To enhance your cherry blossom season in the District, grab a cherry blossom-inspired dish from D Light Cafe, a Ukrainian-owned business helping to raise funds in support of their family and fellow Ukrainians caught in the conflict.
Don’t be surprised if you find a roughly 30-minute line when you arrive at the cafe, located at 2475 18th St. NW. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last month, D.C. residents have rallied support for the Ukrainian sisters who own the cafe, some donating their time to help staff the busy cafe, others by frequently purchasing goods from the shop.
While waiting in line, you can’t miss the arch of colorful hydrangeas, phenones and eucalyptus flowers that adorn the doorway. But the decor doesn’t end there – upon entering the relatively small space you’ll see Ukrainian-inspired blue, yellow and white flower arrangements on every table, swinging gold chandeliers and large mirrors and paintings hanging on the walls.
The cafe is especially fresh and new, only just reopening in February after an arsonist lit the cafe’s arch of flowers on fire, causing a devastating fire and scorching the exterior of the cafe in January. The owners, Anastasiia and Vira Derun, had to rely on GoFundMe, which raised more than $14,000 for the repairs.
Only two weeks after they reopened, more devastation struck with the Russian invasion. The Deruns immigrated from Ukraine and still have family there, which inspired them to launch fundraising efforts at the cafe to raise money for medical supplies and assistance in evacuation.
The sisters’ parents chose to stay in Ukraine, with their father providing neighbors with hunting equipment to take up arms against the Russian forces. They baked cookies decorated with the Ukrainian flag and held a trivia night the first week of March, with a minimum participation fee of $10 going to Ukrainian aid organization Razom, which is working to help evacuate children and provide the wounded with medical attention.
Once you make it through the line to the front of the shop, a glass case filled with French and Ukrainian pastries entices your appetite. Guests can order dine in or to go with indoor dining and curbside seating, perfect for the spring weather. Tables line the sides of the cafe inside, with two bay window-like seats by each window. Outside, two big communal tables are shared by guests.
If you are won over by the allure of baked goods, I recommend trying the D Light Signature Cake ($6.99), a light and fluffy cake broken up with layers of custard cream and caramel and finished with sliced almonds on top. For a savory bite, you can’t go wrong with a turkey croissant sandwich ($12.99) or the cafe’s popular tomato Shakshuka ($13.99), a baked egg dish covered in a spicy tomato sauce.
Spring in the District calls for all things cherry-blossom themed, so consider opting for the cherry-popcorn raf ($3.85), a popular Eastern European coffee drink, for your drink of choice. I decided to fully commit to the festive spring theme and indulge in the cafe’s cherry blossom pancakes ($13.99), served with cherry jam.
I ate the flapjacks outside in the sun at one of the several large, community tables, conversing with friendly customers eager to support the Ukrainian cause. Shortly after I began eating, an Eastern European band began playing next to the seating area. They also provided a QR code for passerbyrs to donate to Razom.
The three, medium-sized pancakes come covered in a light, airy cream mousse that is the just the right amount of sweet to not overpower the cakes. The dollop of cherry jam served on top of the fluffy treats captured the essence of cherry blossoms. The dish tasted like what I picture spring to taste like – light, fruity and subtly sweet.
If you visit on the weekend, be sure to arrive before noon, as the shop has gained so much popularity that they often run out of food before closing time.
D Light Cafe is well worth the wait, so be sure to head on over to indulge in the French and Ukrainian fusion and support a good cause.