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Does this kind of place exist?

I am looking for a quiet place in Cambridge or Boston where I can work but also can have good food.

A mash up of Starbucks and a bistro-ish restaurant perhaps--a place where I can work on a laptop and sip coffee and eat food leisurely and also won't feel like I need to eat and vacate my table. I guess another way to put it is a place with library-like atmosphere that serves delicious food. Is there such a place or is it just my wishful thinking?

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  1. Andala Cafe in Central has that feel, but doesn't bring it with the food. You can stay there as long as like.

    Some people really like the food, but I've been totally unimpressed. It makes me angry, too, because I think it is one of the most perfect spaces and locations for a restaurant, and I think it's being wasted.

    1. Maybe the Trident Cafe during off-hours? When it's not busy, it can be a pretty relaxing place, and they definitely have wi-fi.

      1. The Hi-Rise Bakery location at the corner of Huron & Concord in Cambridge is like this, at least at off peak hours. During a meal time rush, however, watch out.

        6 Replies
        1. re: VintageMolly

          FYI, Hi Rise doesn't have public bathrooms. I'm not sure if they have wifi either. The other thing is when you leave, you smell like Hi Rise. I mean, it literally permeates into your clothing and it takes awhile for it to go away.

          1. re: VintageMolly

            The one in Harvard Square too. I know I've worked there on my laptop over lunch, but can't remember if they have wifi.

            1. re: VintageMolly

              Indeed, don't try this when its busy (e.g. weekends most of the day), because if I see you (not you-you VintageMolly, but the general "you") loafing there doing your unemployed laptop surfing "third place" boho bit when there are people waiting for a table, I'll personally kick yer arse, your stupid Campagnolo bike helmet, and your Sunday NYT to the bench outside. Drives me apeshet to see such selfishness.

              The Harvard Square location is better for that, since it has a lot more seating space, especially non-winter, when they have tables outside.

              1. re: Uncle Yabai

                Is there even such a thing as a Campagnolo bike helmet? They make bike parts, not helmets.

                1. re: ponyboy

                  Poetic license, perhaps, but the imagery was stronger that way.

                  1. re: ponyboy

                    He he, you're right, they don't make a helmet, but they make a lot of other bling, such as a helmet cover ("reduce air drag", and it looks like your helmet is a Campagnolo), gloves, and those moronic one-piece pants that make everybody except professional cyclists look utterly ridiculous.

              2. What about Darwin's in Cambridge? Not bistro fare but certainly excellent sandwiches and soups. Wifi is free and lots of people camp out there for hours doing work. (I used to be one of them:)

                1. The food is not bistro-level, but the Cafe at Mohr & McPherson in the South End otherwise fits this bill. Comfortable, free Wi-Fi, rarely packed, good sandwiches, salads, coffees and teas, baked goods, snacks. I reviewed it in The Phoenix a couple of months back.

                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    Another South End option would be the South End Buttery. Even on hectic mornings when there's a line for coffee and pastries, there is usually a seat or two available where you can plop down and laptop away. Afternoons are better if you are looking for it to be less crowded, but I'd avoid the weekends if you want to sit for a while without feeling the need to vacate your table after a while for the people standing around eyeing your spot. Only thing is I can't remember if they have Wi-Fi. CitySearch says it does, but the actual website doesn't say, and I can't remember. Food on the cafe side includes a really good breakfast sandwich, a bunch of lunchtime pressed and cold sandwiches, salads, a decent bowl of chili plus another soup of the day, pastries, cupcakes, two types of quiche, and a few other things. I haven't tried their burger. It doubles as a full kitchen restaurant later in the evening so it sort of fits the bill for the mashup you are looking for.

                  2. Petsi's on Putnam just outside Harvard Sq is that way. On a weekday I'm sure you'd have no problem hanging out for hours. The pies are excellent, the rest of the food is good (except I think they have a weird tendency to undersalt things) The seats aren't super cozy.

