True Grounds

One of the many fine tables in True Grounds, with some of Maria Marx's paintings hanging on the wall above it.Some places I’m sold on when I walk in the door. Others take a little while to grow on me. Some never do and so don’t make it into the Coffee Spot. It’s fair to say that I was sold on True Grounds from the moment I saw it from across the street. I’m not sure why, but I’ve learnt over the years to trust my Coffee Spot radar: it rarely lets me down. So it was with True Grounds.

True Grounds is a neighbourhood coffee shop par excellence. It’s the sort of neighbourhood coffee shop that makes you want to move into the neighbourhood. It might be off the beaten track up in Somerville, north of Boston, but I’m glad that I went out of my way to pay it a visit. What makes it for me is the space, a bright, sunny, warm and welcoming place to drink my coffee, which was, by the way, excellent.

I might have been swayed by the bright, sunny day, but whatever it was, True Grounds made a lasting impression on me!

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The view of True Gounds from across the road. Looking at that picture, it just doesn't do its charm any justice at all! When I rule the world, parking outside coffee shops will be banned!
  • Another view from outside on the pavement (sidewalk).
  • The outside seating. While sunny, it was also cold (it was February) so everyone was inside.
  • The main counter as seen from the door. It's what I would call 'busy'. The espresso machine is under what looks to be a cloud of steam...
  • ... however it's actually some poorly rubbed-out chalk!
  • Cake selection. I think True Grounds subscribes to the 'do a few things very well' philosophy.
  • The main seating beyond the counter.
  • I liked the lighting & decor in the main room, particularly the artwork hanging on the walls.
  • More of the artwork by Maria Marx.
  • The window seats, which, surprisingly, weren't taken! Might have been the sun streaming in and making laptop screens harder to read.
  • One of the window seats in detail...
  • ... and the other one, where I sat.
  • For some reason, I was really taken by this pair of window boxes. In many ways, they summed up the place for me.
  • The other window seats, immediately to the right of the door as you come in.
  • The three rows of tables marching back from the window in the main room. The sofa is right at the back, under the interesting work of art.
  • Some of the tables had interesting tops. Here's the one from the previous picture.
  • Another of the interesting tables.
  • Some more works of art hanging above one the tables.
  • More of Maria Marx's artwork. I was particularly taken by the one on the right.
  • At last, the coffee! My excellent espresso in a very big cup and saucer...
The view of True Gounds from across the road. Looking at that picture, it just doesn't do its charm any justice at all! When I rule the world, parking outside coffee shops will be banned!1 Another view from outside on the pavement (sidewalk).2 The outside seating. While sunny, it was also cold (it was February) so everyone was inside.3 The main counter as seen from the door. It's what I would call 'busy'. The espresso machine is under what looks to be a cloud of steam...4 ... however it's actually some poorly rubbed-out chalk!5 Cake selection. I think True Grounds subscribes to the 'do a few things very well' philosophy.6 The main seating beyond the counter.7 I liked the lighting & decor in the main room, particularly the artwork hanging on the walls.8 More of the artwork by Maria Marx.9 The window seats, which, surprisingly, weren't taken! Might have been the sun streaming in and making laptop screens harder to read.10 One of the window seats in detail...11 ... and the other one, where I sat.12 For some reason, I was really taken by this pair of window boxes. In many ways, they summed up the place for me.13 The other window seats, immediately to the right of the door as you come in.14 The three rows of tables marching back from the window in the main room. The sofa is right at the back, under the interesting work of art.15 Some of the tables had interesting tops. Here's the one from the previous picture.16 Another of the interesting tables.17 Some more works of art hanging above one the tables.18 More of Maria Marx's artwork. I was particularly taken by the one on the right.19 At last, the coffee! My excellent espresso in a very big cup and saucer...20
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True Grounds was recommended by a friend who used to work just around the corner, so I felt obliged to make the trip and was very glad that I did even though it’s quite a way off the beaten (tourist) track in Somerville, northwest of the centre of Boston. After rattling along the Red Line to Davis and a 15 minute walk through some very pleasant residential streets, it feels as if you’re a million miles away from the rush and high-rise of downtown Boston, or even the bustle surrounding the previous stops at Harvard and MIT.

True Grounds serve the usual espresso-based drinks along with a couple of options on the drip filter. I had an espresso which was a little fruity for my palette, but that aside, was excellent: short, strong, with a good crema. True Grounds also has a small range of muffins and (American) scones, plus breakfast sandwiches and, for lunch, regular sandwiches, wraps, soup and salads.

However, what makes True Grounds so special is the space, with two rectangular stores knocked through to form a square. On entering, you’re faced by the counter, with open plan kitchen behind it and espresso machine to the right. While there are a couple of tables in the window immediately by the door, your best bet is to head through the arch to your right, where what was the second store is given over entirely to seating.

What True Grounds has done is simple, but startlingly effective. There’s a great big sofa at the back, the sort that looks as if it would swallow you up and never give you back, but other than that and its accompanying armchair, it’s all two- or three-person tables. There are three rows running back towards the sofa, with the ones down the side all having power outlets.

The best seats, in my opinion, are the two round tables in the windows. Normally in any given Coffee Spot these are the first to get taken, but I got lucky and managed to grab one of them, despite the place being quite full. So I was able to sit with the sun on my back, which is quite a novel experience for me. There are also some tables out on the pavement (sidewalk) and, with its south-facing aspect, I imagine that it’s absolutely delightful in the summer. To be honest, it was pretty amazing on the sunny, February day when I visited it, but a tad cold.

One nice touch is that the walls are decorated with small paintings from a local artist, Maria Marx. Each one has a price tag, averaging around $100, and if you like any of them, you can pay the staff and walk off with it there and then. If I ever run a coffee shop (and can find a willing artist I like) I’m going to do that.

In short, True Grounds is a lovely, neighbourhood coffee shop. It’s the sort of place I’d want in my neighbour. In fact, if I have any complaint at all, it’s that it’s on the wrong continent. Whether it’s worth the trek out to Somerville if you don’t already live/work out there, only you can tell, but I know I’ll be going back!

717 BROADWAY • BALL SQUARE • SOMERVILLE • USA • MA 02144
http://truegrounds.com/ +1 617 591 9559
Monday 07:00 – 18:00 Roaster George Howell (espresso + bulk-brew)
Tuesday 07:00 – 18:00 Seating Tables (outside too)
Wednesday 07:00 – 18:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 07:00 – 18:00 Service Counter
Friday 07:00 – 18:00 Cards Visa, Mastercard ($0.25 charge under $6)
Saturday 08:00 – 18:00 Wifi Free (with code, 1 hour max)
Sunday 08:00 – 18:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits 28th February 2013

If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, then take a look at the rest of Boston’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Boston and Cambridge.


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