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Feb 9, 2011 02:03 AM

Alternatives to Starbucks?

Hi, I'm travelling to Boston from Scotland with my daughter for a short vacation.
We really like good coffee and would like recommendations of good places to drink good coffee in the city.

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  1. On the Boston Common there is The Thinking Cup. Cafe Fixe in Brookline. There is a small chain called Espresso Royale in back bay area. Do you know exactly where you are staying?

    Cafe Fixe
    1642 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02445

    2 Replies
      1. re: elgordo

        Maybe you meant go Sox? hehe

        If you don't mind a chain experience, try any Peet's location. Dark roast done well and it is not Starbucks.

        If you enjoy a lighter roast and are more into serious single estate coffee drinking, try any coffee shop that serves Barismo coffee or drop by their location in Arlington for a cup and some coffee geek conversation. Arlington is not a big tourist destination but it adjoins Lexington, which is.

        169 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02474

      1. re: scotty27

        Preface: I'm not a native New Englander.

        Comment: DD's coffee is about as far from "good coffee" as I've ever had. But it's definitely a NE thing. Go get a small coffee regular (meaning w/cream and sugar) and cross it off your bucket list.

        1. re: emannths

          I'll clarify further, since we Bostonians have a tendency to use language that nobody who hasn't lived here for years can interpret. scotty27 and emannths are both discussing Dunkin' Donuts, a chain that is franchised across America but started here in New England. Whether or not DD meets anyone's standard of good coffee, I don't think anyone can argue that it doesn't meet your criteria of a "good place", with its uncomfortable molded plastic searing and garish pink and orange color scheme. Definitely not worth seeking out if you're coming from out of the country and looking for good places to drink good coffee in the city.

          1. re: Chris VR

            For the techy-geeks among us: What are the odds that the Dunkin Donut color scheme and the color scheme used on Digital Equipment Co (DEC) minicomputers of the '70s (I am thinking PDP-11) being the same is a coincidence?

            1. re: Chris VR

              I live in a very small town in Scotland 10,000 pop.
              It was the site of a USA Navl base until 1992 and the first place in Scotland to have a DDs! I have friends from Baltimore who swear by DD coffee but I'll give it a miss!

        2. Here are a few that are likely to be in areas you may visit (and may be repeats):

          Flat Black Coffee on corner of Milk & Broad in the Financial District (downtown)
          Espresso Royale on Newbury St also has good bagels & sandwiches (back bay)
          Thinking Cup on the edge of the Boston Common
          Pavement on Boylston just past Mass Ave
          Crema Cafe on Brattle St in Harvard Square
          1369 Coffee House on Massachusetts Ave in Cambridge

          Also, some of our Starbucks have a machine called a Clover which is a fancy press that makes individual cups. Very good tasting if they don't have them on the other side of the ocean; the Starbucks on Charles St at the Boston Common/Public Garden has one (beacon hill).
          There's good espresso in the North End, but not brewed coffee, at least that I've found.

          Places to avoid (in my opinion):
          Dunkin Donuts (gas station quality coffee at Starbucks prices)
          Boston Common Coffee Co

          Crema Cafe
          27 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138

          1369 Coffee House
          1369 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

          Boston Common Coffee Co
          10 High St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02110

          2 Replies
          1. re: JoeM

            Pavement is a great coffeehouse, and close to Fenway. My personal favorites are Simon's, Pavement, Bloc 11, the new Voltage, in the Kendall Square area, Thinking Cup, and Barismo, one of our great roasters and a nice place to stand with an espresso (though in Arlington, a little out of the poster's close range). Clover restaurant in Harvard Square makes very nice pour-overs. The Starbucks in Harvard Square also has a Clover machine (not to be confused with the restaurant Clover, which doesn't have a Clover machine! Confusing.). I haven't been but George Howell took over Taste Coffee House in Newtonville.

            Bloc 11 Cafe
            11 Bow St, Somerville, MA 02143

            Taste Coffee House
            311 Walnut St, Newtonville, MA 02460

            169 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02474

            1. re: JoeM

              What's wrong with Boston Common?

            2. The Wired Puppy or L'Aroma Cafe on Newbury Street and Sip Cafe inPost Office Square.



              Wired Puppy
              250 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02657

              1. Here are a few indie cafes I like: Uptown Espresso in the South End. True Grounds, Ball Square. Somerville. Bloc 11 Cafe, Union Square, Somerville. Ula Cafe in Jamaica Plain. Simon's Coffee House between Harvard and Porter Squares, Cambridge. Many of the Italian caffes in the North End are respectable; I like Caffe dello Sport and Caffe Vittoria.

                The locally headquartered, now national megachain Dunkin Donuts is ubiquitous in Boston; you could navigate the city by their little outlets, and many Bostonians can't go a day without a visit to one. But I'm guessing you would find its filter coffee disgusting (it's too light and watery for my taste), and its so-called espresso drinks are unspeakable.

                Simon's Coffee House
                1736 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

                Ball Square Cafe
                708 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02144

                True Grounds
                715 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02144

                Bloc 11 Cafe
                11 Bow St, Somerville, MA 02143

                Caffe Vittoria
                296 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113

                Uptown Espresso
                563 Columbus Ave, Boston, MA 02118

                3 Replies
                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  It's a shame because the taste of the beans themselves I think is pretty good, if a little mild. But I would triple the amount of coffee to water.

                  I would also be willing to bet money that 5 out of 10 people in a blind taste test of Dunks' regular iced coffee would not be able to discern any actual coffee flavor.

                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                    Ha ha maybe a little exaggerated but I agree with the sentiment. It is cold, it is brown, it is a canvas upon which sugar, creamer, and other flavorings are applied... but coffee flavor itself????

                  2. re: MC Slim JB

                    Second Uptown Espresso, MC. It's a gem of a spot in all respects. Also very fond of the coffee at Espresso Royale on Newbury, suggested by other posters. Since they never have brewed decaf in the afternoon, they always make me a decaf Americano and only charge me for a drip coffee. What sweethearts!

                    Uptown Espresso
                    563 Columbus Ave, Boston, MA 02118