a diet Pepsi for breakfast: don't judge!).

I remembered that @ThriftyDCCook has been raving about Chinatown Coffee Company, and we decided to check it out.

First thing first: I absolutely loved the industrial design: the exposed brick walls, the stainless steel, the minimum lighting fixtures. And they had local art displayed on walls: a great plus.
This place had two menus: to stay or to go.
Wendy ordered coffee. The barista was less than pleasant, and was actually kind of snooty for no apparent reason. To add to this unfortunate situation, Wendy did not think there was anything special about coffee.

My hot chocolate looked absolutely beautiful: I love coffee/hot chocolate art.

But let's not be shallow (I know, it's hard for me sometimes): what really matters is how it tastes! Ugh: it did not blow me away. The hot chocolate was super watery: I really think I could have done the same out of a mix. Disappointing to say the least.

It was great seeing Wendy as always, but next time we'll choose somewhere else to go for coffee/hot chocolate. Any recommendations in Gallery Place area in DC?


Tammy Gordon said...

I think the best coffee or hot chocolate in that hood is at CoCo Sala.

Delicious Dishings said...

Fatty chunks gross me out too! The food looks tasty though... especially the shrimp dumplings. We have a place near us called East by Northeast that serves similar fare. I had a noodle dish almost like yours -- though it was so hot and spicy, it didn't need any additional heat!

Joie de vivre said...

I am so jealous of all of the wonderful restaurants you have near you!

Lele said...

Full Kee is my HEART! I go to the one at Bailey's Crossroads. If you get a chance, get their eggplant... I think it's just called "eggplant in garlic sauce" or "braised eggplant" or "eggplant cassrole" or something like that? It's like VELVET. Omg it's so insanely good.

Simones Kitchen said...

I always get so disappointed when hot chocolate is watery... To me that means that they just don't care. Same with bad coffee really!
What is so funny that I only yesterday heard for the first time about CIA also being Culinary Institute of America...! (on CSI) Too funny really...

BlueToYou said...

pretty hot chocolate. too bad about snooty coffee people. i hate places like that.

Foodwanderings said...

Such a sweet entry about your sister! Almost had Jonathan (my husband) give up an awesome parking spot at Dupont's Farmer Market to go to Chinatown coffee just so I can have hearts in my coffee:) Glad, I didn't. Thanks for the review:)

Jenna said...

That noodle soup looks amazing - I love anything with rice noodles and broth.

Too bad that that hot chocolate and coffee weren't the best - I think that if the service is snooty, then the coffee has to be really amazing. Or, rather, that was the attitude I had to adapt when I was in Seattle, when all the coffee shops were staffed by hipsters.

nicole said...

i like co co. sala and teaism.
honestly, the starbucks is pretty good too!

that 'hood doesn't have many options I'm afraid. I like buzz/shilla (they both serve illy).

Nick said...

It's a bit of a trek from gallery place, but Mid City Caffe on like 14th and R served me the best latte I've had in DC in years I think.

It's hipster-packed and worth the trip if you're looking for a chill coffee place.

Haven't tried the hot chocolate though.

Unknown said...

I love Full Kee's shrimp dumpling soup. Nver had anything else there ;-)
Chinatown Coffee company is applying for a liquor lincese too --> *excited*

Unknown said...

And yes, I agree with Nick. Love Mid City Caffe! great coffee, fun staff and (reason enough for me to go) they serve delicious macarons!

Sylvie said...

I'm very disappointed in Chinatwon Coffee Company for giving you bad hot chocolate. I will send your review to them just so they are aware. I stand by their coffee though. Their Cafe Mocha was out of this world. Another coffee house to try out when you are in my neighborhood is Qualia Coffee House. Bloomingdale has a good one too which is Big Bear Cafe.

Full Kee has the best wonton noodle soup in Chinatown. Their broth is nice and peppery and their wontons wrapping is light yet the inside is meaty. Yum!

Evan Halperin said...

I've been meaning to try this place for too long. That brisket looks so good

Seth Lester said...

To be honest, I'm a little biased because I worked there for a short time when I lived in DC, but I'm sort of surprised that your hot chocolate tasted watery.

This surprise is mostly due to the fact that the Chinatown Coffee Company Hot Chocolate recipe contains only two ingredients: chocolate, and milk. No water.

