With the recent announcement that the Forge Baking Company will be opening its doors later this summer on Somerville Ave., it’s becoming more and more evident that Somerville has developed quite the coffee shop scene in recent years. Chances are that a coffee shop lies within a stone’s throw distance from any given spot in the ‘ville, offering one ample opportunity to satisfy any caffeine addiction, binge on various baked goods, or catch up with the locals. Yet how to pick and choose which may be the best fit for your particular needs? Am I in the mood for a hardcore hipster establishment, or am I looking for something a bit more classy and refined? Do I want to check out some local artwork while I sip my coffee, or do I want to enjoy a bowl of frozen yogurt at an open mic night? Well, despair no more! In order to aid your navigation of Somerville’s vibrant coffee shop culture, we’ve decided to create a multi-part guide – a coffee shop crawl, if you will – weighing up what these various establishments have to offer. There’s a long list so we’ll be starting with Davis and Ball Squares. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks! – Kurt Prescott
Location: 234 Elm Street, Davis Square
Overview: Opening its doors in August 2012, iYo Café offers a unique spin on the Somerville coffee shop scene, offering self-serve frozen yogurt in addition to its many coffee drinks, baked goods, and sandwiches. And if that’s not enough, the fro-yo flavors rotate, giving you the chance to try something new each time you stop in (I urge you to try Moon Pie, which just popped up in recent weeks)! Moreover, the exposed brick walls, high ceilings, lit fireplace, and musical tunes make it a cozy place for any time of the day.
Cultural Impact: If you wander toward the back of the café, you will come across the iYo Art Wall. Featuring a new artist each month, the Art Wall gives local artists a chance to display their work in a public venue, as well as the opportunity to hold a 90-minute event related to their practice. Moreover, iYo allows its customers the opportunity to reserve its back room for various gatherings, be it for parties, open mic nights, story telling, or any other need.
Menu Item of Choice: Any of the delicious frozen yogurts with as many toppings as you can add! I personally recommend the Original Tart, though Espresso takes a close second.
Signature Drink: Maple Latte. Made with real Maple Syrup, this latte is sweet, but not overpowering. The perfect drink for a snowstorm or rainy afternoon.
Hours: Monday-Friday: 8:00 AM – 11:00 PM Saturday: 8:00 AM – 11:30 PM Sunday: 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Wi-Fi: 2-hour card free with purchase.
Location: 257 Elm Street, Davis Square
Overview: Now a staple of Davis Square, Diesel Café will be celebrating its 15 Year Anniversary this May. In addition to its expansive menu (which was recently updated!) of sandwiches, salads, baked goods, coffee drinks, and breakfast items, the café itself features several pool tables, a photo booth, and plenty of space to sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee. Indeed, the café itself is a site to behold, with red leather booths, metal piping, and a massive garage door, all evoking the predominant “auto” theme of the space.
Cultural Impact: While one could argue that Diesel Café is a cultural attraction in its own right, the café also offers locals artists ample opportunities to display their work, be it through in-café exhibitions or via participation in larger city-wide events such as Honkfest, Art Beat, and Open Studios. Unofficially, Diesel also serves host to billiard tournaments, ESL conversation groups, and punk rock knitting circles, highlighting the eclectic fusion of cultural activities that take place in this café.
Menu Item of Choice: Sandwiches, sandwiches, sandwiches. You really can do no wrong. I personally am a huge fan of the “Monkey Wrench,” which consists of turkey, avocado, Havarti dill, tomatoes, and snow pea shoots on a baguette.
Signature Drink: With blends and roasts from Intelligentsia, Stumptown, and Counter Culture, the coffee at Diesel Café is about as good as it gets.
Hours: Monday-Friday: 6:00 AM – 11:00 PM Saturday-Sunday: 7:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Wi-Fi: Monthly Pass Available for $13
(Diesel Cafe photos by Cate Vitagliano)
True Grounds Coffeehouse
Location: 717 Broadway, Ball Square
Overview: Located at the intersection of Willow and Broadway, True Grounds sits at the heart of Ball Square in northern Somerville. And it’s one cozy venue. With mosaic tables, colorful walls, and comfy couches, I could think of few places where I’d rather spend a rainy afternoon, particularly with a sandwich and a big cup of coffee in hand. Also, the fact that True Grounds was once two separate stores lends a certain quirky nature to the space that is bound to be endearing to any visitor.
Cultural Impact: On the homepage of the True Grounds website, one finds the following statement: “We believe community is at the heart of a great coffeeshop.” And indeed it is. In addition to serving as an exhibition space for local artists, True Grounds also features the bi-weekly “Jeff Jams,” where local musician Jeff Jam performs for children every other Wednesday.
Menu Item of Choice: The maple oat scone is to die for, but it should be noted that True Grounds also offers a host delicious sandwiches and other breakfast items.
Signature Drink: The seasonal teas are always a nice touch, but if you wanna go big, hit up the White Mocha. You won’t be disappointed.
Hours: Monday-Friday: 7:00 AM – 6:00 PM Saturday-Sunday: 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Wi-Fi: 1-hour pass free with purchase
Up Next: Check back for our review of the Union Square coffee shop scene!