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Diesel cafe in Union Square

Just walking in Union Square and there's a big sign that the owners of Diesel are opening a place at 3 (or maybe 5) Bow St. in an old bank building. Heavy construction now and still a ways from opening but it would seem to be a great addition to the Square. Anyone have any more info?

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  1. Zeitgeist gallery (formerly in Inman, I believe) is supposed to go into the upstairs space. However, I ran into the owner of the gallery the other day and they are having some issues (accessibility, asbestos, etc) that the landlord doesn't seem to be keen on helping to address. Hopefully it will work out -- it would be another nice addition.

    1. Good news for Diesel, but won't that all but obliterate Sherman's sweet little shop?

      1 Reply
      1. re: tallullah

        I doubt Sherman has much to fear. The quality of their food and drinks is very good, they have a loyal following, and I have yet to go without seeing people hanging from the rafters.

        I'd expect Diesel's offering to siphon off a bit of breakfast traffic, but there seems to be enough of a demand in the area to sustain two hipster purveyors of legal stimulants instead of just one.

      2. Here's hoping that Sherman makes the scones, Diesel brews the Intelligentsia coffee (but about twice as strong as the weak stuff they brew in Davis Square), Sherman provides the free wireless, and Diesel makes the little piston sandwich (oh, and with some mozzarella di bufala from Formaggio Kitchen).

        1. the Globe reveals that the Diesel people are working together with the Sherman people:

          1. I hope they follow through with the late hours. Of my myriad complaints with the atrocity that is Sherman Cafe, one of the main ones is that it closes at 5pm. Who opens a cafe in a student- and young people-filled area and closes that early?

            1. Ben Dryer here, one of the owners of Sherman ... just want to mention that we aren't 'working together' with Diesel, despite the Globe article implying so. Though it is true that we do know Jen and Tucker pretty well. Our opinion at Sherman is that any new business in Union Square is probably good for us ... far from being a 'young people-filled' mecca, right now Union Square is pretty quiet, especially at night and on weekdays.

              1 Reply
              1. re: bendy

                Union Square is not quiet. Last time I tried to cross the square I almost got hit by a big truck with NO muffler. It was making quite a racket :) The square is usually good like that

              2. The new Diesel owned cafe is going to be called Bloc 11. I hope it stays open longer than the Sherman, which closes at 5. I like the Sherman's scones, though.

                11 Replies
                1. re: AhmHongree

                  Another Union Square resident here and simply thrilled to see Bloc 11 opening...Sherman's food is so good, and I will continue to support it; it's just difficult to find a seat or get there before closing hour....

                  one thing concerns me about the name Bloc 11...some, myself included, could mistake the reference for the infamous prison camp in Auschwitz...I'm from MN and we had a controversial U of MN situation where the U had nicknamed/titled an area on campus as being Block 11...

                  1. re: JRGreen

                    What else does Block 11 refer to if not the prison camp?

                    If I were the owner, even if there is some other meaning, I wouldn't want it even closely reminding people of the Holocaust.

                    1. re: ysb

                      Apparently the owners claim it refers to the street address, 11 Bow Street. Which makes no sense - yes, it has the number 11 in it, but in that case wouldn't you call it "11 Bow" or "Number 11" or just "11" or whatever? This seems disingenuous.

                  2. re: AhmHongree

                    I think Sherman's cafe is now open until 7pm. Very recent change. Confirm before making the trip though.

                    1. re: smtucker

                      As I am munching on a delicious strawberry scone from Sherman, served hot this morning by the very friendly proprietress and baker....

                      There are signs on the windows stating 7pm closing time.

                    2. re: AhmHongree

                      I stopped by the opening on Sat. and it's a great space. (Has anyone else talked about this yet?) They've got little rooms from the former bank vaults that are kind of cool. A ton of space, must be one of the biggest cafes around. They had some cheeses out plus little stacks of prosciutto/mozzarella and that was good. People had sandwiches that looked great. No sweets around unfortunately but I bought a really good iced coffee. Not my part of town at all but will definitely make my way over there now and again.

