I set out to write a post about Boston’s Top 10 Coffee Houses, but I couldn’t stop there. Beantown takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to the selection of fine independent coffee purveyors. Forget about Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts (although if you have to pick one, keep in mind that DD was founded in our backyard in Quincy, MA) and check out the local competition. Perhaps you will find a new place to go “where everybody knows your name.”
1. Espresso Royale Caffe, 736 Comm. Ave, Boston: Not much has changed at ERC since I went to Boston University, and that’s a good thing because they always did it right. Cozy up on the couch with your friends or get your study on at this BU favorite hangout.
2. Equal Exchange Cafe, 226 Causeway St, Boston: Located conveniently between the TD Garden and the Harborwalk that connects the North End to Charlestown and Cambridge, this bustling coffee house is the keystone of Causeway St. Stop here before and after a Bruins or Celtics game for certified organic coffee and locally sourced products. Website: http://www.equalexchangecafe.com/
3. The Thinking Cup, 165 Tremont St, Boston: This coffee house has clearly put a lot of thought into their business. Overlooking Boston Common and just steps from the Theatre District, this is the place to meet on Tremont St. The friendly and knowledgeable baristas will help you navigate the extensive menu, and you can enjoy your selection of coffee and irresistible pastry across the street in the park. Website: http://thinkingcup.com/
4. Boston Common Coffee Cup, 97 Salem St, 515 Washington St, 10 High St: This coffee house is as close to perfection as one can get in the North End and Downtown. They roast their own coffee locally, and have an in-house bakery that features a wide variety of fresh baked goodies that simply can’t be matched. You will instantly feel at home at the Salem St location, making the Downtown Crossing and Financial St venues your new home away from home. Website: http://bostoncommoncoffee.com/
5. Barrington Coffee Roasting Co, 346 Congress St, Boston: Situated behind the Children’s Museum on the Fort Point Channel, this coffeehouse inspires and educates even the most consummate coffee lover. Just over the Congress St bridge from South Station, it’s a much more comfortable place to wait for your bus or train connection. Website: http://www.barringtoncoffee.com/about/boston/
6. Polcari’s Coffee, 105 Salem St, Boston: Okay, I realize this isn’t your standard coffee house. In fact, technically it isn’t a coffee house at all. You will immediately notice the lack of tables and fresh brew, but I cannot help but bring you to Salem St to purchase some of the best whole bean coffee available in the city. Polcari’s was founded by Anthony Polcari in 1932, and if you’ve ever read the pizza box from Pizzeria Regina you will make the connection… wait for it… wait for it… AHA! Yes, the Polcari family has done a lot to make the North End what it is today. Polcari’s sells coffee, teas, beans, grains, and spices that belong equally in a museum as well as your homemade pasta. I have to visit this lovely shop whenever I am in the North End, if for no other reason than to say HI to the cat that has claimed it for his own for over a decade. Website: http://polcariscoffee.com/
7. Pavement Coffee House, 44 Gainsborough St, 1096 Boylston St, 286 Newbury St, Boston: This is the place to go to see and be seen, but without being obvious about it. Each location in the Back Bay is on-trend without being trendy, and maintains an artistic and independent vibe that is often lost in the sea of major chains taking over Boylston and Newbury streets. Pavement has become what Espresso Royale used to be in the Back Bay. Website: http://www.pavementcoffeehouse.com/
8. Blue State Coffee, 957 Comm. Ave, Boston: Take the Green Line B train to the far end of BU and check out Blue State Coffee. Their mission, should you choose to accept it, is to give back to the community through charitable donations, sustainable zero-waste consumables, and oh yeah, great tasting fair-trade coffee. Your local purchase will help support 30 causes in the Boston area and online. Website: https://www.bluestatecoffee.com/stores/boston-957-commonwealth-ave/
9. Wired Puppy, 250 Newbury St, Boston: While most of us try to escape the city and flee to the Cape, Wired Puppy has come from P-town to Newbury St to bring us an oasis of Cape Cod inside city limits. They have plenty of organic, fair-trade coffee and wi-fi to keep you wired, and an atmosphere that makes you forget you are on Newbury. Website: http://www.wiredpuppy.com/content/view/16/33/
10. Capitol Coffee House, 122 Bowdoin St, Boston: A long-standing favorite in Beacon Hill, Capitol is more than a coffee house. Serving breakfast and lunch to residents, students, and professionals for over thirty years, this is my first and last stop for sustenance of the body and the soul on the Hill. Their website is somewhat vague, but you can Like them on Facebook for daily updates of their specials. Website: http://www.capitolcoffeehouse.com/?l=home
