By Amy Elvidge
Whether you’re getting to campus before the sun is up or leaving after dinner, Boston has got a cozy cafe with tasty treats and working space to meet your needs and preferences. The Friedman School sits in the heart of the city, a little off the beaten path in Chinatown, but still well connected to a multitude of wonderful cafes to help you warm up through the brisk winter months. Depending on the amount of time you have, one of the follow locales is sure to provide well-crafted coffee and quality meriendas.
Got 15 minutes?
Boston Common Coffee Company
515 Washington St. (Downtown Crossing)
8-minute walk from Friedman
Fresh brewed coffee? Check. Available seats? Check? Funny baristas and free, unlimited wifi? Check, check. It seems that Boston Common Coffee Company (here on out, BCCC) has got it all for an independently-owned coffee shop downtown. I’ve been to BCCC many mornings on the way to class and afternoons between classes and never fail to get a hot, fresh cup using beans that are not over-roasted or burned. The wait time is short, and if I’ve got extra time and extra money, I’ll buy a “health bar cookie” (possibly one of the most delicious cookies I’ve ever tasted) and claim one of the comfy, albeit worn, couches. The only downside about the place is its location. While it is very close to campus and in a central area, Downtown Crossing is not the safest spot in the city so it’s best to visit BCCC during your day classes (and before it starts getting dark at 4pm). My favorite thing about this place is its $1 policy for filling up personal mugs, no matter their size. I have a 21-ounce travel mug and for this price the quality cannot be beat.
Half hour or more?
165 Tremont St. (Downtown Crossing, Park)
10-minute walk from Friedman
Get your dose of Stumptown java along with frothy blend of hipster vibe at Thinking Cup. Stumptown, located in Brooklyn and Portland, Oregon, might just be my favorite coffee roaster in the world. The balance between bitter and creamy is remarkable, and both espresso and brewed coffee seem to have the perfect blend of taste, balance, and aroma. Thinking Cup made the wise decision to stock Stumptown coffee, which inevitably attracts crowds. I recommend visiting during non-peak hours of 8-9am and enjoying a beautifully-crafted latte (yes with the espresso heart in your foam) at a spot in the sun overlooking the Boston Common.
Not a coffee drinker? No worries! Their amazing (read: amazing) hot chocolate is French-style–very thick and rich and served in an understandably small cup. The lemon-ginger tea infusion is one of Thinking Cup’s most popular organic teas. Oh and food—I tried the “Jimmy the Greek” with red bell pepper hummus, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, vine ripe tomato, roasted wild mushrooms and goat cheese on multigrain bread ($8). I think the ingredients sum it up, a sandwich worthy of Friedman students’ hungry bellies. Thinking Cup’s sweet treats like their 5-layer coconut cake, freshly-baked buttery croissants, and even gluten-free chocolate chip cookies seem to have a cult following. I’ve seen a number of students so I imagine that Thinking Cup can be a good spot to study if you can handle the hum of conversation and a milk steamer. The one downside? No wi-fi here so go old school and bring a book.
Avery Provision Co.
581 Washington St. (Downtown Crossing)
7-minute walk from Friedman
Avery Provision Co. is the retail and takeout component to Sip Wine Bar and Kitchen. The store is a combo café, sushi bar, deli, specialty market and grocery store. You can grab and go, perch on a stool in the window, or relax at the 16-seat butcher block communal table. The prepared foods look delicious and the staff is very friendly, at one point choosing to chat for a good 10 minutes before beginning my order. I really enjoy the décor and lighting of this place, it’s clean and modern with big windows and I’ve never encountered a line. Pretty impressive for Downtown Crossing. As far as coffee goes, the café doesn’t open until 11am, so it’s not ideal for your morning roast; however, if you need a afternoon pick-me-up, they’ve got a respectable espresso set-up and hearty house coffee.
Hungry and have an hour to kill?
Sebastian’s Café and Catering
100 Summer St. (South Station, Downtown Crossing, Chinatown)
10-minute walk from Friedman
This place is known for its salads, not its coffee. Plan on a long line during the lunch hour, but if you’re looking for something more than coffee (before noon or after 1:30pm) and want freshly-scrambled eggs or a delicious and healthy salad, Sebastian’s is a solid option. I don’t know how to reiterate this whole salad thing but people seem to go nuts for them and have a usual order they are addicted to. I even met a guy who has been coming here 5 days a week since 2007, ordering the same salad every day. Because I am a student, I can’t afford a $9 salad regularly but if I could, I would also be a frequenter of Sebastian’s, as they have a build-your-own salad bar (they do the building, you do the choosing) with fresh ingredients.
I tried the New England clam chowder and found it to have a good consistency with a good amount of clams. You can expect good quality food because this place caters events as well. Because this place doesn’t typically stockpile food (the fresh ingredients wouldn’t hold up well), plan on nabbing your soup before 1pm. I had an iced coffee and it was nice and strong. They use Pierce Bros. coffee which is locally-roasted and uses organic beans, a definite plus.
Grass Roots Café
101 Arch St. (Downtown Crossing)
9-minute walk from Friedman
What a gem of 100 square feet! Grass Roots Café is a tiny mom-and-pop kind of place tucked into the 101 Arch building. They’ve done a nice job with their small place and you can take a seat at a table in front of the shop. Their coffee is good and must be a secret because there’s not typically a wait for it here. The food is what really got me here—Fage yogurt, homemade fruit cups and fresh baked goods. They apparently roast their own turkey every morning as well. Grass Roots Café is a great break from chains like Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks, with extremely welcoming and friendly owners serving you. You will want to make this place one of your usuals.
I was there mid-morning and ordered a café au lait and an almond croissant and they were as good as any I had in Paris. The sandwiches looked really quality with thick slices of roasted turkey on berrywheat bread. I would not recommend this place to study as there is little room for more than 3 people standing but I’ll definitely be back with a friend, the muffins looked big enough to split.
Amy Elvidge is a second year AFE student who is preparing for the transition to winter biking. She will definitely be hitting up these cafes to reward or prepare herself for brisk rides.