A few days before my big 2019 Virginia “Campaign”, I decided that I was going to do something different. For every Civil War-related place I visit, I’ll pick out one LOCAL coffee place and restaurant. I’ll go there and then share my experiences with you, so you know where to go on your next campaign as well.
For the first few days of our big trip, we were “bivouacked” at Fredericksburg.
While there are several coffeeshops in the vicinity of the historic town, we picked on that was relatively close to the Rappahannock river and a decent parking garage. Agora Coffee Shop is located in downtown historic Fredericksburg in a historic home that blends with many of the other gorgeous buildings around it. Less than a block – and two street crossings – away from the coffeeshop is probably one of the best places to park in the morning. Sophia Parking Garage is free for the first three hours, which is ideal if you just want to go for coffee, but why would you when there’s so much to see nearby?
Just a couple of doors down from the Caroline House and across the street from Fredericksburg Square Building (a big brick building, can’t miss it), sits a pale-yellow house with white trim. Its orange banner will announce they’re open late, which would be a welcome sign for those looking for a “pick-me-up” in the evening.
Agora’s interior is homey without being too cramped. Soft indie/folk music plays over the speakers throughout the aromatic café. Local crafts are for sale near the ordering counter, and more local art hangs upon the walls – also for sale. Their establishment is split into three rooms. The front has some seating and a bar-ish area along the wall. The second and third are strictly for seating and have clusters of tables and chairs that are like a hodge-podge mix from antique and furniture store deals, giving it an eclectic vibe that I personally enjoy. The back room has the bathroom (conveniently very handicap-friendly) and a little nook (which I can assume was an old closet for the home) where used books are on display for sale. The whole store is amply lit by windows that look out over the street in front and the alley besides. It’s everything one might expect of a hometown coffee shop with character and heart.
They don’t have much in the way of food, but their Caprese sandwich is excellent for a morning tummy-filler. If you have a sweet tooth, they can certainly indulge your cravings with a variety of pastry delights. Their coffee menu is pretty typical of what you’d expect. I like that they have the types of coffee explained on the menu itself, for those that don’t know what an Americano or Mocha is comprised of. I had an espresso, which surprised me because it came in a neat little shot-cup (not a shot glass because it was shaped like a teacup). By the potency of the brew, I knew I hadn’t been drinking the right espressos anywhere else. I expected a to-go cup filled to the brim, as one might get at Starbucks. By the way, they can give you your coffee to go, but if you elect to have it there, they will put it in a regular cup or mug for you to save on waste. I was wired on this one espresso that took me the better part of half an hour to consume. Very satisfied.
My husband got a house special called “Strangely Delicious”. And it was! A mix of orange juice, raspberry, and espresso on ice, this brew had a unique but oddly harmonious flavor. Jared is a nut about mixing up weird drinks, especially at a fast-food place, so I thought he would like this one. It has just enough of the citrus and espresso blends, but not enough to overpower or make it nasty. While this isn’t their only iced drink, it’s certainly something to try if you would prefer something other than the hot coffees they provide.
The staff and baristas were friendly and patient with us as we decided on what we wanted. The other customers were the same. Simply saying “this is our first time here” was an excellent pass to strike up conversations about their favorite drinks or snacks. Apparently, this place is a downtown favorite, judging by the variety of customers that came through the doors while we were there.
Overall, Agora is a great first stop of the morning. Whether you want a place to grab a coffee before going sightseeing, check emails on your laptop, read the newspaper, or meet a client for a meeting, this place is great for everything. When you’re finished, just take your plates and cups up to the front by the door and put them in the tray to the left so the baristas don’t have to clean up after you. Take a minute to browse their “local wares” as well. Might find something you want to buy to remember your visit to Agora and Fredericksburg – besides the typical shirts and hats.
Other things to do in or near downtown Fredericksburg is the National Battlefield Park (duh!) or the Chatham house, which was owned by the Lacy family during the Civil War. This was their “town home”, while their main estate known as Ellwood still stands today as part of the Wilderness Battlefield experience.
For other options, take a look at https://fredericksburgdowntown.org/
If you want to check out Agora for yourself, visit their website before going. https://www.agoradowntown.com/