The milk is delivered fresh twice weekly in glass bottles from Trickling Springs Creamery, hands down the best dairy provider for the DC metro area (despite being a short drive away in rural PA) that employs a fleet of all-grass-fed cows and serves up milk that is NOT ultra-pasteurized like most flavorless milk you might find.

The chocolate is sourced from Omanhene and is of very high quality. You can learn more about them here at

Because bloggers can really make or break a business, I would ask (very nicely!) that you take greater care in slamming a business altogether based on solely your short interaction with the barista or register person, or based on the one drink you ordered off the menu. You didn't even order coffee, and the coffee here is what the shop is actually featuring. Since it's a coffee shop, and all.

Lastly, you took a photo of the folks who were working, and then slammed them on the internet without their consent. While that's probably fair in the vast sea of questionable blogosphere ethics, it's a really terrible way to treat people and I think it's downright disrespectful.

I sincerely hope your next visit to Chinatown Coffee is better than your last.


Seth Lester

Cricket Cemetery said...

Yeah I work at chinatown. Sorry you had a bad experience. We pride ourselves on our coffee and customer service so I'm pretty bummed to hear that. Hope you'll come back and give us another shot.

LetMeEatCake Eat With Me! said...

In response to Seth Lester's comment: You can absolutely have a watery hot chocolate even if the only ingredients are milk and chocolate and I know this from working in the industry. If the proportions of milk to chocolate are not balanced you get the watery taste! Second, to mention that the barista was not pleasant is more than fair and I do not consider that blasting them. And honestly people who work in the hospitality industry should know by now that you have to be kind and courteous to all that you serve because you never know who you are helping, at least my staff is keen to that.

I continue to enjoy your reviews and posts here on Mango Tomato Olga. Job well done!

WalkerMark10 said...


I think we've read different reviews. At no point did I read anything denouncing the service or undermining the people who work there. She may have dosed out a few negative-skewing opinions, but all is fair in the realm of personal opinion.

I'm sure the hot chocolates are made with the best intentions, but she's entitled to her opinion. From reading your comments, you'd think she'd insulted employees individually and then posted head shots.

I was actually encouraged to give the place a shot after reading the review (because the majority of it was positive!) It looks like they've got a nice setup and some interesting deviations from the traditional coffee house.

Foodwanderings said...

Hi Seth,
When I commented on twitter with the same sentiments expressed by me above (see my comment), Olga reitirated that ThriftyDCCook loves the coffee at Chinatown Coffee and I should give it a shot. You jumped the gun here, without having the full picture. Not to mention Olga is entitled to her opinion, and she put any criticism she had mildly. Not sure I would have put so mildly, if service was 'snooty' with no compensating factors other than hearts in my coffee and cutting edge decor.

Evan Halperin said...

In response to Seth comments, I think that everything the original poster said was completely in bounds and is entitled to her opinion. Honestly, to use a stupid cliche phrase, "if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen."

If I go to a restaurant or store, I like reading reviews of those places. Do I base my opinion of one review? Not usually, so I think that getting upset of this blog post is crazy.

Maybe instead of making excuses you can offer to provide a new hot chocolate or a coffee to show the skills and quality that you claim to offer.

Cecilia said...

I had been meaning to try Chinatown Coffee for a while, and after I read your review I decided to stop by and give it a try. I finally made it there last Wednesday after work. I too had the hot chocolate, because I did not want to have another cup of coffee that day. The hot chocolate was watery. It tasted faintly of chocolate. Was I disappointed? Yes. Like you said, the same would have been achieved out of a mix. I think it’s great that they use grass fed milk that is not ultra-pasteurized and quality chocolate, but it just doesn’t work for me. I would not order the hot chocolate again. I do plan on going back to have their coffee as some friends have highly recommended it.

City Girl said...

I found your post to be honest and talk about the pros and the cons of your experience.

And, correct me if I'm wrong, but a former employee wrote the critical comment, but a current employee was kind and asked you to give CCC another try?

There's nothing wrong with your post in any regard. Yelpers and other food bloggers write similar things all the time. You are entitled to your opinions, and you have garnered a following for a reason. Just keep doing what you're doing :)!

Hope to meet you soon!