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Good lattes and comfy seating like Diesel?

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pollystyrene Nov 26, 2008 02:08 AM

I like Diesel for their very good lattes and plentiful couch, armchair and booth seating. But sometimes I'd like a change of scenery. I've tried True Grounds, and found the seating lacking and lattes satisfactory. I've tried Darwin's on Cambridge St. and found the seating lacking and lattes awful. Judging by Bloc 11's website, the seating looks butt-wracking. How I miss the Someday Cafe.

Is there anyplace with very good lattes and enough plush seating so that even if it's crowded something tends to open up in a few minutes?

  1. Bob Dobalina Nov 26, 2008 05:41 AM

    Have you looked into the Sherman? Not sure about the comfy factor - I'm always getting take-out.
    I will never set foot in Bloc 11 on principle, so can't comment.
    What about the Cafe in the Porter Square bookstore? I think they have something comfy.
    There is also that sandwich place up on Mass. Ave. up near Qing Dao, which I believe has some couchy seating options. Not sure about the coffee.

    21 Replies
    1. re: Bob Dobalina
      m
      maryv Nov 30, 2008 02:40 PM

      I'm not sure if Cafe Zing does have anything very comfy - if you're not perching at the counter there are only a couple of other places to sit. But I could be forgetting something.

      The place up Mass Ave is Good Food Cafe, and they do have one or two couches. I can't say how their coffee is (I've been on decaf only for a while) but I kinda like their egg-and-cheese sandwiches made with thin-sliced hard-boiled eggs. (2378 Mass. Ave., jimsgoodfood.com)

      1. re: Bob Dobalina
        p
        pollystyrene Dec 3, 2008 04:56 PM

        Tried Sherman tonight, and the scones everyone raves about are good. I had a blueberry one, and it reminded me of the extinct Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin, moist and kind of cake-like, which I like. They also had lemon and cherry oatmeal scones. The coffee and atmosphere get a thumbs down from me, though. My latte was weak. There was only one small couch and it was right next to the door, so not very cozy. I scarfed down my scone and quickly sought refuge with my laptop at Andala Coffeehouse.

        1. re: pollystyrene
          Bob Dobalina Dec 4, 2008 03:31 AM

          Sorry you did not get good coffee there - I have to admit I am exclusively a morning Sherman customer, so there may be a difference in who's making the coffee - our lattes have always been good at that hour. Incidentally, there is a better chance at a fresh scone in the a.m. too, and I would love to persuade you to try a fresh warm lemon scone out of the oven. I think it's far superior to the blueberry, and just about the best darn thing I could possibly have for breakfast.

          1. re: Bob Dobalina
            p
            pollystyrene Dec 4, 2008 05:56 PM

            I'm persuaded. Lemon it is. It's unlikely I'll get there early in the morning unless it's at the end of a late night, though. Cursed with the Night Owlism, I shall never eat a warm baked good unless I make it myself.

          2. re: pollystyrene
            yumyum Dec 4, 2008 09:43 AM

            Just wanted to back you up on the non-comfiness of Sherman. I've had good coffee there but always to go as it's the opposite of cozy. There is only the one sitting room at True Grounds and people do tend to hang out there forever so the turnover is minimal. Bloc11's space is nice but it's hard to get that excited about the place given the creepy name.

            Me, I really like the atmosphere at Crema. Cozy but not grungy. I'm glad to hear about Andala ... I need to check it out.

            1. re: yumyum
              finlero Dec 4, 2008 10:11 AM

              I'm with yumyum. Sherman has really delicious food and pretty good drip coffee (not as much of a fan of the espresso drinks), but it's dirty and uncomfortable. I always get doubly freaked out with their large for-here coffee: it's served in a pint glass (hot coffee served in glass just tastes wrong), with a ratty looking knitted yarn coffee sleeve around it that always makes me wonder how often (and by "how often" I mean "if") it gets washed.

              Crema isn't exactly cozy, but it's certainly cool, the baked goods are supernaturally good, and the drip coffee and espresso are both excellent.

              I guess I'm the weirdo, but I have never warmed up to True Grounds. The food, drink, and vibe all leave me a little cold.

              In Camberville, here's my favorites in descending order of preference:

              Best drip coffee - Crema, Sherman, Diesel
              Best espresso - Peet's, Diesel, Simon's, Crema
              Best baked goods - Crema, Sherman, [this space intentionally left blank]
              Best lunchy stuff - Sherman, Good Food Cafe, Crema
              Best design elements - Bloc 11, Crema, Diesel
              Coziest/Best to sit at for a while - Bloc 11 (room with the fireplace), Algiers, maybe Pamplona

              1. re: finlero
                a
                autopi Dec 4, 2008 10:52 AM

                i like true grounds for the drip & espresso's i've gotten there. admittedly, the vibe is more old-school college coffeehouse than the newer places. but it is a good place to get work done at least in part b/c of the abundance of power outlets and the (in my experience) spotty wifi reception.

                cafe ula in jp should be on the list for completeness' sake. their forte is in baked goods--at least on a par with crema, in my view. and their sandwiches are superb. i also like the space--similar to crema, not "cozy" in the overstuffed ratty old couch sense, but still comfortable with good light. the downsides are: really, really execrable coffee, only 2 power outlets (so don't count on getting one if you bring your laptop), questionable taste in music & volume levels.