                    Miracle of Science might also fit the bill, off hours at least. Don't know if they have WiFi though.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: cpingenot

                      I recommend the Mariposa Cafe on Mass Ave just outside of Central Square for this. Good coffee, sandwiches and baked goods, congenial staff. It's quiet (usually), and you can sit for hours. They don't have WiFi, however. So you can work on your laptop (many people do) but not if you need to be connected to the net.

                      1. re: femmevox

                        +1 for Mariposa Bakery.

                        Good coffee, sandwiches, bakery items; a quiet, chill space; and awesome staff.

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                        Mariposa Bakery
                        424 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

                        1. re: rlove

                          +1 for Mariposa. When I was teaching, I used to do all my grading there.

                          1. re: stomachofsteel

                            Is it just me, or have others experienced the Mariposa staff being rude to women customers? I've experienced it a few times (which amounts to almost all the times I've been there). They were harassing in what they think is playful manner and that others could interpret that way, but I found it completely inappropriate. One of my friends feels really uncomfortable going there because of it.

                            1. re: DoubleMan

                              Interesting -- but no, I have never experienced or observed this. I used to live around the corner and was there a lot, but I haven't been there much in the last few years.

                              1. re: stomachofsteel

                                I'm there a lot, and I've never experienced it or observed it. Brian is kind of friendly and silly--which maybe could have been perceived as harassing/annoying. He's also the one responsible for those little ad hoc poems on the chalkboard out front. But he's phasing out of working there, and now he's only there on Sundays.

                                The times I've been there in the last month, the counter staff have all been women..

                          2. re: rlove

                            What bakery items do you recommend? (I often see Mariposa at the summer farmers' markets and am never sure what to get.)

                            1. re: nonaggie

                              I really like their bagels--small, firm, seedy and chewy, like my fantasy of the old country.

                              The scones are good,too. I particularly like the chocolate chip.

                              Their one-time things can be good--I remember a delicious peach cake with fresh fruit from the summer.

                              Occasionally I'll be tempted by their cute muffin-size bread puddings, but am usually disappointed in those.

                      2. If you happen to catch it during the mid-morning or late afternoon, Crema Cafe in Harvard Square is perfect. The food is delicious, they have wi-fi, the environs are comfortable if a tad bit on the cozy side. But aside from those rare quiet interludes, the place is completely packed, rendering it un-library-like. Packed for a reason, but packed nonetheless.

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                        Crema Cafe
                        27 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: qaj

                          I don't know how strenuously they enforce the policy, but I do know that there's a big sign upstairs at Crema asking patrons not to stay for more than an hour.

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

                          1. re: qaj

                            I have stayed at Crema from mid-morning through the lunch rush, something like 3.5 hours, but I bought a coffee & scone when I arrived and a sandwich at lunchtime, so the degree of strictness may depend in part on hour much you buy.

                            1. re: greenzebra

                              I love Crema for working, but I make sure to go in the late afternoon on weekdays. Otherwise it's too crowded for me to feel comfortable staying a few hours.

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

                            2. re: qaj

                              Just a quick update here that while Crema Cafe is delicious, they do not have wifi. You can sometimes barely get the Harvard wi-fi, but you need a Harvard account to access it.

                              I really enjoyed the cupcake with rooibos frosting I had there recently.

                              Dave MP

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

                            3. The term "delicious food" means something different to all of us. In Somerville, the Diesel Cafe and Bloc11 will let you work endlessly, and their sandwiches and coffee are quite good. The wifi however, is paid. Sherman Cafe is an odd space and a bit noisy for getting much work done, but again their scones and sandwiches are pretty good.

                              In Kendall Square, the Au Bon Pain has free wifi and I have never seen anyone pushed along. However, this is a bustling and noisy space, so again, working for hours at a time might be difficult.

                              Andala is my favorite place to get some work done, but I generally go elsewhere if I need to have some lunch. There are a number of options in Central Square.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: smtucker

                                Second the Diesel. It is what first came to mind when I saw this post.

