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Coffee House/Cafe "Crema" now open in Harvard Square!

Just saw that Crema, a self-proclaimed "independent coffee house/cafe" has opened finally, in the space previously occupied by the small Au Bon Pain location in Harvard Square (the BIG au bon pain near Out of Town News is still going strong).

Initial reviews are positive, my coworkers just bought salads and sandwiches at lunch and gave them a thumb's up, way up.

All of those who want to support local biz in the Square, you have a new opportunity!

Looking forward to trying their espresso, since their name references it so clearly...

Best,

Jardinia

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  1. Hi Jardinia, Where was the small Au Bon Pain? Was that the one close to "Housewares Square," near Putnam Avenue, Bowl & Board etc.?

    3 Replies
    1. re: Chipper

      Hi Chipper,
      It is next to/near the Bertucci's on Brattle St. Kind of across from the hardware store and near EMS.

      1. re: eastiefoodie

        Awesome. Thanks Jardinia. Someone just spoke highly of their lemon curd cupcake on the cupcake thread - I'm there! :)

        1. re: Chipper

          OMG. What did I do to deserve those lemon curd cupcakes?? Thanks again Jardinia! I can't wait to go back and get some more! :)

    2. I stopped in briefly during the May Fair last weekend. I liked the look and feel of it and the pastries, which I did not try, looked very appetizing and the sandwich choices sounded good too. I have to admit, however, that I was disappointed in my espresso. It was too bitter and it took about five minutes for the barista to produce it, even though there were no other orders ahead of ours. I wouldn't mind a wait if it were a perfect espresso, but there's no way they're going to process lots of orders if it takes 5 minutes per espresso. Hopefully they'll get the hang of it with more practice. I really do want to support this place, however, so I will return and try the food and order another espresso to see if they've improved.

      1. I've been hitting Crema fairly frequently, and overall, I really like it.

        Coffee - I've only had the house dark roast and it's really good. I haven't tried the Terroir or any of the specialty coffee drinks.

        Baked goods - these have been really good to downright mediocre.

        homemade english muffin - I really like this. Very light and fluffy. They could be a little more generous with the butter though.

        Scones - hit or miss. The hits have been the pear ginger scone and the lemon apricot scone. The huge tasteless miss was the oatmeal pecan one. ugh. Such a disappointment.

        Quiche - I've only tried the spinach/feta one and it was tasty. Very nice crust with the right mix of egg to stuff. I wish the slice was a little bigger though.

        Egg sandwich - pretty good. I got this on the english muffin. The scrambled eggs were nice and fluffy and I think I got it with cheese and something else. It was undersalted and then I spilled the salt packet on the eggs. So, my taste was skewed. But, I did like my undersalted bite.

        Also, re: the crema on the espressos. According to one of the baristas, they want to start making little designs and/or in the crema. It will be interesting to see these if they do have time to make them.

        Overall, very friendly service and a nice comfortable space. I particularly like the "bar" area next to where they make sandwiches and the upstairs area. I don't like the common table in the front. I suspect, when the weather gets nicer and they open the front windows, it will be very pleasant in the front.

        3 Replies
        1. re: beetlebug

          thanks for the tip about the homemade english muffin--really fantastic, esp. since i'd never thought of an english muffin as having any potential before. very light, lightly toasted served with just butter and raspberry jam for $1.25. whattadeal.

          (great espresso's too!)

          1. re: beetlebug

            I forgot to add that I've also tried the cocoa banana muffin. Nice big chunks of banana mixed in with the strong chocolate flavor. It's intense (in a good way).

            1. re: beetlebug

              I had one of those muffins and it was delicious! Paired very nicely with my Red Crema drink, a Roobios (sp?) Latte with honey and cinnamon.

              The grilled cheese with bacon and tomato added is also amazing.

              (Full disclosure, one of the owners is a high school friend of my youngest brother and her parents are friends of my parents...)

          2. Place link:

            -----
            Crema Cafe
            27 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138

            2 Replies
            1. re: finlero

              Very nice appearance inside, and a nice location. Co-owned by the owner of Felipe's, the Mexican burrito shop in the Garage in Harvard Square. Wide selection of hot and cold drinks, pastries and sandwiches. Coffee, however is nothing special. There's nothing wrong with it, but this is not a "Chowish" destination for coffee or tea.

              1. re: lipoff

                If I were downtown would I make a special trip to Crema? Probably not. But, if you pass through the square and would like a pick me up, this is a nice alternative to Starbuck and Peets. Especially if you want a little snack to go with your coffee. Personally, I don't care for the snacks at either of those chains, although I do love Peet's coffee and the new pressed coffee at Starbucks.

                Also, it's one more way of supporting a local establishment v. a chain. It's getting more and more difficult to do so in the square.

