Ethical Blend 

In a more recent incarnation, the space was home to 17.5 Uncommon Café. Last month 28-year-old Jen Rawlings and nearly 22-year-old Sara Tandy took over. Armed with a thesaurus and a book on Greek mythology, the pair rechristened it 17.5 Ethos Café to reflect the kind of socially active community they hope the coffee shop will nurture.

Ethos closes each day at 5 p.m., allowing the venue to host evening events and meetings for local organizations. The coffee shop is headquarters for everything from editorial meetings of the new free weekly City Edition to all-night cram sessions for summer nursing students at MCV.

Fans of the old 17.5 will recognize much of the mix-and-match furniture, but since its transformation to Ethos the place feels somehow tidier, still cozy but a little less cluttered. While the pair has made some modifications to make it their own, Tandy pledges the atmosphere will remain as "nook-y and European and small and crowded" as ever.

There's even a European immigrant on the staff. "Mama" — a recently acquired 850-pound German coffee roaster — provides Ethos with fresh roasted, organic, fair trade coffee. To qualify for fair trade status, the beans must come from coffee plantations whose workers receive a fair wage and which employ responsible environmental practices.

Mama's on-site roasting gives her beans a delicious full flavor and even a slight kick in caffeine content.

Mama's beans can be found in a variety of drinks — dressed up with white or Mexican chocolate, for example, or served plain ($1.50). Coffee may also be bought by the pound ($11-$14). Ethos also now offers an expanded menu with a variety of goods from local bakers as well as hot panini sandwiches. Rawlings and Tandy are hoping to add more vegan- and vegetarian-friendly items to the menu.

A friend and I tried the tomato, mozzarella and basil panini ($5.50) and the prosciutto, brie and roasted red pepper panini ($6.50). The sandwiches were toasted to perfection and served with a generous helping of potato chips. The tomato and basil sandwich was fresh and delicious, and my friend pronounced the prosciutto and brie "intensely good." Ethos' best selling sandwich is the peanut butter and banana panini with Nutella and honey on the side, which at only $4.50 brings new meaning to comfort food.

The sandwiches were served with refreshing cucumber water in sleek aluminum glasses purchased from neighbors at the Farmers' Market across the way.

Thomas Jefferson once said that the tree of liberty should be watered with blood. The rare-game butcher is long gone from this address, but 17.5 Ethos Café serves up delicious food and a more traditional fuel for making things happen: strong coffee. — Amy Biegelsen

17.5 Ethos ($)
17 « N. 17th St.
Monday, Wednesday to Friday 7 a.m. - 5 p.m. (closed Tuesday). Saturday and Sunday 8 p.m. - 5 p.m.

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