                      1. re: Joanie

                        we stopped by too on our way home from the farmer's market (next wkd is the last one!) and were soooo impressed...amazing great space, lots of room and a vibe that feels very comfortable and cool. the vault in the back is awesome: has little benches w/tabletops set up so you can sit in the vault...Diesel is our local but I really like Bloc 11. I'm not sure if it's an either/or situation w/Sherman Cafe, we stopped by there too and they were packed to the gills.

                        1. re: MaineRed

                          I have been to the new Bloc 11 as well. It is a really attractive space, large and open. I had coffee and a muffin (pumpkin, with pumpkin seeds), which was pretty good and not too spicy. Of course, Bloc 11 is still fairly new, so I think it will need a bit of time before the kinks are worked out. The counter service was a little clumsy. Server distracted. Had to wait a long time for someone to pour my coffee. The sandwiches I saw looked fantastic; generously sized. The baked goods in the display look very commercial, compared to the homemade quality of the Sherman's. I would guess NOT baked on the premises. Personally, I think the Sherman's overall quality is quite excellent, they are sincerely interested in providing a consistently good product. I love their scones. I do hope there will be room for both businesses, and I look forward to Union Square continuing to develop, opening more interesting, hip businesses.

                          1. re: AhmHongree

                            I also went last weekend and was pretty disappointed by the service. They only had one person making food during the breakfast rush, it took forever, they messed up two dishes out of the four we ordered and made all of them rather sloppily, and the employee at the counter acted like it was the first time she had seen a cash register.

                            The food was good, but not amazing - and certainly not worth the wait and trouble. That said, I am sure that the service will improve once they get a little more settled - I have never had those problems at Diesel.

                            I love Sherman, and I will definitely stick with them for baked goods and breakfast, but I like that Bloc 11 adds some more coffee and sandwich options to the square.

                            1. re: AhmHongree

                              Bloc 11's baked goods are from Mariposa Bakery in Central, if I recall their opening-day handout correctly. They are definitely sub-par, though really can anything beat the Sherman's scones? Otherwise, though, I prefer Bloc 11's coffee, space, atmosphere, and staff over the Sherman's, though I agree B11 is working out some service kinks.

                              Re: fostering competition in Union Square, the sandwich board outside the Neighborhood this AM said they now have an early-morning breakfast sandwich special, plus an all-you-can-eat $9.99 breakfast buffet....Anyone know about this? As if that place couldn't get any better!

                              Neighborhood Restaurant
                              25 Bow St, Somerville, MA 02143

                              Sherman Cafe
                              257 Washington St, Somerville, MA 02143

                              1. re: mbtabus69

                                My goodness! I haven't ever finished one of the REGULAR breakfasts at the Neighborhood. It is way more that All-I-Can-Eat.

                      2. How is the atmosphere at Bloc 11 (HORRIBLE name, BTW)? Conducive to coffee-drinking and reading/studying? Anyone know if they have wi-fi?

                        Also, I die over the scones at True Grounds - but am thinking I might have to try Sherman's - anyone had both and able to offer a comparison?


                        2 Replies
                        1. re: heathermb

                          I haven't been yet -- will stop in after the Farmers Market and will check it out. I hear the space has been cleverly used. And there's a fireplace ... I'm dying to sit in front of a fireplace when it gets colder!!!

                          1. re: heathermb

                            I think the atmosphere is awesome as I said above. Lots of different areas to settle down in. And yes on the wifi.

