Whenever I am feeling tired of my apartment, of my bedroom and living room and especially the kitchen, with its frozen berry stains and lemony overhead light, I make a coffee run. I am looking for somewhere new to go and some caffeine, but there is something more pressing about seeking out a coffee shop. I am searching for somewhere warm and fresh, a place I do not have to maintain or nourish myself, a second home. Three Brookline-area coffee shops in particular fulfill this definition of home for me, weary or restless as I feel. Tatte, Caffè Nero, and Café Fixe, all conveniently nestled on either side of the C Line, each present a different and entirely welcome sense of home.
If I were to categorize each of these coffee shops as different rooms in a house–think a sprawling, bright house surrounded by greenery—Tatte would certainly be the kitchen. Walking in feels like you have woken up early in the morning to be greeted with ample sunshine and warm lamps, buzzing conversation, and the smell of fresh coffee and pastries. It is a place that feels like home, down to the apothecary-style table that holds quiches and croissants, the subway tile lining the walls, and the hand-written menus. Glass jars of granola and biscotti dot a well-stocked counter, and just above crisp tote bags for sale, a vintage portrait hangs. You do not feel as though you are intruding on someone’s busy mealtime, but instead you are ushered in, welcomed. A large farm table in the center of the restaurant encourages this kind of community—when I arrived, two impeccably dressed women sat at one corner, looking at photos of their grandchildren, and at the other, a group of students happily chatted over muffin crumbs. Tatte inspires brightness and familiarity, with chairs turned casually toward each other and an abundance of brilliant tile and glassware. I ordered a latte and a crimson berry herbal tea—good for either an energy spike first thing in the morning, or a leisurely start—as well as a lightly sweet strawberry-raspberry meringue. The latte’s artistry was rivalled only by the vibrant berry color of the tea, and the satisfying crack of the meringue. Tatte offers a distinct freshness and openness, the first taste of spring.
Caffè Nero, just a few stops up the C Line towards Cleveland Circle, offers a completely different, yet just as comforting, sense of place. If Tatte is the kitchen, then Caffè Nero is the infinitely cozy living room. It is the type of place I would duck into if I was struggling to warm up deep in the winter, or just wanted a quiet place to finish a book or an assignment. It seems like a salve for the homesick—maybe for me in particular, after seeing a basket of Italian Baci Perugina chocolates at the counter that brought me back to my grandparents’ kitchen. The patrons who frequent the café are equally warm, like an older woman who offered me her chair when she saw I was sitting on the ground to get a quick photo of my chai latte (a particularly incredible one, just sweet enough). Lined with books, old and new, and furnished with brightly-colored plush armchairs and couches, Caffè Nero could be anyone’s dream living room. The abundance of color is striking, from the raspberry macaron I ordered, to their signature sky-blue cups, to a soft pink wall that climbs toward exposed beams. When I arrived, it was crowded but almost completely silent; sitting there felt oddly like sitting with your family, all working or reading or watching something else, but together. The café is centered around a large fireplace and a circle of pastel-blue booths, and even as people enjoy their own sandwiches and salads and coffees and pastries, it does feel as though you are enjoying this time together.
If Caffè Nero and Tatte are places to settle in and find community, than Café Fixe is the spot to take a breath and have a little time to yourself. I think it is a particularly good option if you are feeling overwhelmed or weary of your own space. Right across the street from Caffè Nero in Washington Square, Café Fixe offers a completely different environment: it is noticeably smaller than the other shops, but this affords a new tranquility and intimacy. I found it to be almost like the sunroom of a house—not as bright and bustling, or cozy and studious, but radiating calm. I ordered a macchiato, which came in a small porcelain cup that fit perfectly atop the slim bar—it was bold and intense, a striking contrast to the serenity of the café itself. The walls are painted pastel blue, and the light wood bar along the wall invites one’s tired arms or large cappuccino beside a laptop. The decor is minimal, yet well-considered: orchids perch on top of cabinets or beside the cash register, and a small collection of pastries and desserts fills a rustic wooden and glass case. The café does not have a large seating area, but its sparseness does not mean it lacks warmth or closeness–the only other customers in the café at the time were a father and his toddler son, one working on a document, and the other sitting perfectly upright on the high stool, watching a kids’ show. Going to Café Fixe allows you to take a moment, alone or together.
Tatte Bakery and Cafe, 1003 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446
Caffè Nero, 1633 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02445
Café Fixe, 1642 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02245