Alexandria: In Between Patrick and Henry, Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner Await

Alexandria: In Between Patrick and Henry, Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner Await

Killer ESP stays true to its roots while growing into its own.

Killer ESP’s storefront on King Street belies the treasures that are inside.

Killer ESP’s storefront on King Street belies the treasures that are inside. Photo by Hope Nelson


The staff at Killer ESP touts the day’s specials on a sandwich board out front.

If You Go

Killer ESP

Address: 1012 King St., Alexandria

Hours: 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday

Top seller: “The top seller over the summer is a single scoop of gelato,” Shelton says.

Up next: Shelton is pursuing a second storefront on Capitol Hill. “We’ve put some offers in … it’s just a matter of time to make that work out.”

Walk down the block on the southern side of King Street, between the “Routes 1” – that is, the block between Patrick and Henry streets – and before long you’ll come upon a sandwich board offering up a plethora of interesting options. “Stumptown Coffee,” it might say. Or “Dangerously Delicious pies.” Or “Vegan options!” Maybe it’ll tout a gelato flavor or an empanada.

Whatever the sign outside Killer ESP, 1012 King St., is offering, you’d do well to pop in, sit a spell, and have a taste. From rich, dark coffee to sweet and savory pies, this coffeehouse-café has an answer to your cravings.

The front door belies the embarrassment of caffeinated and edible riches that await you when you step into the shop. A gelato bar just inside the front door offers up a multitude of ice creams and sorbets. Make your way back to the counter and you’ll find all the coffee and tea concoctions you’ve dreamed of: Stumptown coffee, an array of espresso options, and more than 60 loose-leaf teas to choose from. (The shop actually hosts a “tea happy hour,” offering $1 teas after 5 p.m. every day.) And the pies – the “P” in Killer ESP – are varied and delicious. They’re also selling like hotcakes – the shop sells 90 pies a week.

Certainly, Killer ESP offers plenty for the grab-and-go set. But the seating areas – both near the back of the coffeehouse as well as in a little space outside – offer a comfortable place to read a book, get some work done, or simply people-watch for a while. A motley mix of sofas, tables, and chairs allow customers to relax without feeling rushed.

Killer ESP just celebrated its fourth birthday. Two-thirds of its customers are regulars, owner Rob Shelton says, and the numbers continue to grow.

And so does the menu, Shelton says. Up first: Kombucha on tap. Within the next few weeks, Shelton aims to offer regular cold-brew, nitro cold-brew, and regular versions of the fermented tea on taps at the counter to cater to customers’ desires. And he’s not planning on stopping there.

“We’re really focusing on making lots of really good changes, upgrading a lot of the products,” Shelton said. “We’re going to bring some different coffees in, some more single-origin espresso.” He’s also preparing to launch a redesign of the gelato counter, offering pops and other sweet frozen snacks alongside the customary creamy treats.

Another addition to the menu: A variety of smoothies. “Real fruit smoothies,” Shelton clarified. “We’re not going to have any concentrated juices.”

But the mainstays within Killer ESP – namely, the Espresso, Sorbet, and Pie – aren’t going anywhere any time soon. And as exciting as the new additions sound, the coffeehouse’s neighbors should be thrilled about what’s staying the same, too.

Sam Phao Thai Cuisine, 1019 King St., Alexandria

Directly across the street from Killer ESP sits Sam Phao, a Thai restaurant that has called Old Town home for several years now. Don’t be deceived by the small dining room you see when walking in the front door; the restaurant has a larger upstairs space that can handle bigger groups (or the usual dinner rush). Try the pineapple fried rice for a meal that makes a statement — it’s served in a hollowed-out pineapple — or the panang tofu for a curry dish with a kick.

Hope Nelson owns and operates The Kitchen Recessionista blog, which can be found at