The History of Four Loko
Large windows, clean white walls, penny tile floors, and a hanging bovine head adorn this cute little coffee shop, which serves Counter Culture coffee, MEM teas, and Taza hot chocolates, alongside its signature liege waffles, which are utterly delicious and feature bits of crunchy pearl sugar cooked right in. In the summer, you can also expect fresh-squeezed orange juice and lemonade to cool you down. Plus, this place has a rocking Instagram account, so you can feel extra hip when visiting.
Who knew that sipping a latte alongside a working railroad track could be so relaxing? Located more or less in the garage of its mother restaurant, Loyal Nine, the decor here features a giant garage door that slides open, leading to the cafe’s outdoor patio seating, which is adorned with long wooden tables, hanging lights, and the aforementioned train tracks. The beverages aren't bad either, with a wide selection of espressos, ethically sourced coffees brewed using a variety of mechanisms (Woodneck, Chemex, or syphon), and a host of quality pastries.
Allston (& Fort Point)
Bee’s Knees functions primarily as a deli, offering mouthwatering charcuterie, pates, and meats, and is also a good local stop for the curated beer and wine selection. The seating area is kind of food court-like, with all that’s going on around the shop, but it’s a nice place to grab a sandwich and coffee.
This shop was dubbed Gracenote as a nod to coffee's many different notes, from floral to citrusy to nutty to fruity -- the list never ends -- and the notes that the perfect roast, which is neither too hot nor too cold, can bring forth (404 degrees gets close to perfect, they say). Thanks to the super-knowledgeable, friendly staff and gorgeous, brightly lit interior, featuring state-of-the-art espresso machines built right into the counters, Gracenote is a great place to visit. But don't expect to post up with your laptop for ages: this is not a big shop, and seating is limited.
You know when a shop’s lead barista was the 2010 World Latte Art Champion that it really means business (plus, all the lattes come decorated with its signature pink Japanese sakura art). Enjoy coffee flights, or Ogawa’s signature espressos served in martini glasses, while sitting in the shop’s custom-designed stadium seating... that’s right, it’s like you’re watching baristas create magic on the coffee field. The menu here is also worth sticking around -- we recommend the OC Morning Special, which comes with bacon, an egg, Japanese shokupan bread, a spring salad, and a cup of coffee for $7.
Juliet has a dual identity: half as a local, light, spacious coffee shop, and half as a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can sit and order from Juliet's a la carte menu, which includes various types of coffees, teas, and tonics, as well as pastries, breakfast tacos, and yogurt in the morning, and an ever-changing array of options in the afternoon and evening. On the counter adjacent to the kitchen, you can order the prix fixe -- even for breakfast. The Grand Breakfast changes weekly, but it's always something worth looking out for.
Cambridge (& other locations)
The coffee shop formerly known as dwelltime has evolved into the flagship Cambridge location for barismo. It's housed in the historic F.B. Hubley auction house, which sold everything from gold-headed canes with ivory handles to live horses (and remnants of which still linger). There's a giant counter in the middle of the shop that is more reminiscent of a bar than a coffee counter. barismo was founded by a group of baristas who were passionate about their craft, so they know what makes a good coffee shop. The crew here has been experimenting with different brews for different kinds of coffees. There’s plenty of room to sit, and even an in-house bakery -- the scones are amazing. Be warned, however: there's no Wi-Fi, and they sometimes institute laptop-free periods, so this is more a place to hang out with friends than try to work.
Boylston (& other locations)
Pavement was one of the first coffeehouses in Boston to offer pour-over and cold brew coffees. These guys are among the true OGs of the good Boston coffee scene, and have expanded from one little bagel shop to six locations around the city. They use quality beans from Counter Culture, so you can definitely enjoy even the simplest of brews here, but one of the best bets for a sugary variation is definitely the Spanish latte, which is sweetened with condensed milk.
1369 has been around for over two decades, and has been successful for simple reasons: it offers great coffee drinks and a super-chill atmosphere with a true community vibe. This place features musicians of the month -- who play live shows in the shop -- and also just started offering a new delivery service, which will bring growlers of cold brew coffee right to patrons’ doors, via bicycle.
