One of the best things about Boston is its amazing local coffee chains. Pavement, Thinking Cup, 1369, Jaho, Flat Black, Simon’s, BCC, and Somerville’s Diesel/Bloc 11/Forge family all pour a delicious cup of coffee, and one is almost always nearby. But if you’re tired of the standbys, there’s a lot of badass bean-water off the beaten path. We love these neighborhood spots for their one-of-a-kind vibes and signature bites:
Boston's Most Underrated Coffee Houses, by 'Hood
Refuge CaféAddress and Info
It’s a hipster haven, but the All-stoned Sunrise (eggs, bacon, melted swiss, avocado, and Sriracha mayo on multigrain bread) and breakfast burrito make up for the jaded service. If you like your cafés loud, bright, and peppered with flyers for local bands, Refuge is probably your style. If you’re a perfectionist about your pour-over, head somewhere else.
4A CoffeeAddress and Info
4A has built its brand on sustainability, product traceability, and the freshest roast in the neighborhood. The owner sources the best beans he can find from around the world and roasts them in-house, never serving beans that are more than seven days old (roasting dates are written on take-home packages, too). The whole point of the place is to cater to people who are just as intense about coffee quality as the owners, who are happy to share their knowledge through detailed signage, taste tests, and conversation. No food and no tables means the coffee is pretty much it -- but man, is it good. (The only concession is artisanal candy from Canadian confectioner La Nougaterie, which you definitely don’t want to turn down.)
Café MadeleineAddress and Info
Carb wizard Frederic Robert has created an oasis for pastry purists bordering the South End, and we couldn’t be happier about it. The from-scratch French delicacies at Madeleine run the gamut from croissants and eclairs to madeleines, macarons, cakes, tarts, and hard-to-find pastries like candied orange tropezienne (brioche with candied orange peel, almond streusel, and vanilla pastry cream). There’s not a lot of seating, but what’s there is bright and incredibly inviting, making it the perfect place for breakfast or a coffee date.
Gracenote CoffeeAddress and Info
Gracenote opened its doors in October 2015, making it one of the newest artisanal coffee bars in town. It’s got everything you’d expect from a shop with that description without any air of pretension; the exposed brick, gleaming machines, window stools, and brown paper bags of whole beans are much more comforting than alienating. And since they do their own roasting, each cup is obsessively fresh.
Ogawa CoffeeAddress and Info
While the other downtown staples have locations all over Boston, Ogawa’s only location in the entire country is on Milk St, not far from Boston Common. The minimalist interior and sleek stadium seating make this Japanese import a welcome retreat from the office and draw attention to the beauty of the drinks, which consist of everything from Ogawa’s signature drinks (uncommonly smooth chilled espresso and a hot latté with custom art) to aeropressed coffees, matcha lattés, and single origin flights. The cake rolls and seasonal specials are gorgeous, too.
The BiscuitAddress and Info
While they’re not scones in any traditional sense, The Biscuit’s savory scones command a cult following among local 20-somethings. The flavors change every day, and the most sought-after ones (especially the three-cheese) are usually gone before noon. Freelancers, students, athletes, and small families frequent the café, sharing tables when the patio is closed for the winter. Try a slice of focaccia pizza, or pair a fruit square, cinnamon twist, or chocolate vegan muffin with your coffee.
CAddress and Info
aAddress and Info
Situated just a few blocks from the hustle and bustle of Harvard Square, this tiny basement café is so hidden that even longtime residents don’t always notice it (even though it’s been there since the '50s). The whole place consists of a single yellow room and some porch seating outside (no bathroom), but Pamplona offers free Wi-Fi and is open late, making it a favorite of Harvard professors and performers grabbing coffee between shows at the nearby Oberon club. Rumor has it that Amanda Palmer stops by on the regular. Stick with espresso drinks and summer specials and it’s hard to go wrong.
Neighborhoods Coffee & CrepesAddress and Info
The whole idea behind Neighborhoods is to support communities locally and abroad. If you go in for the organic fair-trade idea, be rest assured that all of the coffee and ingredients can be traced back to individual growers and New England farms. The shop also showcases a local entrepreneur every month to raise awareness of cool Boston-based projects. For all that, it’s remarkably affordable. A weekday breakfast on-the-go (a muffin or scone, piece of fruit, and medium coffee) will run you $5, and crepes are around $5-$7, depending on what you get.
Whisk at FazendaAddress and Info
Last year, the Whisk team took over the café previously operated by local roaster Fazenda. The result is awesome: the same JP-roasted coffee with much better food. Eventually, there will be a dinner menu, but for now, be content with homemade donuts (different daily; we like the ones with locally foraged berries), scones, sourdough, and distinctive sandwiches.
Ames Street DeliAddress and Info
One of our best new bars in America, Ames Street Deli has landed -- as the baby of Journeyman and Backbar, would you expect any less? But we're talking about coffee shops, not bars, and people are quick to overlook its daytime menu and head straight for the ambitious cocktail program. While the sun's still up, you can get unusual pastries (scrambled egg beignet or taco muffin, anyone?), a kick-ass breakfast sandwich with egg, kale, and piquillo cheese, and kouign-amann that the Internet won't shut up about. It's the day-to-night kind of place a tech district like Kendall Square needs.
Caffé VittoriaAddress and Info
Vittoria has been around since 1929 and definitely looks the part. The classic café chairs, marble tables, and cigar bar give this cash-only establishment an air of film noir charm. Coffee nerds will enjoy the antique espresso machines, too. Free Wi-Fi and late hours make it a good place to work over a spiked coffee.
RenderAddress and Info
Render finds the top brews from in town and out, then serves them up in their comfy South End location. Highlights include pour-over options from Colombia, Ecuador, New Guinea, and beyond, as well as sandwiches and baked goods. Hit the indoor patio with a Taza hot chocolate, or take a cold-brew growler out back in summer.
