A Boston Coffee, Dining, And Drinking Guide
Welcome to Boston, Massachusetts, home of the 2013 Specialty Coffee Association of America’s Event, Symposium, and United States Barista Championship. You’re here, you’re hungry, you’re probably thirsty, and you want to see the town – but where should you go? We consulted with multiple Boston locals and friends (including Ryan Soeder and Jesse Kahn of Counter Culture Coffee) to get a few sweet recommendations. This is by no means a complete list, so if your favorites got left off, feel free to add more to the comments.
From the Convention Center, a cab to the North End will set you back around $10 and going out to Cambridge is going to cost a little more than $15. Our cab drivers thus far have been really nice, as have our bartenders. Play ball!
Render Coffeebar (563 Columbus Ave) – This South End cafe serves killer Counter Culture espresso and Kalita pour over, quietly earning its rep as one of the best, if not the flashiest, cafes in all of Boston. Render’s owner, Chris Dadey, has deep roots in the Boston specialty coffee scene, with stints managing Espresso Royale (which later became Pavement).
Voltage Coffee & Art (295 3rd St, Cambridge) – Voltage is home to the Espresso Parts / Boston TNT Party on Thursday, April 11th, but the other 364 days a year they’re well-loved by the Boston Press, including Improper Bostonian and Time Out Boston. The “unofficial living room of Kendall Square” is a multiroaster – Yelpers mention Coava, but they serve lots of stuff – and home to a whole gaggle of complex, sweetened signature beverages, including a cardamon, rose water and honey latte and a lime peel & agave espresso.
Dwelltime (364 Broadway, Cambridge) – This flagship cafe for Boston’s highly regarded Barismo coffee roasters is likely already on your list. But did you know that, aside from their ample coffee offerings, Dwelltime also serves pickles and Asian-inspired lunch foods? And a table service brunch on Sunday mornings? Or that they’re hosting a series of “Origin Week” talks throughout the SCAA event? They’re in for a busy week, so join the visiting hordes heading over to Cambridge. Cabs from the Convention Center cost around $20 – use Dwelltime as your orientation point, then explore the neighborhood (lots more Cambridge recommendations in the food & drink portion of this guide).
Pavement Coffeehouse (3 locations) – People freak out about their bagels, the coffee is by Counter Culture, and the people watching is epic at their location on Boylston (just blocks from the Berklee College of Music). Pavement is home to Boston competition stars Daria Whalen and Wolfie Barn, plus lots of other nice folks. Pop in! Get a bagel! They’ll be providing outdoor quick service to Symposium patrons at their 1096 Boylston location, just 2 blocks from the Harvard Club.
Thinking Cup (2 locations) – Boston’s first exclusive Stumptown Coffee account, serving goods from their Redhook roasting facility (now back up and running post-Sandy). Their Boston Commons location is just steps from the park; Jesse Kahn recommends the “grab and go fruit cups.” That sounds great, actually.
3 Little Figs (278 Highland Ave, Somerville) – Serving Gimme! Coffee and doing a great job of it by all accounts, alongside guest roasters like Cuvee, Heart, Bow Truss, and more. Lots of lunch options here (what’s up with Boston cafes and lunch?), plus stuff like aloe water and kombucha if you’re totally spro’d out.
Barrington Coffee Roasting Company (346 Congress St) – Physically the closest nice cafe to the Convention Center, this Barrington location on Congress Street in the Fort Point neighborhood is a showcase cafe for the Western Massachusetts specialty coffee pioneers. The cafe is gorgeous, urban, and welcoming. Need a breather from the event? Walk a couple blocks down Summer Street, clamber down the 3 story staircase, and find your way to Barrington.
Simon’s Coffee and Simon’s Too (both in Cambridge) – Owner Simon Yu is a longtime mainstay in the Boston specialty coffee community, and his shops have played host to many of the city’s best baristas over the years. They’re serving Barismo, and Simon’s Too is right in the middle of the whole Harvard / MIT scene, so stop in here to gawk at America’s future nerdy leadership class.
THIS IS NOT A COMPLETE LIST – ADD MORE TO THE COMMENTS!
Backbar (9 Sanborn Court, Union Square, Somerville) – Here’s Jesse Kahn’s exact quote on Backbar: “These guys make the best cocktails in New England. Full Stop.” That’s a serious claim…one that must be investigated.
The Hawthorne (500 A Commonwealth Ave) – Part Boston Brahmin luxury, part art deco hotel bar, with super serious cocktails and multiple lounge areas. Great bartenders, too, and that certain upper crust New England-y thing you’ve read about in books.
Drink (348 Congress St) – Hanging Edison bulbs, exposed wood beam ceilings, nattily attired barkeeps, fresh citrus, inventive cocktails (if you want them) and a deep selection of hard to find bottles (for those in the know, or those willing to ask). Drink offers truly superlative service, although we hear there’s quite a line on weekend evenings. This is your go-to 5pm bar, or the perfect last call spot if you’re close to Convention Land. This bar is super close to the Convention Center - a 10 minute walk or a $7 cab ride. Highly recommended.
