Coffee Shops

By Eric Twardzik
Interior of Curio Coffee
Curio Coffee

Boston may be famed for its astounding number of Dunkin's, but look between the franchises and you'll discover a rich network of independent coffee shops that keep our students, professionals, and creative types well-caffeinated.

Curio Coffee

Coffee from Curio Coffee

White tiles, ironic animal heads, guys wearing beanies—East Cambridge’s Curio Coffee has all the aesthetic markers of a new-wave coffee shop. More importantly, they serve Counter Culture coffee and scratch-made waffles in changing flavors that have included cinnamon roll and apple cider. If you’re dead set on scoring a waffle, don’t wait too long; they tend to sell out well before the cafe’s 2 p.m. closing time.

Render Coffee

Exterior of Render Coffee

Render Coffee has cozy, greenery-filled locations in the South End and Financial District, and serves coffee from Gracenote and Portland, Maine-based Tandem Coffee Roasters. The long list of specialty drinks runs the gamut from cortados to malted cold brew, and a bagel-centric breakfast menu plus lunchtime sandwiches like sriracha ham provide non-caffeinated sustenance. The South End location’s window-lined back patio is one of the city’s choice spots for espresso in the sun.

Espresso from Gracenote

Patrick Barter started Gracenote in 2012 by carefully roasting choice coffee beans at his home in Berlin, Mass., and supplying them to local coffee shops and restaurants. To the delight of Boston’s coffee nerds, Gracenote opened a home base of its own in the Leather District in 2015 as well as a Cambridge location in 2020 that also serves wine. The tiny standing espresso bar offers two espresso roasts each day—Gracenote’s house roast plus a rotating single origin—alongside pastries from Café Madeleine, FoMu, and PAGU.

Interior of George Howell Coffee

With floor-to-ceiling windows, a soundtrack alternating between world music and jazz, and bags of coffee accompanied by tasting notes, airy George Howell Coffee in the Godfrey Hotel is a coffee lover’s nirvana. The eponymous founder has spent more than four decades in the specialty coffee business, experience reflected in the impressive retail section that sells the brand’s globe-spanning coffee selection plus other goodies, like Ethiopian honey and local chocolate. George Howell caters to the aficionado, but they’d like to spread the knowledge—each month features a roster of coffee education events and tastings in-store.

Coffee from 3 Little Figs

Situated on a quiet corner of Somerville, 3 Little Figs is a specialty coffee shop and neighborhood bakery in one homey package. Its espresso and coffee drinks are made using an ever-changing rotation of small American roasters. Daily bakery specials, house-made granola, a family-recipe spinach pie, and other Greek-inspired dishes give even non-coffee drinkers good reason to make a special trip.

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