11. Render Coffee, 563 Columbus Ave, Boston: Head past Symphony Hall and Northeastern to Columbus Ave in the South End and you will discover this gem of a coffee house. It’s easy to miss with its one small sign hanging from the Victorian brownstone, but you don’t want to pass it by. Once inside, you are invited to indulge in mouth-watering soups and small-bites that are all made from fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. And let’s not pass up the perfect cup of coffee. It’s no wonder since Owner Chris Dadey gained experience at Espresso Royale and Pavement. And there is an outdoor patio that I look forward to revisiting in the summer. If you want to avoid the busy thoroughfares of Mass Ave and Columbus, simply walk from the Prudential Center through the Southwest Corridor Park that runs between Huntington and Columbus, and enjoy watching the kids play, the gardeners tend their Victory Gardens, and the dogs romp in the dog parks. The path leads straight to Render’s back door. Website: http://rendercoffeebar.com/
12. Flat Black Coffee Co, 50 Broad St & 260 Franklin St, Boston; 1170 Washington St & 1906 Dorchester Ave, Dorchester: According to their website, “Flat Black” is an Australian term for espresso. What Australia has to do with coffee I’m not sure, and frankly I don’t care after having a cup of the finest single origin brew I’ve ever tasted just recently on Broad St. These guys are no nonsense, and a welcome change of pace in the bar-studded downtown scene. Website: http://www.flatblackcoffee.com/
13. South St. Diner, 178 Kneeland St, Boston: Located around the corner from South Station, the South St. Diner is not just a diner. It’s an institution. With it’s giant coffee cup sign advertising 24 hour service I can’t help but bring it up here. Where else can you get a coffee and a grilled blueberry muffin at 4am? Website: http://dinerboston.com/
14. Voltage Coffee & Art, 295 Third St, Cambridge: Is it a coffee house or an art gallery? Can it be both equally at the same time without sacrificing its integrity? Apparently it can, because Voltage has succeeded in melting the walls between coffee house and art gallery. Situated in the revitalized Kendall Square, Voltage is the perfect backdrop for an after work meeting of the biotech minds seeking an escape from CubeFarm. Website: http://voltagecoffee.com/
15. 1369 Coffee House, 757 Mass. Ave & 1369 Cambridge St, Cambridge: Both the Inman and Central Square locations offer a comfortable environment to kick back and hang out with friends over a cup of coffee or pot of tea. I especially enjoyed the large tea selection, and the homemade soup! Website: http://www.1369coffeehouse.coAm/
16. Andala Coffee, 286 Franklin St, Cambridge: Rediscover the old-world culture and tradition of the ancient coffee house of Old Jerusalem at Andala in Central Square. You won’t find any to-go cups here; it’s all about taking your time and enjoying the moment. Relax while you sample from the extensive Mediterranean menu and reacquaint yourself with a good book or a good friend. Website: http://www.andalacafe.com/map.php
17. Crema Cafe, 27 Brattle St, Cambridge: Located just across the street from the Brattle Theatre, the Crema Cafe is the perfect place to grab a coffee and a snack before or after the movies. Enjoy the seasonal menu and expertly crafted beverages, but be warned! You might want to send your date out scouting for a table while you wait in line, because in spite of the two-story seating area, it can be hard to find a table at this popular pit-stop. Website: http://cremacambridge.com/
18. Simon’s Coffee Shop & Simon’s Too, 1736 Mass. Ave, Cambridge & 983 Mass. Ave, Cambridge: You can forget about Venti mocha choca no whip WHAT? here – what you ask for is what you get. Simon’s describes themselves as purists in the coffee world, so brush up on your coffee knowledge. Of course, their friendly and knowledgeable baristas will help you out if you get stuck. The locals have staked out the tables well in advance of your arrival, but there is usually a spot at the counter in the front window to people watch. Check out the original location in Porter Square (two blocks off the T stop) or their new location between Central and Harvard Square. Their website is not current, but you can like them on Facebook here and here.
19. Bourbon Coffee, 1815 Mass Ave, Cambridge: Bourbon Coffee is the new go-to coffee house in Porter Square. Nestled in the Lesley University building, this coffee house has ample seating and a quiet, composed atmosphere befitting its scholarly locale. The core concept of coffee from “crop to cup” originates in Rwanda, as is seen in the native artwork on the walls. Spacious and welcoming, just ask for the wi-fi number at the counter when you order your perfect latte. Afterwards, check out the Shops at Porter inside the main building. You will find a treasure trove of sushi and Asian noodles, artwork, and holistic healing practices that rivals Chinatown. Keep up-to-date with their Facebook page here. Website: http://www.bourboncoffeeusa.com/index.php
20. Cafe Fixe, 1642 Beacon St, Brookline: College students tend to ride the C train on the Green line as far as Coolidge Corner, overlooking Washington Square a few more stops out, which is a real shame. Smaller but just as eclectic as the larger corner down the rails, Washington Square has a variety of ethnic restaurants, boutiques, and bookstores on par with its larger counterpart. But what Coolidge Corner is lacking Washington Square has kept secret, a charming coffee house. Cafe Fixe offers the excellent espresso with jazz music playing on the speakers to meet up with friends. They have a selection of pastries from Danish Pastry House and feature Barrington Coffee Roasters and Stumptown coffee. Sometimes the best things do come in small packages.