                1. re: autopi
                  yumyum Dec 4, 2008 10:56 AM

                  I really like Ula. But it's not in the Camberville area, so that's prolly why it didn't make the list.

                  And yeah, finlero is a wierdo. I like True Grounds vibe, food, and patrons. There is one old guy who I see pretty much every time I go in. He's obviously put on his best sport jacket and bryl-creamed down his hair. He sits there for hours enjoying being in a cheery bustling spot. It's a very neighborhood place.

                  1. re: yumyum
                    p
                    pollystyrene Dec 4, 2008 06:24 PM

                    Yumyum, you've convinced me to go back to True Grounds. I must see that sweet, dapper old gent. He'd better not be sitting on the couch, though.

                2. re: finlero
                  p
                  pollystyrene Dec 4, 2008 06:03 PM

                  Finlero,

                  1) Can a cushion or two be found at Bloc 11 (room with the fireplace)?
                  2) By its absence on your list, I'm guessing you haven't been to Andala. I think you'd like it. It's Diesel's Middle Eastern cousin (once removed).

                  1. re: pollystyrene
                    finlero Dec 5, 2008 07:04 AM

                    1) I actually want to say no cushions, but my memory is a little hazy, as I've honestly been spending most of my coffeehouse time at Crema since the summer. Maybe you could go with one of those bleacher cushions people bring to football games? Nothing says 'cozy' like football fan paraphernalia.

                    2) Haven't been to Andala yet, but this thread has certainly piqued my interest. Will go, will report back.

                    1. re: pollystyrene
                      d
                      dulce de leche Dec 11, 2008 08:20 AM

                      No cushions at Bloc 11.

                      I kept trying to figure out what you meant by Andala Cafe, and I know now--I still think of it as the Ras Cafe, run by Ethiopians. Which was awesome, and I was v. sad to see it go. I like Andala, too. It's got a lot of the same vibe. Plus hookahs.

                3. re: pollystyrene
                  Bob Dobalina Dec 4, 2008 11:09 AM

                  BTW, I think the Starbucks in Wilson Square (Corner of Elm and Somerville Aves.) has a couch or two.

                  1. re: pollystyrene
                    r
                    rememberme Dec 11, 2008 05:49 AM

                    Try the oatmeal/cherry scones at Sherman. Amazing!

                  2. re: Bob Dobalina
                    t
                    tomgaroo Dec 4, 2008 07:31 AM

                    Bob - I'm curious: what is the principle that keeps you out of Bloc 11?

                    1. re: tomgaroo
                      Bob Dobalina Dec 4, 2008 08:11 AM

                      I find the name choice offensive, regardless of whether the name was knowingly arrived at or just poor background checking on their part.

                      http://www.auschwitz.org.pl/html/eng/...

                      1. re: Bob Dobalina
                        Allstonian Dec 4, 2008 09:19 AM

                        Bob's not alone in this...admittedly, I don't find myself in Union Square Somerville all that often, but I couldn't bring myself to go there knowing that about the name.

                        1. re: Allstonian
                          digga Dec 4, 2008 08:55 PM

                          Has anyone actually asked the Bloc 11/Diesel folks what their motivation was in choosing the name Bloc 11? I haven't, but I am curious.

                          1. re: digga
                            p
                            Parsnipity Dec 9, 2008 05:49 PM

                            When it first opened, they had something posted about wanting a "neighborhood/block" type place, distinct from Diesel (thus not "Diesel-Union Square") and the address is 11 Bow St. As I recall, they thus arrived at the name Bloc 11. I had no idea of the historical significance, and I must say I'm a bit sorry to be informed of it as it can't help but color my view of an otherwise lovely local coffee shop.

                            Oh, well. I live closer to Diesel anyways, and although diesel emits more particulate pollutants than gasoline, it does get more miles per gallon so I guess I can continue to go there.

                            1. re: Parsnipity
                              d
                              dulce de leche Dec 11, 2008 08:21 AM

                              I wish I didn't know that. I saw "Bloc" and immediately thought "Bloco", which makes sense given Union Sq is so Brazilian.

                              1. re: Parsnipity
                                r
                                rememberme Dec 12, 2008 06:41 AM

                                I had a small friendship with one of the people planning the Bloc 11, and early on expressed my dislike of the name. But they owners are young and plowed ahead anyway. Maybe the sensitivity is a generational thing? (I'm 51.)