            2. I just finished an egg sandwich on and English Muffin which was really good. The English muffin is lifght and fluffy, almost no crunch even though it was toasted.The scrambled eggs are very creamy, which is unusual in my experience. It could have used a little salt, but I'm happy to add that myself.

              The cafe au lait is fine, but not really an au lait since there is foam everywhere. I wish I could get a good au lait here.

              3 Replies
              1. re: EmmaFrances

                > I wish I could get a good au lait here.

                EmmaFrances, was curious how you felt about Peet's? I've always really liked their cafe au lait. Also, the Starbucks in the Garage has a Clover machine; although I haven't been to that branch, I've really enjoyed getting my pressed coffee as a misto. Keeping it totally local, have you tried Simon's on Mass Ave? They have a reputation for being serious about their coffee, including how they steam their milk.

                1. re: finlero

                  Oh, someone pushed my CaL button. I hate ordering a cafe au lait as a misto, but do it anyway and it usually comes out ok. I would like the meet the ad wizard that came up with that one and give him a piece of my foot up his keister. [serenity now!]

                  Simon's does a decent cafe au lait but it usually seems a tad weak to me and doesn't retain its temperature well (now I am being picky). Peet's has been hit or miss for me. I've been equally unimpressed with Cafe Crema, but it still gets me my fix, and I like the space, the people and the food there.

                  Is there a truly fantastic cafe au lait in Boston?

                2. re: EmmaFrances

                  Glad you didn't spill the salt (the way I did).

                  I do wish that they would put salt and pepper shakers on the tables. I hate using those little packets because I always have an accident with them.

                3. They also carry Terroir coffee beans.

                  1. I was pleasantly surprised to find that George Howell was leading our coffee tasting/lecture at school about a week ago. During his lecture, he mentioned this place a couple of times, noting that he was working with them directly on some of their processes/quality assurance.

                    They may not instantly win over much of the really hardcore Starbucks/Peets/etc crowd if they're going to lean towards Terroir coffees simply because he exclusively sells lighter-roast coffees (at the moment anyway, said some darker roasts coming down the pike) which emphasize the lighter floral and citrus notes which dark roasting forcefully rounds off, but as a result are often more sour and less substantial seeming than dark roasts. They sometimes seem downright weak if sipped at coffee-machine temperatures.

                    I tried their iced coffee (one of the products that he mentioned as being particularly well tested and implemented) and was pleasantly surprised to find the lighter citrus and slight fruity notes still intact and a moderate amount of sourness.

                    Having been a gung-ho coffee connection man, I was pleasantly surprised to see this style of coffee coming back to Harvard square. One thing you can't really argue with is that George Howell is an absolute quality fanatic, and from what I've seen and heard the coffee that crema is selling is probably exactly what he thinks a coffee shop should be selling... at least for his coffees anyway. Whether you think that's a good thing or not, is another question entirely.

                    Now I just wish they were open past 8PM. They were very polite about closing, letting me stay and finish my coffee and the paragraph in my book, but I was definitely suprised to see them closing so early. If you're closing up at 8PM in harvard square, on a beautiful saturday with packed sidewalks and a dozen people in your store, when you're practically unheard of but have the potential to be a destination, you're doing something wrong. Peets up the street was kicking out 20 or so people at 10PM and had a line at the counter almost the whole time I was there after crema closed. Hopefully crema catches on to that pretty quickly.

                    1. I had a late lunch there a few days ago and really liked my sandwich - it was a grilled chicken sandwich with cojita cheese, corn, and avocado. I did find it pricey (6.95) for the size (wonder bread size) but I was in the middle of Harvard Square so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. The chicken was juicy and well flavored, the cheese was melty and creamy, and the corn added a nice fresh touch. I got one of the lemon curd cupcakes and was disappointed, especially given the comments I'd read here about it. I found it to be very artificial tasting, almost like pledge. The texture was fine, and it had a little dollop of lemon curd inside that was really lovely, but the overuse of lemon oil (?) turned me off. I also wasn't too happy with the carrot cake which was a mini bundt cake filled with a little bit of cream cheese. The cake was really cute but it was dry. Service was friendly; the place looks great (although the seating facing the street when you first walk in seemed awkward to me) and I think they'll do fine. I do love that an independent has opened up in what seems to be an increasingly commercialized Harvard Square.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: tumbledrylow

                        I went there in the early evening a few nights back needing to stave off some hunger until a late dinner. They were out of almost all the baked goods, so I chose a blueberry corn muffin. It tasted like nothing: not sweet, not salty, not buttery, not superdry but def. not moist enough. The only thing I did taste was orange zest, and a little too much of it. It was totally nondescript and I threw it away after eating half of it. It was pretty small to boot (although that way I felt less guilty throwing it away), although I am not opposed to people making smaller, higher quality muffins to sell at a better price point as opposed to gigantic shitty $3 muffins. Anyway, I'm assuming other items are better, and it seems you would generally want to avoid their baked goods late in the day as the good stuff is gone and what's there is getting stale.

