Hannes Richter

Leopold’s Kafe & Konditorei

Hannes Richter

The origins of the Austrian coffee house culture are shrouded in legend - the legend of the Galician reconnaissance scout named Georg Franz Kolschitzky. During the siege of Vienna by the Turks in 1683, he smuggled messages in and out of the city, and as a reward for his services, received supplies of coffee left behind by the Turkish army. The enterprising Kolschitzky realized that the green beans had to be roasted and then ground before they would produce the black "Turkish drink." This bitter beverage was regarded as undrinkable by the Viennese until sweetened with a spoonful of the honey-based mead liqueur. Kolschitz-ky's first Kaffeehaus was the beginning of an enduring tradition.

Austrian Kaffeehäuser have always embodied the pecularities of their day. Some coffee houses have housed literary circles and encouraged poetry readings, while others have offered opportunities for political debate, or a chance to read the newspapers without having to buy them. In today’s digital age the number of coffee houses offering Internet access is constantly growing. This great tradition has inspired the recent creation of Leopold’s Kafe & Konditorei (the German word for pastry shop). This contemporary adaptation of its Austrian predecessors combines café, restaurant, bar and pastry shop all in one. Leopold’s Kafe & Konditorei serves breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as the famous Austrian coffee, Julius Meinl, Viennese pastries, and alcohol. The customer can either settle down in a 3,800-square-foot white interior next to a glass display of delectables, or choose to take a seat outside in the red brick courtyard.

Stylish decor inside and out

Leopold’s Kafe & Konditorei is the latest addition to Cady's Alley, a cobblestone street named after a late 19th century family located in the sloping waterfront district on the northern shore of the Potomac River. Both Leopold’s Kafe and Cady's Alley are part of a bigger project, pioneered by the Austrian, Anthony Lanier, a major real estate developer in Washington, D.C. and president and founder of EastBanc Inc.

Born in Brazil and raised in Vienna, Mr. Lanier moved to Georgetown in the early 80s. At that time the retail district of Georgetown was declining as T-shirt shops replaced antique shops and landlords stopped investing money in their properties. Mr. Lanier: "I think my fascination with Georgetown comes from having grown up in post-war Vienna as it was being revitalized into one of the most exciting and pedestrian-friendly downtowns in the world."

Developing Georgetown into an "urban village" became Lanier’s vision. Using European capital, he turned former industrial buildings into elegant shops. He also brought back artisans, and Georgetown now has a tailor, a watchmaker and a shoemaker. And, Cady’s Alley has been transformed from a rat-infested stretch of street into a location of high-end furniture and design boutiques. This project received the 2005 American Institute of Architects Honor Award for Urban Design.

Operating Kafe Leopold is the responsibility of Mr. Lanier’s Austrian general manager, Albrecht Clary, international restaurateur and former schoolmate from Salzburg. The outstanding pastry chef is Nancy Kerschner of New York.