Sunday, December 28, 2008

Where did all the good coffee shops go?

All I wanted to do on this unseasonably warm day was go to some cozy cafe and make French flash cards. I might not get around to it, because, after a few hours of considering where to go, I haven't come up with anything. Nothing at all.

Well, one thing. But Curious Liquids doesn't exist anymore. And frankly, since I've thought of Curious, nothing I've come up with as a possible substitute could come close to what I want, which is to sit in one of the little alcoves in the basement on a yellow antique armchair, nursing a caramel mocha steamer for hours and hours.

I used to do this frequently in high school, as either celebration of the last day before some school break or mourning the impending loss of freedom that would come when my folks saw my report card. I could spend countless hours playing board games, reading British teen magazines, and writing prose in the style of Francesca Lia Block, all the while feeling equal parts grownup, in the know, and Dead Poets Society. And I was well looked after there, too. No matter what the situation, I always felt unbelievably safe. Unbelievable because teenage girls never feel/are safe, ever. There's always something eating at them, or someone out to get them. But everything seems okay in the sunny windows of an old building with pink whipped cream on your lips. Everything.

It isn't quite what I'm looking for now, but no cafe in the metro Boston area compares, not even remotely, to what I'm looking for. Isn't Boston one of the top five coffee centers in the United States? Not that there isn't good coffee here. I would even go so far as to say we have good cafes, but few that are set up such that you'd want to stay, and I'm thinking none that want you to stay for very long.

Cafe Vanille, for instance, is a great cafe and bakery. In the summer, it's a lovely place to hang out outside. Inside, though? Sterile and uncomfortable. Grey and a bit clanky. L'Aroma Cafe has a warmer interior, and is a great place for people-watching on the well-to-do end of Newbury, but the espresso? Bad. And the tables, I swear, are built so that you can't balance any books or papers on them.

What happened to the great pastime of lounging in a[n independant] cafe, getting work done, writing the great American novel, or whatever suits your fancy? I'm wondering if I'm imagining a time when this was what one did from time to time in Boston. Was Curious Liquids (may it rest in peace, and maybe be reborn) the only place in Boston that was ever suitable for this? Did that culture die with that perfect Beacon Hill establishment?

Do I have YET ANOTHER reason to move to Paris?


Anonymous said...

How about The Other Side Cafe, on Mass. Ave. just west of Newbury?

Rob said...


Michael said...

Ever actually been a a cafe in Paris? They're not as you seem to be imagining them, and not at the prices I expect you'd be happy with.

Maybe you could instead get a nice comfy chair & coffee equipment for your home. There you're welcome to spread out all over the place, take up as much room as you want, nurse your beverage for as many hours as you care to, etc.

Anonymous said...

correcting my comment above: I meant Newbury St. just west of Mass. Ave.

Anonymous said...

I vote for you to move your annoying smug-butt to Paris. We won't miss you.

garnett said...

Have you ever been to Panificio's on Charles St?

You can sit for hours & hours in their window drinking coffee & reading . . .

Tommy Jordan said...

jess! coolest thing ever, i go to universal hub and there's your blog. nicely done, girl!

central square is probably the best bet, but that's pretty far from your neck of the woods. also, you can try a place like francesca's or the appleton bakery in the south end.

see you soon!

Aaron Weber said...

Seriously? You must not have been looking very hard. I can think of several right off the top of my head. Use Google to find any of the following:

True Grounds, Ball Sq, Somerville, MA.

Diesel Cafe, Davis Sq, Somerville, MA.

Bloc 11, Union Sq, Somerville, MA.

Cafe Pamplona, Harvard Sq, Cambridge, MA.

I don't doubt you could find additional places in Boston proper. Have you looked in, say, Allston? JP?

Pierce said...

flamepoeira at 3 lewis street in the north end is what you're looking for. i would spend upwards of 7 or 8 hours at a time in there when i was in grad school, and about half of that was studying or writing. great conversation with an eclectic group of unassuming folk, led by the owner langelo. Sometimes i would only drink one or two cups the whole time i was there, other times i'd eat lunch and more, he never batted an eye either way. flamepoeira dot com. i miss it so much since i moved to jp.

stephen said...

I know what you mean. Most European cities can boast spacious, charming coffee houses on every street corner. In Boston we have one in every neighborhood, if we're lucky.
But if you want to experience Coffee House mecca, then visit Budapest - an amazing place.

Noah Sachs said...

In the North End, coffee shop has what you are looking for, bonus fireplace and free wi-fi. Cheaper than the cost of moving to Paris:

Boston Beanstock Coffee Co.
97 Salem St
Boston, MA 02113

DA said...

I like Espresso Royale by BU. I have sat there for hours with books or a friend and there are always lots of students there that look like they are doing the same.

There is one on Newbury St, too, but I have never been to that one.

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Frank Giorgio said...

Curious Liquids: I look at it like this.

Curious was by far the coolest cafe. It was comfortable and unassuming. There was an eclectic group of people behind the counter and sitting on the comfy chairs in the alcove. I know because I worked there.

We have to look at its "demise" like this. It never got old and run down; it never went under new management; it never got to that point that restaurants get to when it just kind of "went downhill". It will always be perfect and cozy in our memories. With the same mystique of James Dean or Marilyn Monroe, we never had to see Curious in its twilight. It just ended. It never got fat like Brando, lost its novelty like so many stand-up comedians or just stopped being cool. It's time was perfect in its length and maybe someday, when one of comes into a ton of money we can pay Fox News to go away and can set it up again.

Bets Regards,

Frank Giorgio

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