Destination: Boston

I’m on my way to Boston for a day. A few people have written wondering if there’d be any free time to get together, and I’m afraid today is booked solid. The one possibility is tomorrow morning (Thursday), my plane leaves at 11:20, and I’ll probably just hang about in the coffeeshop nearest my hotel for a while, and if anyone wanted to join me, please do. I’m staying in the Charles Hotel on Harvard Square in Cambridge — if any Bostonians can recommend a decent coffee house with wireless access near there, I’ll be grateful, and I’ll also probably be there at 8 am on Thursday.


  1. CalGeorge says

    I used to hang out at a dive right across the street: Charlie’s Kitchen. Don’t think they have wireless. Just cheap, decent burgers ($2.75!) served at booths or barstools. Been there forever.

    For a really good burger (I don’t know why I am telling you this, I am a vegetarian) – go to Bartley’s Burgers. Killer onion rings! You will be finished for the rest of the day. Great, bustling atmosphere.

    For that, you will need to walk down Mass Ave.

  2. says

    Paradiso is pretty good. When I want coffee at Harvard Square, that’s usually where I go. (They have good hot chocolate as well.) Their wireless costs money, though.

    At least I think it’s called Paradiso. At any rate, it’s on the corner opposite the aforementioned Charlie’s Kitchen.

    There are also some chain places like Peet’s and Tealuxe. Of the two, I’d recommend Tealuxe, but only if you like tea (duh).

  3. MAJeff says

    I’m a fan of Cafe Algiers in Harvard Square (on Brattle). Not sure about the wireless there, though.

  4. Mark Borok says

    I catch the shuttle into work in front of the Charles Hotel every morning at 8:40 or so. The cafe Paradiso is very good, but I don’t know anything about their wireless access.

    There’s a nice tea shop called Tealuxe nearby if you’re in the mood for tea instead, as one sometimes is. Again, don’t know anything about their wireless access, since I don’t use wireless.

    I suppose you could catch the shuttle with me (it’s free, every 20 minutes) into Watertown and stop at the Panera Bread across from where I work. There’s wireless access and they have excellent pastries and a pleasant atmosphere.

  5. Kseniya says

    I don’t know Harvard Square intimately, but I can vouch for the fact that there is a lot of variety and many good choices, Cafe Algiers and Bartley’s Burger Cottage in particular.


    Algiers is the only place I’ve been where you can get Arabian coffee in the little metal thingie with the little handle thingie sticking out. It’s dark as oil and has grounds at the bottom. Sorry to get so technical but I don’t know the lay terms for all these things. :-)

    Davis Square is certainly worth a look, but jumping on the Red Line to head away from the airport may not be on PZ’s agenda for the morning. If that’s the case, I advice Dr. Myers to file the recommendation away for another time. After all, you haven’t really lived until you’ve had coffee in Somerville.

  6. says

    I’ve been working in the Harvard Square neighborhood since September, and I’m still learning what the good food/drink places are. Wish I could be of more help. . . . Just let us know which one you choose! (-:

  7. CalGeorge says

    Cafe Algiers is a good idea. Near your hotel. Good coffee (with coffee sludge in the bottom of the cup).

  8. says

    I think you can only get WiFi at Cafe Algiers by leeching off the place next door. (Not sure about that.) Darwin’s Ltd is not specifically a coffee place; they had pretty good sandwiches when I went, and appear to offer free WiFi.

  9. says

    It’s a restaurant and bar rather than a cafe, but check out Grendel’s Den as well. Lots of cheap, tasty food, along with a reputation for being one of the better watering holes in the area. (Disclaimer: a friend of a friend’s father owns the place, but it’s been reviewed rather widely.) And I second the suggestion of going to the Diesel Cafe in Somerville — it’s generally considered one of the best cafes in the entire Boston area.

    And if you want to drink coffee like a Bostonian, there’s always Dunkin Donuts. However, I’m more of a Starbucks person. We’ve also got some of the very few Peet’s Coffee locations on the East Coast.

    Also also, if you get a chance, pick up the Dig, one of the local alt weeklies. Not that it’s particularly better than any of the others in the area, but David Thorpe from has a regular music column called the Burn Unit that’s just a masterpiece of piling on the snark.

  10. smadin says

    I concur wholeheartedly with the recommendations for Algiers and Bartley’s (and Diesel, time permitting). The “little metal thingie” is called a brik or an ibrik, by the way, depending on who you ask and how much Arabic they speak; I speak none, so I can’t tell you which is right. Algiers also serves a sweetened mint-flavored coffee which is quite excellent, and I usually abhor sweetened and/or flavored coffees.

    I hope you enjoy your visit to my town, Dr. Myers!

  11. Carolyn says

    I enthusiastically second Brian X on Grendel’s. I cannot, however, speak to coffee shops, since I’m a tea drinker. Tealuxe is in the area, and while their stock is good, their ambiance is wanting.

    No matter where you end up, you’ll probably be able to leech off somebody’s unsecured wireless.

  12. stsmith says

    You got some good advice to try Cafe Algiers or Cafe Paradiso, but honestly, if you have one chance to get out, forget the coffee places in the Square and try a cup of the best hot chocolate on the planet at Burdick’s. No kidding. Not sure if Burdick’s has WiFi, but after you taste this stuff, it won’t matter because you’ll have forgotten all about your blog or whatever else you had intended to be doing. It’s steps from the Charles on Brattle Street, right across from the Museum of Useful Things.

  13. says

    Why would you ever hang out across from Charlie’s Kitchen when you can go IN to Charlie’s Kitchen.