Hungry Mother (233 Cardinal Medeiros Ave, Cambridge) – This place has an upscale Up Country, farm-to-table, New American / New South, Cambridge-cum-Portland vibe about it, with boiled peanuts, Wagyu beef tongue, and crispy sweet breads on the dinner menu. This kind of cooking has become the 21st Century American equivalent of the neighborhood brasserie, which is to say, every city has a place like this now, and we’re all better for it. The drink menu at Hungry Mother is particularly honed in, with smart Scotch choices, ample mezcal, a deep and playful beer list, left-of-center wine selections, non-alcoholic house cocktails, and a glut of liqeurs and digestifs. We’ll be going here while in Boston, and you should too, coupled with a visit to nearby Dwelltime.
Eastern Standard (528 Commonwealth Avenue) – They have an “oeuf” section on their cocktail menu. There is a “Belle du Jour” split with lemon, benedictine and house grenadine. They make an $8 egg cream. Ooh girl, you fancy!
Editors Note: Good grief, this isn’t even close to being a smattering of all of the dive bars you can find in Boston. In fact, these are all pretty tame as far as “dive bars” go. Consider the next 5 choices to be “dive-ish”, which is probably just our way of saying “hipstery”, but whatever. Dive in.
Saloon (255 Elm Street, Somerville) – Millenial meat market extraordinaire, with generous pours and no holds barred. Get the sliders, you won’t regret it. (Note: Your Sprudge Editors cannot guarantee your lack of regret for all other decisions made at Saloon.)
Citizen Public House (1310 Boylston Street) – They have 150 different whiskeys here, including rare, hard to find Gordon & Macphail Scotches and a serious selection of Japanese whiskeys. Their dinner menu sounds awesome, too, with a great big raw bar and tempura Brussels Sprouts. Scotch and raw bar is basically Jordan’s dream, so yeah, we recommend this place.
Brick and Mortar (567 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge) – Classic, low-key, and relatively spacious, with a lovely copper bar and quintessential Boston bar snacks – greasy, spicy Azores / New England calamari rings, and the evidently ubiquitous Devils on Horseback. Will this bar change your life? Probably not. Is this a totally solid, fun, half-dive half-cool bar for fun young people to get drunk in? Definitely yes.
Bull & Finch (84 Beacon Street) – The inspiration for the classic television show “Cheers”. Go here for “eNormous” burgers, “Woody’s Garden Greens” (that’s a weed joke), a combo platter known as “Carla’s Favorite”, and “Frasier’s Chicken Panini”, which contains pine nuts. Dunno if you *need* to go here, but the gift shop is likely awesome, and come on, get over yourself, it sounds like fun. Cheers went off the air in 1993, but the “eNormous Burger” will never, ever die. Also they clearly serve alcohol.
Journeyman (9 Sanborn Court, Union Square, Somerville) – Are you truly a fancy lad or special lady? And, aside from your fancy and special predilictions, are you also feeling financially flush? If the answer to these rhetoricals is “yes”, then go to Journeyman for 5 or 7 course dinner extravaganzas with optional wine pairings, or an entire lobe of foie gras for $100. If someone from the company you own makes USBC finals you should take him or her here to celebrate. Just sayin’.
Myers and Chang (1145 Washington St) – It’s rare for a restaurant’s website to get their descriptive copy right, but Myers and Chang describe themselves thusly: “A funky indie diner setting offering Chef/Owner Joanne Chang and Executive Chef Karen Akunowicz’s very personal interpretation of Chinese, Taiwanese, Thai, and Vietnamese specialties.” Sign us right the heck up.
Craigie on Main (853 Main Street, Cambridge) – Jesse Kahn called this place “New American without obnoxious pretense”, and the menu seems to bear that out: pastas, vegetables, a lovely sounding pork three ways, a couple of entrees for two, and a by all accounts ridiculous brunch service. No, seriously, if you want to go and eat brunch here in Boston over the weekend, go here.
Picco (513 Tremont Street Boston) – Maybe you need pizza? You need Picco. Broccoli rabe, sausage and olive, or roasted cauliflower & mushroom, or build your own with a nice sounding salad on the side Whatever, you do you.
West Bridge (1 Kendall Square, Cambridge) – “French inspired food with New England perspective”, highlighted by Alan Richman in his 12 Most Outstanding Restaurants for 2013 for GQ. Their menu sounds super serious, and the lunch looks great too.
Bondir (279A Broadway, Cambridge) – Eclectic and challenging, you should spend some time with the mock menus on Bondir’s website. “Birch Bark and Whey Sherbet” and “Roasted Capon Breast with Sassafras Jelly”, for starters, may have you reaching for your modernist cuisine dictionary. This restaurant could be your most interesting and memorable meal in Boston – or anywhere else, for that matter, in this eating and drinking year of 2013.
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