                    2. p
                      Parsnipity Nov 26, 2008 09:35 AM

                      True Grounds in Ball Square has several couches in the back which are almost never occupied when I've been there. Their coffee is from George Howell (same as at Crema) and I find them to be as thoroughly excellent as Diesel.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Parsnipity
                        p
                        pollystyrene Nov 26, 2008 09:48 AM

                        When I was last there, there was a room off to the right of the cash register with maybe one couch and a few tables, and all the seats were taken. Do they really have several couches? Is there a room other than this one that I missed?

                        1. re: pollystyrene
                          p
                          Parsnipity Nov 26, 2008 09:50 AM

                          No, I think that's the only room. It is completely possible that prior to imbibing my coffee, I was seeing double or something but I thought there were multiple couches. I've never seen anyone back there in that corner.

                      2. WilliamTheFoodie Nov 26, 2008 02:45 PM

                        I have given up on Diesel. Too crowded, too dirty and and one too many obnoxious patron. I am in love, however, with Crema Cafe in Harvard Square.

                        1. p
                          pollystyrene Nov 29, 2008 03:46 AM

                          Thanks for all the input. I still have to try Sherman Cafe, mainly for a scone, but I've found my perfect coffeehouse: Andala in Central Sq. It's big and beautiful. There are three rooms, one big and one small on the upper floor, and one big one downstairs. Upstairs there are lots of floor to ceiling windows looking out towards the square; the decor is warm and pretty, with middle eastern furniture, rugs and light fixtures; and while there are no marshmallow armchairs, there are soft banquettes and padded chairs. It's delightful!

                          I had my first arabic coffee there, which I liked, but probably not enough to order again. I think the cardamom fights with the coffee. The mocha I had was very good, just a hair inferior to Diesel's.

                          The servers are in no hurry, but are pleasant. You can place your order at the register, then sit down, and they will find you to deliver it. And unlike Sherman, they're open until 11:00 every night.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: pollystyrene
                            Joanie Dec 4, 2008 03:55 AM

                            I think Andala is a cool space but having full waiter service seems weird to me.

                            I kind of like Beanstock Cafe, or are they called Boston Common now? I saw that on Yelp and was surprised. Anyway, it's on Salem St. in the north end and has a good amount of comfy seating, altho it's a pretty popular place. But I've only gotten iced coffee and have never eaten anything there except maybe a cookie.

                            Boston doesn't have enough cool cafes and bars in general. If you want to take a look at all the awesome ones in Krakow, go here:

                            http://www.bostongroupienews.com/Joan...

                            1. re: Joanie
                              p
                              pollystyrene Dec 4, 2008 05:07 PM

                              The Eastern bloc countries stole our B-Side! Great pics, Joanie. Cafe Botanica takes the prize. What is that, a giant tuba with horns? Strange how your photos tie in with the Bloc 11 discussion above. I can't imagine how eerie Auschwitcz must be. The Ann Frank House in Amsterdam was enough for me.

                              I agree there are too few cool cafes and bars here. I often wonder, though, how they stay in business, with everyone ordering a coffee and hogging a seat for an hour or two. I'm sometimes guilty of this, and I FEEL guilty doing it.

                              I felt uncomfortable about the table service at Andala at first, too. Now I like it. It's so civilized. You don't have to fish around in your backpack for money while standing up clutching your gloves in your teeth, and you don't have to stand around waiting for your mocha to be made. I like being served.

                          2. neil Dec 9, 2008 03:44 PM

                            need some addresses

                            -----
                            Sherman Cafe
                            257 Washington St, Somerville, MA 02143

                            Crema Cafe
                            27 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                            Cafe Pamplona
                            12 Bow St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                            Diesel Cafe
                            257 Elm St, Somerville, MA 02144

                            Andala Coffee House
                            286 Franklin Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                            Boston Bean Stock Coffee Co
                            97 Salem St, Boston, MA 02113

                            1. b
                              BackBayGirl Dec 10, 2008 07:11 PM

                              If you don't mind going to the S. End, The Berkeley Perk is AWESOME! Excellent espresso drinks, coffee, sandwiches, pastries, and a cozy atmosphere. The people who work there are very nice as well.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: BackBayGirl
                                MC Slim JB Dec 10, 2008 07:36 PM

                                I'm a fan of the Perk too, and like the South End's Uptown Espresso even better: great sunny atrium, plus comfy outdoor seating when it's warmer.

                                1. re: MC Slim JB
                                  b
                                  BackBayGirl Dec 10, 2008 07:47 PM

                                  Where is Uptown Espresso?? I'll have to check that out!!

                                  1. re: BackBayGirl
                                    Joanie Dec 11, 2008 03:45 AM

                                    Columbus Ave. close to Mass Ave. I like it too altho I haven't had much other than iced coffee.

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