    And when you are there, order the double-cheeseburger special WITH TWO TOPS (that way you get two cheeseburgers.

    If you go in there you may be able to still sense the ghosts of many gatherings of evolutionary biologists sitting around drinking very cheap beer and writing ideas on the backs (and fronts) of napkins….

  14. says

    Not a native but I’ve spent much time in Boston over the years and my recollection is, it’d be hard *not* to find a cup of coffee and WiFi in Harvard Square — only slightly harder than not finding a bar. Is the Au Bon Pain with all the chess tables out front still in business? I know it’s a chain, but it’s still a great place to sit and people-watch when the weather’s nice.

    Last time I was in town I stayed at the other end of Mass. Ave, down by the river and MIT, but even there I couldn’t walk a block without passing two bars, a coffee shop and an Indian restaurant.

  15. says

    I’m offended you couldn’t make time for me! Er, besides Thursday morning in which case I’m offended I couldn’t make time for you. Regardless, I second the suggestion to grab a burger at Charley’s and to take your coffee at Cafe Algiers. Unless the Greenhouse has wireless, which I’m not sure about.

    I’m not sure what’s up with all the Somervillians attempting to lure you from Harvard Square, but obviously don’t bother wandering away when you have everything right there. Enjoy the Charles Hotel, it’s where most of my out-of-town friends like to stay.

  16. Steve Forti says

    Not exactly a morning treat per se, but if you’e in Harvard Square, check out Finale for fancy dessert. Or get something to take on the plane ride home.

    Just wanted to say, “Welcome to Boston!” You’ve got plenty of fans here.

  17. says

    PZ, pay no attention to that silly skepchick. Who are you going to listen to, a leading light in the skeptical blogosphere who just happens to be overly loyal to Cambridge, or some no-name who just happens to want you to see more of the area?

  18. Cheeto says

    I feel so inadequate. I actually work in the offices attached to the Charles Hotel, but since I don’t drink coffee, I am of no help.
    PZ – are you going to let us know where to say hi after you make a decision of the coffee?

  19. Kseniya says

    I concur that Grendel’s Den is very good, and has more than its share of charm.

    Some readers and commenters may have no way of knowing that the streets of Somerville are the subject of one of the lesser-known Boston-provincial Pharyngulan inside jokes ’round here. :-)

    Joking aside, while Somerville isn’t Cambridge it’s only fair to mention that it does have gems of its own: The Somerville Theatre, The Diesel, and Rudy’s, to name but a few.

    Oh, and let’s not forget Johnny D’s.

    If I’m not mistaken, these are all in Davis Square. Unfortunately, only The Diesel Cafe seems to have the potential to fall within the scope of Dr. Myers’ visit.

    This time. :-)

  20. says

    I know the Toscaninni’s in Central Square has *free* wireless, so I would be surprised if the Hahavahd location didn’t as well. Besides, with both great coffee and great ice cream, how could you possible go wrong?

  21. MAJeff says


    You forgot one of the best reasons to go to Davis Square–Redbones!

    (and McIntyre and Moore is a halfway decent used bookstore)

  22. Kseniya says

    Redbones! Of course! Merely thinking of Rudy’s should have brought Redbones to mind. I knew there was a good BBQ joint in Davis Sq… lol… thanks for the reminder.

  23. says

    At that time of day I think you are limited to Darwin’s (close to the hotel two blocks up Mt. Auburn St.) or the Algiers (opens at 8 am) on Brattle, about the same distance in Harvard Sq. I don’t know if either has wireless (Darwin’s might) because I live close-by and my house does. But I think my wife wouldn’t appreciate an early morning bloggervention. If I know where you will be I’ll come by. I’ll recognize you by your horns, tail and hooves. Do you also breathe fire early in the morning?

  24. speedwell says

    (I don’t know why I am telling you this, I am a vegetarian)

    As am I. But we are rational vegetarians and we serve our common humanity first. I would be happy to recommend great steak and seafood places to PZ if he came to Houston for some occasion. I eat at that type of place all the time. They always have the best salads and veggie sides in town. :)

  25. Paul Myers says

    Shame I missed your Boston visit. I’ve been wanting to meet the “other” Paul Myers godless liberal biologist. Maybe nextime. I found your blog site quite by accident, but have been simply tickled by the similarity of our oppinions.


  26. says

    Unfortunately, Toscy’s in Hahvid Squeyah is closed for building renovations at the moment, along with almost every other store in that particular building. But there’s still Herrell’s on Dunster St and Lizzy’s on Church St for ice cream, both very good local chains that don’t get a lot of attention. And I have to agree on Burdicks — I didn’t think of it, but Burdicks has excellent Euro-style hot chocolate.

    Also, some of the best restaurants in the 617 area code are in and around Harvard — Sandrine’s, Upstairs On The Square, and the Rialto (in the Charles Hotel, conveniently enough) are all in the upper echelon of Boston-area restaurants.

  27. MSR says

    Forget the bickering over coffee and WiFi! Go to the Museum of Science (go directly there, do not pass “Go”, do not collect…oh never mind), and tour the CHARLES DARWIN EXHIBIT ( Hurry! the exhibit closes tomorrow (04.27.2007)


  28. Brent says

    As a former UMM student who understands the power of Karl’s Coffee (which, sadly, no longer exists) and as a former Boston resident, I strongly recommend the 1369 Coffee House in Central Square — only one T stop away from the Harvard T stop. Diesel in Davis (two T stop away) is very good too. Finally, BeanTown near MIT in Kendall is also fantastic.