Comfy Cozy Cafes
You need to get out of the apartment - to work, to read, to escape that creeping cabin fever - but you don't want to look like a loner.
For the former: below is a helpful list (updated for 2017) of dismal day escape cafes. For the latter: suck it up.
Okay fine, Render's on the list now. Several people informed me of this grievous error of omission from the first go-round, and in truth, Render is a great coffee shop... if you can barter or brawl your way into a seat. The door opens at 7AM, and pretty much every day of the week there is a dedicated troupe of intrepid individuals waiting to snag the tables in the greenhousey back patio. Admittedly, the patio is worth it: there is likely no better spot in Boston to sit and watch the rain/sleet/snow fall than a warm, snug, coffee-aroma'd room with windows on every side.
This neighborhood coffee shop on Mass Ave (across the street from the Mass Ave Orange Line stop) is basically the reason I live at cafes. They’ve got vinyl covers on the wall, a mural on the ceiling, a big ol’ window seat, an exclusively warm color scheme, the wafting scent of bagel sandwiches grilled to order, and blues on loop. Pair that with a few of the kindest coffee roasters I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, as well as their truly kickass Ethiopian coffee, and you’ve got Cozy Central.
If Broadway's had been open when I was working in the area, I'd have been there every day. It is one of two coffee shops on this list - next to Thinking Cup North End - that rival Farmer Horse in the "comfy" category. This is a rare European neighborhood cafe (where most choose to be either lowkey/local or high-end/Euro) with an emphasis on European pastries, as well as coffee supplied by Guglielmo, an Italian coffee importer. When in Southie, come here for every coffee fix.
When you're looking to go full-on subterranean with your ugly day escape, Newbury has a few coffee(and tea)-slinging gems, including Thinking Cup and Wired Puppy. Of the two, Wired Puppy is the more comfortable option, and doesn't get quite as insane as Thinking Cup does during its many busy afternoons. It's not all about the atmo at Wired Puppy, however; the coffee, espresso drinks, and pastries will make your morning on their own merit.
The only thing stopping me from bringing a blanket into this place is its location – square in the middle of the Judgment Zone (next to Emerson and the apartment towers that seem to house exclusively attractive people). That being said, this place is still a chill-magnet. Around half of the people at Nero have set up camp for reading or working all the live-long day, and the other half are investing a few hours to catching up with an old friend.
Not that I blame them (I am in fact one of them), because this location of Nero was apparently designed to be the archetypal Wealthy Recluse's Study. They've got armchairs, they've got couches, they've got a(n unlit) fireplace, and they've got bookshelves full of mysterious old tomes that you’re not sure you can actually touch. You’re going to want to lounge, and have a book to lounge with. Just, good luck finding a seat to do your lounging (shoot for late afternoon).
Whether you're in the area for a museum, convention, or just lost, Barrington Coffee (etc) is a great place to settle before moving on to the next thing, whatever that may be. What they do best is what lots of the other places on this list do best - coffee, espresso, and pastries - but in Fort Point, Barrington is the coziest place in the hood.
Curio promises waffles and coffee, and Curio most certainly delivers waffles and coffee. Its crispy, fluffy, hand-sized liege waffles make an excellent companion to your cortado, cappuccino, or drip, and there are few better ways to kick back than with that duo. The delightful white-tiled decor and simple furnishings complete the picture, making Curio an ideal destination for a lazy morning or afternoon.
Jaho Coffee in the South End has been around a while (and is also great), but this location has a leg up on its sister: booze. Jaho Chinatown has a solid collection of good sipping wine, local craft beers, and daily cocktail creations that, with their array of cake and pastry options, make for a perfect post-dinner nightcap. They also have bubble tea (this is Chinatown after all) and coffee options for everyone from latte lovers to hardcore I-only-drink-fresh-ground-and-hand-poured A-hole... um, "selective types." Sure.
All that and the sleek, modern build-out make for an eclectic mix, but one that manages to feel welcoming all the same. Jaho owns its eccentricity, and it’s hard not to feel comfortable in a place so comfortable with itself.
La Colombe's original digs in New York are the quintessential modern NYC coffee shop: spacious, lots of simple seating, and free wifi, their coffee and espresso drinks expedited at lightning speed (accommodating their not-uncommon 80+ long line). Now they've opened up shop in Boston, and their formula's working just as well for Beantown.
One thing La Colombe is known for is their Draft, from which the baristas can pull you a cold brew, a latte, or black-and-tan mix. You might be tempted to think that a "Draft Latte" is somehow lesser than a regular latte, and you'd be wrong. So wonderfully wrong.
There's always a seat at Thinking Cup North End. Whether that's due to their larger space or faster turnover from sightseeing crowds, I don't know, and it doesn't really matter. Once you get done gawking at their award-winning latte art you’ll find a refreshingly not-super-sweet drink awaiting you (unless you get an affogato...see top). Pro Tip: read the old newspaper that is your tabletop – it's probably fascinating.
Not so deep in the heart of Cambridge lies Lamplighter Brewery, one of Boston's many local makers of great beer. But before it nightly dons the cloak of Lamplighter, by day this brewery serves as Longfellows, a community cafe with a surplus of seating, edibles (not those edibles) by some of Boston's best vendors (Bondi, Union Square Donuts), and coffee by aforementioned local supplier Barrington.
The two must-gets at Longfellows (besides a spot on one of their couches) are cold brew and the Breakfast Sando: there are several variations of the former, but indecisives are in luck because a Cold Brew Flight is, apparently, a thing; and the Breakfast Sando is hearty but not heart-burning, with egg, pesto, and kale on a toasted english muffin. Or you could just get a donut. FYI: Longfellows closes up at 2:30PM to transition back to the brewery, so plan accordingly.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has!" - Margaret Mead
So says the back of every coffee sleeve at Boston Brewin. This little shop (it puts the Cozy in Comfy Cozy Cafes) by Boston Common pours every ounce of its being into sourcing organic products and supporting local bakers and vendors, and on top of that, being the most outwardly fun and welcoming coffee shop in the city. The lack of tables means it's not exactly a stop for hanging out (another unique quality on this list), but for starting the day with a smile, or for snagging a hot drink for a cool autumn afternoon walkabout, there is absolutely no beating Boston Brewin.
Now, some people might say it’s a hipster haven for mediocre coffee, but to those people I say, Talk to me when you’re done sucking down your large iced 3 creams 4 sugars Dunks coffee extravaganza.
Given its proximity to Northeasern and New England Conservatory, it can be hard to find a seat during peak hours, and especially during brunchtime on weekends. So, don’t come then. Or do, but don’t whine about it.
Anyway, Pavement’s cool with you kicking back for a couple hours if your back can handle the plain wooden chairs, or you could get lucky and snag a coveted cushioned seat on the booth bench. The space is homey, well lit, and usually complemented by a solid, or at worst “interesting” playlist (climactic orchestral opera scores, anyone?). Oh, and the coffee exceeds mediocre, in case you were wondering.
I love me a good café, coffee shop, whatever you call it. I told you mine, so you tell me yours, below. It's only fair (trade).