                          2. Sherman's cool. I like that they have savory breakfast options since I don't go in for scones and muffins. The spinach/goat cheese pinwheel is great with a cup of their very good coffee.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: yumyum

                              My 2 cents on Bloc 11: I've been a few times now. I agree with others that the space is great. There are more nooks than Diesel with the vaults and back room. The "fire place" is a gas fired one (like what is in Starbucks in Davis) and is in the small back room. Once they get the patio done, this will expand their seating options even more (in good weather). I like how they incorporated the vault and safe deposit boxes into the space. There's also a nice combination of small, medium, and large tables spread throughout. There's a small (but deep) bar towards the back with stools that looks like it could serve up espresso drinks if needed (there's an espresso machine and sink there). This past Thursday it worked as a serving bar for the Taza chocolate tasting/STEP fundraiser (http://www.somervillestep.org/). According to one of the employees, the upstairs is still going to be a gallery space but likely won't be ready for a year. The staff is learning quickly and has improved already since opening. This isn't so unusual for a new place.

                              I've had a couple hot sandwiches - curry tuna with cheese (can't remember what kind) and a turkey with sweet chutney/jam (I think caramelized onions but I can't recall either). Both were good and served on a large plate with a small simple green salad (slightly larger than a garnish). The one thing about the sandwiches I didn't like was that they were a bit messy to eat. Also tried the vegetarian squash soup which was creamy goodness with a few small diced squash and vegetable pieces. They also have some different drinks than at Diesel. The Brazilian limeade is fresh squeezed lime juice with sweetened condensed milk. I liked this a lot but my wife thought it was too plain. I chalk that up to not having stirred it up very well. I've also had a mint mocha latte (made by Tuck) that was FABULOUS. Great balance of mint, chocolate and espresso. Their regular coffee is the same as Diesel - consistent and decent. I haven't had any of their baked goods but they sure look good. I do like Sherman and it's homemade food but their operating hours were always a barrier for me. That and the fact that it gets packed very easily on a weekend day.
                              This weekend Bloc 11 was busy both Sat and Sunday but not too packed that seats weren't available. Even though it's only been 2 weeks old, it has the feeling of a comfortable, neighborhood spot. My wish for the place is that they'd serve beer. Since Bloc 11 is closer to where I live than Diesel and the hours are right for me (open till 10:30 pm starting Monday the 29th), it's likely going to be my regular cafe.

                            2. I checked out this space this past weekend. I agree that the space is really nice, and I love the vaults, and other bank remnants. Although there is lots of physical space, and nooks and crannies, I still don't think there's enough seating. It's kind of like those fancy sparse clothing stores. There were 2 people on either side of the fireplace studying, but I did not feel comfortable going back there with my companion (pretty much the only seats available at the time) as they were dead quiet, and we would not be. Anyhoo.....it's not in my immediate neighborhood, so I'm not sure if I'd go out of my way to return.
                              I ordered beverages which were good, but didn't order any food, so cannot comment on it, except to say there's quite a bit of space designated for prep work. The large center station as well as a large room in the back where they seemed to be slicing meats.

                              1. Is the wireless free? Diesel's isn't, and the Boston coffeeshop wifi site (http://boston.wifimug.org/index.cgi?B... ) says Bloc 11's isn't either.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: djd

                                  Nope, not free. I haven't used it yet but others report it's about $8.00 (per day?). If they run it anything like the wifi at Diesel, you can pay by hour, day or monthly subscription.

                                2. Dropped by Bloc 11 for a few hours over the weekend, and my experience more or less echoes the other feedback here:

                                  - Fantastic space (I've never seen so many people just walking around to check out the design elements)
                                  - Excellent coffee, both house and dark
                                  - Mediocre food items, especially as compared to Sherman
                                  - Annoyingly not-free wi-fi
                                  - Annoyingly not-even-discounted coffee refills ($2.25 for a large? grrr)
                                  - The name has to go

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: finlero

                                    I was at a friend's photo opening on Sun. and they had great prosciutto/moz/basil things out and a nice salad and fresh bread. All very nice and good olive oil. Same stuff they had for the opening day. Oatmeal raisin cookie was fine, $2 which is a little high. I don't drink plain hot coffee but that is annoying about the lack of any refill deal. How much does the WiFi cost?