                              2. In Harvard, your best bet right now is probably the new Clover restaurant. Hasn't been particularly crowded, and lots of people seem to just get food to go so the tables aren't packed, and they are certainly happy for you to sit for a while. In range of Harvard University wi-fi, but no other wi-fi options. If you're willing to pass on the coffee and go off-hours (say between 2 and 4:30 pm), I've done this at Russell House Tavern which has free wi-fi (or at least did three months ago when I was last there working). However, you definitely have to time it right, because there really isn't space for a laptop unless you get a 4 top, and it can get crowded during the lunch rush. If you can live without the wi-fi, Zoe's on Beacon St is never crowded at lunch and you can easily get a big table and hang out working on your laptop. Darwin's and Crema, both mentioned below, are great for this but can be very hard to get a table (and Crema has unreliable/no wifi). I generally have better luck at the Cambridge St Darwin's.

                                In Porter, Porter Square Books serves Zing pizza and pretty good coffee, but I don't know what the wi-fi situation is. Raifki Bistro on Mass Ave advertises free wi-fi, but I have never been in so can't comment on the atmosphere or food.

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

                                Russell House Tavern
                                14 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                1. What's this place like? I went by the other but couldn't stop. A little cold looking but I saw a lot of free tables.

                                  http://voltagecoffee.com/

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: digga

                                    I thought it was fantastic. Definitely the best drip and espresso I have had in and around Boston. Lots of interesting-sounding flavored lattes (I haven't tried them yet); really nice, serious but non-snooty staff. I wouldn't call the space cold--it is quite "designed" but there are lots of little corners and they have a nice array of contemporary art hanging around the space. When I was there there were several people working on laptops and while busy, It wasn't so busy that one couldn't stake out a table for a bit.

                                  2. I'll add my votes for Andala and Diesel.

                                    1. I think you should feel like you need to eat and drink as you take up table space for hours working. Eating and sipping leisurely is one thing, but eating and drinking only one thing over the course of several hours is not the way to make yourself welcome to the staff or to other potential sitters. And how many people actually get anything done in cafes, anyway?

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: BerkeleyPowerGrip

                                        i've always wondered both how much work gets done and how a small place makes any money when people buy a cup of coffee and adopt a table for the day. I've encountered enormous chutzpah as well: no tables and people waiting and you politely ask someone who has a coat on one chair and a bookbag on the other whether you might sit (in Seattle they would have offered!!) and are either told no or given the "wow you are an evil witch" look. I've decided that at my age (considerably advanced) I can withstand visual daggers, so I usually ask politely and then sit.

                                        1. re: BerkeleyPowerGrip

                                          Only places that do a heavy take-out and/or retail (like coffee beans) can afford to give up real estate to non-consuming patrons.

                                          1. re: SmokeDawg

                                            Actually, I do a lot of work in cafes. I go there when I have something that needs total focus that I wouldn;'t necessarily give it if I had distractions available--like now I'm going to go to the Mariposa to read student papers and crunch grade numbers.

                                            For a more extended discussion of the economics (and ethics) of Laptopistan (at least in Brooklyn!) there's this recent NY Times article:

                                            www.nytimes.com/2010/12/05/nyregion/0...

                                        2. In London, where I lived last year, there were a number of pubs that pretty much offered this. They were large places that made most of their money in the evenings, so in the daytime it was fine to go and study/work and hang out for hours, and many pubs had free wi-fi. One of my friends did all of her studying in the local pub.

                                          Are there any pubs or non-cafe type places in Boston that might fit the OP's request?

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Dave MP

                                            The Druid in Inman Square actually does have free wifi, and you have now answered the question I always asked myself when I walked by in the middle of the day. It's a great place, with excellent food.

                                            1. re: Dave MP

                                              I think Miracle of Science has free wifi too, although I haven't been there in a while so I don't know if that's still the case.