                      2. Very good espresso - if you can find the right barista! LOVE the english muffins (try w apricot jam), decent quiche (the vegetarian one is better than the non veg option), great raisin/chocolate chip cookies (but they are often overdone and sometimes even quite burnt, so take a look before plonking down $2), very good coco-banana cupcakes (hey, it has fruit AND dark chocolate - it is healthy!). I like the chicken/avocado sandwich as well.

                        1. I want to like this place. It has everything going for it: great space, interesting menu of light items, a delicious english muffin, but...

                          Today was the 2nd time I tried to get into the Crema vibe. The 1st time was a few weeks after they opened. I walked in, looking for some breakfast and coffee, but there was a very negative atmosphere. I don't know how to explain it, except that the staff seemed to be in a collective bad/I'm-ignoring-you kind of mood. I decided to exit before ordering and just give it a try another time, chalking it up to being recently opened and still working out the kinks.

                          Today I gave it a full go, as I was desperate for a place to have a good lunch *and* wifi, as there was a lot of work on my plate. I opted for an iced americano, a curry chicken sandwich, and an english muffin. Ok, that muffin is like heaven by the way. Anyway, when it came time to pay, the total was $9.98, and when I offered my debit card, the cashier pointed to a sign I hadn't seen that said there was a $10 min on cards. I get that, I really really do. I know businesses incur fees from processing cards. But when I opened my wallet and had only $9 in bills, I asked her if she'd let me use the card and she stalwartly refused, suggesting that I "buy a macaroon" so I'd get over the $10 mark. Buy a macaroon? I didn't want a macaroon. It was only $.02 short of their threshold -- it felt really petty, and left me feeling like they totally didn't care if I had a good experience.

                          The food was good. The english muffin stands out; the sandwich was ok, if a bit mayonnaise-y for my tastes -- I liked the addition of the grapes. The americano wasn't great.

                          But their wifi didn't work -- despite the cashier telling me it did -- and I didn't feel like I wanted to go up and ask the counter people about troubleshooting it given the previous encounter. So I ate fast and left. But not before the staff person with the broom came over to where I was sitting and proceeded to sweep my feet (!!) and bang the broom against my chair. I turned around and looked at her like "why are you sweeping my feet -- there are a million other places you could sweep in this place." She just sort of looked at me and then walked away. It was very weird.

                          I dunno. None of these are absolute deal breakers. I'll probably meander in there again for takeout of an english muffin, or meet friends there if I must, but I've just felt -- both times -- that it's not a particularly friendly place. Or maybe I've just been there on two off days. I want to like it, but it doesn't seem to like me.

                          I ended up, finally, in Z Sqaure, partaking of their wifi and a beer. I wouldn't rate Z Sq's food above Crema in any way -- Crema has them beat -- but they sure are friendlier.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: litchick

                            I went in on Sun. and it just seemed very unorganized. No one could figure out where to stand to order, they were out of cream and I wasn't sure if my telling them that meant anything but eventually someone came over to fill it up. A few of the workers seemed to be really concentrating on one thing, one person got pissed at another bringing out a tray of food. I only had an iced coffee which was fine, but it wasn't the most pleasant place in the world.

                            1. re: Joanie

                              i've been a couple times, and it can be boisterous. esp. with the confusion about where to stand in line, people milling about deciding what to order etc.. haven't had an experience like litchick describes, which i agree is pretty poor.

                              BUT... i think they are easily the best coffee in the square. i think it depends somewhat (as always) on which barista you get, but i've had some really lovely, heady espressos (and maybe other espresso based drinks, can't remember exactly), and i think their iced coffee is fantastic. somehow manages to have a bit of thickness to it, not watery at all, at least on my one try so far. i also agree about the english muffin, and even though the canneles maybe look a bit over the top, esp. if you're used to the canto 6 petite versions, they are actually pretty good, with a bit of sweet egginess inside.

                              edit: will add that due to location, noise, clientele etc., i probably wouldn't go there to do work, that is a definite drawback...

                              1. re: autopi

                                I've been going here a lot this summer, but I have every intention of steering clear once college is back in session. If they can barely manage a summer lunch rush, I'm not feeling the love on fall semester mayhem.

                          2. Was there yesterday- excellent iced mocha. In fact, the only one I've had that can compete with Diesel's. I attempted to ask the barista a question about where they get their coffee (had I read this thread first, I would have known that it's from George Howell in Acton) and he got rather flustered and indicated that he would be unable to answer until after he finished what he was doing. Weird.