                                    1. re: Joanie

                                      I stopped in this weekend for the first time and like a lot of other hounds, was very impressed with the unique space. Service, however, left a lot to be desired. Here are some of my thoughts:

                                      -Unfortunate name, especially seeing it branded all over coffee mugs, t-shirts, water bottles, etc--all for sale.

                                      -Not enough seating--could use more 2-tops to accommodate smaller parties throughout the space, which has some wide open areas

                                      -HORRENDOUS service. The counter setup itself is confusing, with one line diverging and feeding two registers--no signs to inform people where to order. The woman who took my order was not even slightly polite and made several mistakes, causing us to wait a long time for both our food and beverages. She also under-charged us, which I realized later when I took a second glance at the menu, which leads me to my next point...

                                      -Very expensive breakfast sandwiches. Yes, I appreciate the bread and eggs and cheese are local, cage free, and organic, respectively, but $7 for an egg and cheese? The menu said focaccia, we got regular white bread. It was good but not $7 good, especially when combined with expensive beverages. Please, at least come up with some kind of nominal charge for refills on coffee.

                                      -Lack of outlets for laptops (I overheard someone tell a woman that they only have 3 outlets in the whole place)

                                      +The back room with fireplace also has games available, so we played some cribbage while eating our breakfast sandwich

                                      +Outdoor seating will be nice in warmer weather

                                      +Versatile space could be a stage for some interesting performance art, or events, in the future

                                      +The salads looked like they would be delicious. I will try them on my next visit, which will likely be my last if the staff doesn't at least crack a smile.

                                      I feel like for a local coffee shop that (in my opinion) is a bit expensive, they should start cultivating a customer base by being friendly and welcoming to neighborhood people who likely are visiting for the first time. First impressions go a long way!

                                      1. re: hazel240

                                        I agree that some food items are a bit pricey, but the egg and cheese breakfast sandwich is only $4, not $7 as the poster above claims. If you add prosciutto it comes to $6, so maybe if you add tax to that you get $7. I also disagree that the food is mediocre compared to the Sherman. Last weekend I hit both places on consecutive days. I had lunch at the Sherman: a half of a grilled fontina/goat cheese sandwich and lentil-veggie soup. The soup was underseasoned and lukewarm, but otherwise good. The sandwich, which was supposed to be a hot panini, was toasted on the outside but the cheese was not fully melted and ingredients lukewarm. And the price was not much less than at Bloc 11 for a sandwich. I agree they need more tables in that space---it seems inefficiently used. I also have had mostly very friendly, enthusiastic service. By my third or fourth time in there, one of the workers knew my name. I really like Bloc 11's breakfast sandwich and the regular grilled cheese sandwich, and the baked goods are pretty good. So the scones are smaller than Sherman's and not as good but I think Sherman's scones are overrated. Anyway, I like both places but think overall Bloc 11 has an edge for me in terms of the space and overall quality, but I"ll still go to both places.

                                        1. re: bella_sarda

                                          I'm sorry - I just can't get past the name. I can't imagine eating anything from there - sort of distasteful. Would you dine at a charming Italian restaurant called Mussolini's?

                                          1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                            The name is unfortunate but, I must assume, wholly unintended, so I can get past it. Mussolini is a much more recognizable reference (in my estimation), however, and anyone naming a restaurant Mussolini's would have to "get it".

                                  2. Hey, so I'm wondering if now that Bloc 11 has been open for a few months, if it is generally as busy as Diesel is on weekends. I'm guessing no because Union is a quieter neighborhood. I really want to check it out this weekend, but not if there's going to be no place to sit, like at Diesel (which I love, just wish it was bigger!).

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ginafly

                                      Bloc 11 is still absolutely, insanely busy on weekends, right on par with Diesel. Go figure!