Andala Coffee HouseAddress and Info
If you’re looking to get your coffee and go, Andala is not the place for you. Service here is slow on purpose, as the proprietors expect you to spend at least a few hours hanging out. In the tradition of Old Jerusalem, the décor is lavish and the food includes Israeli teas, coffee, and large Mediterranean snack plates; there’s also hookah and the occasional belly dance performance. While not ideal for the laptop nomad, it’s a good place to go if you need to escape your own living room with a book or want to catch up with friends.
1. Refuge Cafe155 Brighton Ave, Allston
2. 4A Coffee House419 Harvard St, Brookline
3. Cafe Madeleine517 Columbus Ave, Boston
4. Gracenote Boston108 Lincoln St, Boston
5. Ogawa Coffee Boston10 Milk St, Boston
6. The Biscuit406 Washington St, Somerville
7. Cafe Algiers40 Brattle St, Cambridge
8. Cafe Pamplona12 Bow St, Cambridge
9. Neighborhoods Coffee & Crepes96 Peterborough St, Boston
10. Ames Street Deli73 Ames St, Cambridge
11. Fazenda Coffee Company3710 Washington St, Jamaica Plain
12. Caffe Vittoria296 Hanover St, Boston
13. Render Coffee563 Columbus Ave, Boston
14. Andala Coffee House286 Franklin St, Cambridge
Having cut her teeth running neighboring Myung Dong 1st Avenue with her dad, the Haverhill native behind RC's gone solo, overhauling the iconic Allston Cafe into a similarly chill 42-seater slinging sammies, suds, and java amidst walls decorated with Maine barnwood, burlap coffee sacks, and a framed vintage poster of a WWI-ish soldier saying "Make Me A Sandwich", so the only thing about to go over the top is the size of his thighs!!
Obviously billed as "Kazakhstan's #1 Choice for Fresh Specialty Coffees", this sister spot to their Silk Route outpost is now open off Coolidge Corner for all your Eastern European java needs.
Restaurant veteran Frederic Robert rocks the South End with this little neighborhood patisserie. Pastries are made on-site daily, and you should luxuriate with chausson aux pommes (apple turnover) and the filled brioche masterpiece, candied orange tropezienne. Pop in for lunch and enjoy French specialties like Quiche Lorraine and Croque-Monsieurs.
This Leather District coffee shop and roastery offers some of the best beans in, well, Beantown. The name "Gracenote" is a nod to the many different notes of coffee offered, from floral and citrusy to nutty and fruity. Not sure what to order? The friendly staff members are well-versed in bean varieties and will guide you through the options. Pull up a seat in the brightly-lit space, which features state-of-the-art espresso machines built right into the counters, and relax with a cup of joe while you indulge in some top-notch people watching -- Gracenote's windows look onto beautiful Lincoln St.
This bright and sleek cafe -- appropriately located on Milk St -- serves fresh roast coffee and daytime bites with a Japanese touch. Coffee flights and pour-overs are available with your choice of beans, but if you aren’t picky, the Kyoto house-blend, featuring a trio of beans from Brazil, Guatemala, and Ethiopia, will suffice. Ogawa’s food options include bacon and eggs with toasted shokupan white bread, and specials like matcha sundaes and rice flour cake rolls. The spot features custom-designed stadium seating designed to give customers an excellent view of the baristas working their magic on the field -- er, bar.
This sweet Somerville breakfast spot serves biscuits (duh), but also plenty of other tasty home baked treats like banana bread, sticky buns, fruit tarts, and broiche. But brekkie's not the only thing on the menu. The Biscuit also offers daily lunch specials which usually comprise a cup of soup and half of a seasonal sandwich.
This iconic Harvard Square cafe offers traditional Middle eastern fare served in a cozy, pub-like setting. Their signature green falafel with house made mergesa sausage is so scrumptious, you'll wonder what you ate before it ever came into your life.
First opened in 1959, Cafe Pamplona is the real deal. This storied coffeehouse and salon has been a fave of Harvard students and coffee lovers for so long, little of the cafe has changed over the years. It remains a great spot for conversation and catching up.
The inaugural endeavor of a Montana-born (and BU-grad) java habitué eager to bring a slow-paced indie coffee house vibe to an area where large men hit things with bats, NC&C's a quaint 16-seater boasting white wood benches, ceramic subway tiles, and Victorian Toile-papered (no, not toilet papered) walls hung with pictures of dudes that grow coffee beans.
The geniuses behind Journeyman and Backbar deliver a one-two punch in the suddenly hyper-charged Kendall Square. First up is Ames Street Deli, the extra-funky sammy haven featuring not-your-grandpa’s meat-on-bread combos. Think zanier, more to the tune of rabbit mortadella on carrot bread (ironic) and foie gras on coconut brioche.
Now open in the old Forest Hills' Java Jo's, this brick & mortar cafe from the Needham-based coffee co. peddles piping hot small-batch joe, fresh baked pastries, and an assortment of breakfast/lunch sammies. They're also hosting select tasting events know
Sprawling is a very seriously used word in the case of this North End spot. It was the first Italian café in Boston, and covers four floors, between which is has three bars. They serve Italian classics like gelato, cannolis, coffees, and cocktails.
Indulge your coffee cravings at Render, a cozy cafe where you can order an expertly pulled espresso or a pour over, brewed with international grinds such as Baroida (Papua New Guinea), El Gavilan (Ecuador), or La Golondrina (Colombia). The baristas here also keep it real with guest roasters (e.g. George Howell Coffee Company) and Taza hot chocolate. You'll want to take your mug to a table in the sunroom at the back, or on the outdoor deck when the weather's right.