Anyone who knows me knows that a good local coffee shop is fairly essential to my well-being. It's somewhere to meet my friends or to write papers and poems; somewhere that I can sit for hours without being rushed out, whether with or without people. And then, of course, there's the coffee itself. Pastries/other food are another consideration, but I consider them more of a bonus. The point of all this is, I've now frequented a number of coffee shops in the greater Boston area, and I'd like to offer a short, unscientific rundown of them, now that you know my criteria. If anyone has any suggestions for me, please offer them. I've mostly stuck to what's fairly near to where I and people I know live. I hope it's helpful in some way to someone....
1. Diesel Cafe - 257 Elm St., Somerville (Davis Square)
I've never really been one to worry about whether I blend in with the crowd at a place, so I don't care that at Diesel, I'm often the only non-tattooed one there. I like their coffee a lot - I think they brew Intellegentsia, and they foam soy milk better than anywhere I've ever been. The sandwiches and pastries are a little overpriced, but good, with lots of vegetarian items. I don't think I would go here to write a paper, since it's kind of a trek for me to take my laptop, and I'd have to pay to distract myself on Facebook.
finding a space: not that hard - lots of tables, probably the most on this list
outlet situation: I haven't noticed, actually, but fewer computers here than other places
wireless: you have to pay
bonus goodness: pool tables, photo booth, random vintage typewriter
2. Espresso Royale - 286 Newbury St., Boston (near Newbury Comics)
I wrote a paper here one afternoon, but I was lucky to find the space/outlet. There was a line there the entire time, of people ranging from students to people who'd clearly just shopped at the Armani store. They also ran out of bagels, and a couple of other things, fairly early in the day. Definitely not for the claustrophobic, but once you're settled in, it's not that bad. And oh, right, the coffee. Their espresso has this slightly burnt quality that I happen to like, but others may not. Also, there's an excellent tea selection.
finding a space: quite difficult, since it's tiny, but people generally seemed willing to share/be accommodating
outlet situation: basically one power strip that everyone uses and then they trip over everyone else's cords
wireless: they technically don't have it, but there are plenty of local networks
music: The baristas have good taste. They were playing the White Album and there was a mutiny to skip "Piggies."
3. Espresso Royale - 44 Gainsborough St., Boston (near Symphony Hall)
Obviously a lot of things carry over from the other ER - bagels, tea, coffee. This one is about...oh, five times the size? It was busy, but my friend and I had no trouble finding a table (with C. Montgomery Burns painted on it!). It's in a lovely old building with tall ceilings and lots of tables/chairs of varying size, and the customers are mostly NEC, Berklee, and Northeastern students and their skeptical-looking parents.
finding a space: no problem
outlet situation: I meant to check it out and didn't, but lots of tables against the wall
wireless: okay, seriously not doing my research well...I'm not sure
employees: I have to say, I love when the barista types aren't snobby, but instead are quick with a smart joke and dance (well) to Prince. (The Police was also on at some point.)
4. Trident Booksellers & Cafe - 338 Newbury St., Boston (near Newbury Comics, but the other way)
This isn't as much a coffee shop as a breakfast/lunch place, but I sat for about an hour and a half at a table one afternoon doing homework, and over the course of that time I ordered a cup of coffee and a bagel & cream cheese, and they didn't seem to mind - though it was mid-afternoon and a little slow. You can always sit at the bar; it seems less conspicuous. The coffee is average - that's not really an insult, but it's not fabulous either. Plus they don't have skim or soy milk, so I avoid the lattes, etc. Oh right, and there is one bathroom and it's far away from the restaurant part, and always has a line.
finding a space: depends on the time - I wouldn't recommend going during lunch unless you're actually going to have lunch
outlet situation: nonexistent
wireless: also, I think, nonexistent - but it's close enough to Espresso Royale that you could probably get onto one of those networks
in other news: the bookstore itself is fantastic - the best sale table around, great periodicals, etc.
5. 1369 Coffee House - 757 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge (Central Square)
Good espresso, really good foam, and really really good cheesecake. That's enough for me, but I'll add that the place was...I guess cozy is the word. Red walls, interesting art, good lighting. They also had a lot of non-coffee drinks, like hot cranberry cider. It was quiet - people were talking quietly or reading, as opposed to the Symphony Espresso Royale, which was full of energy.
finding a space: pretty easy; there are probably twenty tables, maybe? (I'm so bad at estimating)
outlet situation: seemed good, lots of people with computers and lots of tables against the wall
wireless: again, I think so, but don't take my word for it...why did I make these little categories?
bonus goodness: They make that leaf shape in the foam - I love that. Plus, two used bookstores reside between the Central T stop and 1369.
6. Mr. Crepe - intersection of Elm St., College Ave., and Holland St., Somerville (Davis Square)
This is brand new, but apparently there is/used to be one somewhere else in the Boston area. I went there on a Saturday afternoon, drawn by the sign on the wall that said "Serving Rao's coffee." I went to college in the Pioneer Valley, and spent much of my waking life at Rao's in Amherst. When I got my latte, I almost cried because it tasted exactly the same - Rao's, also, has a slightly burnt taste to their espresso, but it was worth the nostalgia. It started out calm, and eventually filled up - it's kind of a high-traffic area. We had a strawberry-and-Nutella crepe, and it was really good, and not bad price-wise. Lots of good teas, too.
finding a space: easy when we got there; packed when we left - not cramped, though
outlet situation: pretty good; probably about half the tables have access
parking yourself: I did see one table there for the long haul, but it seemed like most people came, ate crepes, and left.
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