The Buzz on Boston's Cafe Culture

Eat light, not less, at stellar spots around town

Looking to get a buzz on? No problem. Yankees love lounging over a cup of coffee and lunching on light fare. Here's where we stop in Beantown:

The place: Thinking Cup

The buzz: Overlooking Boston Common, the original Thinking Cup brews Stumptown Coffee and a hipster vibe largely generated by its Emerson College student clientele. Order the hazelnut latte—it’s got real, roasted hazelnut paste, and it is the best. thing. ever.

The bean scene165 Tremont St., Boston, 617.482.5555236 Hanover St., Boston, 857.233.527785 Newbury St., Boston, 617.247.3333

The place: Flat Black Coffee

The buzz: Coffee connoisseurs love the 20 different options of fine-grade, single-origin beans, micro-roasted to make one heck of an Americano. It's a hard choice between styles from Sumatra, Yemen, Burundi and Ethiopia, but we say, try them all.

The bean scene260 Franklin St., Boston50 Broad St., Boston100 High St., Boston617.951.1440

The place: Nespresso

The buzz: Adjacent to the Taj hotel on the first block of Newbury Street, Nespresso is a lesson in how the priveleged set kicks back. The fancy boutique-cafe features frothy Grand Cru espresso drinks and snacks like black truffle and leek quiche or a plate of macarons. 

The bean scene7 Newbury St., Boston

The place: Cafe Vanille

The buzz: Dessert pastry, tartes and quiches are the things to order at this patisserie, offerings that are about as authentically French as you're going to find in the States. Sit awhile with the Beacon Hill Brahmins on the darling open-air patio at the corner of Charles and Pickney streets.

The bean scene70 Charles St., Boston, 617.523.9200

The place: Render

The buzz: Now, you'll just have to wait a minute, or two, for a coffee here, because all drinks are brewed as "pour-overs" (read: no coffeemaker), but grounds are premium direct-trade Colombian and the process precise. Render also takes care with its tasty food items made with local and sustainable ingredients.

The bean scene563 Columbus Ave., Boston, 617.262.4142

The place: Caffè Nero

The buzz: This European coffee house is opening its first U.S. location in downtown’s swanky new residential digs Millennium Place. Old-school Italian roasts, espresso and European-style sandwiches are on the menu at this charming, cozy rendezvous.

The bean scene580 Washington St., Boston

The place: Pavement Coffeehouse

The buzz: Special harvest, shade-grown and other styles of beans from Counter Culture Coffee is what's brewed at outposts for this small local coffee bar chain that's got a hip, arty vibe and where students often hang out doing work. Locals order the bagel breakfast sandwiches, like the Tequila Sunrise stuffed with jalapeno cream cheese, tomato, red onion, bacon and egg, and another must-try is the Spanish latte, hot or iced.

The bean scene44 Gainsborough St., Boston, 617.859.70801096 Boylston St., Boston, 617.236.1500286 Newbury St., Boston, 617.859.9515736 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617.277.8737

The place: L.A. Burdick

The buzz: It's beverages only at this place, where the drink du jour is premium hot chocolate rather than coffee—but you're still in for a jolt. Sitting thisclose to your neighbor and spending a fiver on one tiny cup is easy to swallow, literally, once the lava-like liquid hits your tastebuds; choose from white, milk or dark varieties, or splurge on single source.

The bean scene52 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617.491.4340220 Clarendon St., Boston, 617.303.0113

The place: Boston Common Coffee

The buzz: Equal parts roast house and bakery, this place does small-batch very well and its array of comfy couches and bar stools is where young professionals escape the office for a few minutes or meet for a lunch date. It feels more like a neighborhood bar than a grab-and-go coffee shop, but do grab a muffin right out of the oven.

The bean scene97 Salem St., Boston, 617.725.0040515 Washington St., Boston, 617.542.059510 High St., Boston, 617.695.9700

Leigh Harrington
About the author

Leigh formerly served as the Boston editor for Where and was the br...