One of Boston’s best coffee shops, Render Coffee's signature is the pour-over, which takes a while to make, and sort of forces you to put the brakes on things. While not for those in a hurry, this approach is one even formerly no-fuss coffee lovers will admit that brought out notes in coffee they’ve never tasted before. The temperature is always spot-on, which derives the best aroma and flavors from the beans. The snacks are pretty on-point here, too, featuring quiche, sandwiches, and bagels. Go for the "B.T.L." with applewood smoked bacon and spicy aioli on seven-grain. The vibe here is super-chill, there’s a good amount of space, and the Wi-Fi is surprisingly good, so if you need to work, you can bring your laptop, grab a seat, and enjoy the day.
Boston Common (& other locations)
Featuring Stumptown and Third Wave coffees exclusively, this shop marries quality product with charming decor. The walls of this establishment are adorned with framed instruments, including saxophones, trumpets, and guitars, and the tabletops are covered with old Boston newspapers, so you can scan headlines dating back to the late 1800s. The darkly lit interior creates the perfect environment for work or conversation, although there are several tables towards the front window where you can spend hours people-watching -- all three locations have great views. The one drawback (or bonus, depending on who you're talking to): there's no Wi-Fi, and limited electrical outlets, so try bringing a friend instead of your laptop, and split one of the extra-buttery croissants or blueberry muffins.
Started by two buddies (Tucker and Jennifer) in May of 1999, Diesel stoked the early flames of Davis Square’s renaissance, and it has been a local hangout ever since. The hip, always super-packed space provides the perfect setting to enjoy standout specialty drinks, as well as random free tastings from independent roasters. It sources quality coffees, and offers a range of breakfast and lunch options, including tasty, petite sandwiches, salads, and bagels.
After dominating Davis with Diesel, Tucker and Jennifer opened Bloc in Union... and the villagers rejoiced. Carved into a former bank, bloc lets you sit in the old vault while sipping pick-me-up beverages, including Intelligentsia coffee and Kilogram tea. If you're feeling the after-effects of a night out, be sure to give the Turmeric Tonic Limeade a try… it's pretty much guaranteed to cure what ails you. Your experience at Bloc is also incomplete without The 777, a roast beef sandwich triumph with Gruyère, caramelized onions, and garlic mayo.
Even though Capitol is only 37 years old, it channels the spirit of even older old-school coffee joints... places where you sat at the counter, talked with other regulars, and got an honest cup o’ Joe... and probably some bacon and eggs. It’s vibe is no-nonsense and super-friendly, and it rocks a menu of diner classics, all done well and with a smile. Step back in time at Capitol Coffee House for a good slug of way-better-than-expected coffee and tasty, inexpensive grub, like the fried egg & cheese sandwich for a mere $2.99. Conversations are free.
D Street/West Broadway (& Allston)
Blue State gives you great coffee while giving back to the community. Two percent of sales go to local nonprofits, the beans are ethically sourced, and it offers only local eggs and pastries. Tasting notes from the coffee director will help you choose between the ever-changing Espresso #9, Liberty blend (sweet and bright), and True Blue (strong start, sweet finish). Or kick back with one of the microlot brews, which rotate annually.
Formed by another dynamic duo, college pals Marley Brush and Liza Shirazi, Crema goes for that Euro sidewalk café soul and pretty much nails it. The beverage program is a mix of wares from house roaster George Howell Coffee Company and single-origin light roasts from guests such as Kuma and Matchstick. Other highlights include the Red Crema (rooibos latte with honey & cinnamon) and an extensive selection of fresh pastries, as well as a full menu, with a wide range of vegan, vegetarian, nut-free, and gluten-free options.
The BCCC approach leans simple-yet-serious, offering heavy-duty coffees courtesy of in-house roastmaster Patrick Maloney. He seeks out lesser-known varieties, limited-availability lots, and Cup of Excellence-winners to roast daily in BCCC’s Hopedale, MA facility, just for you. There’s nothing common about the coffee here, as they get the most out of each bean, from straight-up to naturally flavored brews (cinnamon-hazelnut, coconut). The bakers too are crafting dangerously delicious bites to accompany your morning mug. Pro tip: arrive early to score some melt-in-your mouth small-batch donuts of the day (e.g. red velvet, fried chicken & waffle).