Normally I write about a single place, but this post is about two branches of the Flour Bakery + Café chain. In all, Flour has four outlets, all in Boston and, on recommendation, I visited the Back Bay branch on Clarendon Street and the South End branch on Washington Street.
If ever there was a lesson that the physical space plays as big a role as any in whether I like a Coffee Spot, Flour is it. In terms of what’s on offer, both are very similar, the main difference being the space. There’s nothing wrong with the Back Bay branch: it just didn’t do it for me. On the other hand, the South End branch is exactly what I’m looking for in a café. It’s a smaller, more intimate space and, on the sunny day I was there, filled with warmth and light from the windows that go almost the whole way around the place.
What you’ll get from both branches is good coffee, breakfast, soup, made-to-order sandwiches and an outstanding selection of cakes. I only had time to try the coffee and cake, but if everything else is up to the same standard, then you’re in for a treat…
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
If I start with Flour itself, this is a local bakery/café chain that has established quite a reputation for itself in Boston. Much like, for example, London’s Bea’s of Bloomsbury or Edinburgh’s Mimi’s Bakehouse, while the coffee is good, the real reason to come here is for the cake (and the rest of the baked goods). Let’s face it, anywhere with the motto “make life sweeter… eat dessert first!” is going to get my vote!
In that respect, there’s not much difference between either of the two branches I visited and, I suspect, you’ll get much the same at the other two branches. Flour serves a mouth-watering range of cakes, as well as breakfast items, soup and made-to-order sandwiches. You can also buy bread and coffee beans.
I should stress that the coffee is pretty good. Like almost every place I visited on my North American trip, Flour has the obligatory flasks of brewed coffee, along with the usual range of espresso-based drinks. There is also iced coffee and a wide range of tea to tempt you. I had an espresso at both branches and was pleasantly surprised. Indeed, the espresso I had at the Back Bay branch, which was just two blocks from my hotel, was the first on the entire trip and set a reasonably high bar for all the others that followed. It wasn’t perfect: it could have been stronger and it could have been slightly warmer, but overall I was impressed and I don’t impress that easily!
However, where Flour is at its strongest is in the cake department, with a range of America baked goodies to tempt you. I experimented as widely as I could, but I’d need to move to Boston if I was to try everything. Believe me, I was tempted! My favourite was a cornmeal lime cookie which was just splendid (but then again, I am a sucker for cornmeal anything).
What set the two places apart, however, was the space. The South End branch is much more like a café than its newer sibling in Back Bay. Whereas the Back Bay branch is long and thin, the one in the South End is closer to square and although it’s probably half the size, it’s got just as many tables. All the tables in the Back Bay branch are right at the end of the café, beyond the counter, where they feel like an after-thought. In contrast, at the South End Flour, the tables felt as if they were an integral part of the café.
I don’t want to criticise the Back Bay branch since it is very much constrained by the space and it’s probably serving a different clientele (more office-workers and students and probably more takeaway custom, while the South End branch is in a more residential area). It’s also very new; just over a month old when I visited.
When it comes down to it, I’d probably pop into the Back Bay branch if I was passing, whereas the South End branch is the sort of place I would hunt out to spend an hour or two lingering over coffee and cake. The only thing that lets it down (for me) is the lack of wifi, but that’s a minor thing in comparison to the cornmeal lime cookie!
|1595 WASHINGTON STREET • BOSTON • MA 02118 • USA|
|http://flourbakery.com/||+1 617 267 4300|
|Monday||07:00 – 21:00||Seating||Tables|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 21:00||Food||Cake, Breakfast, Sandwiches, Soup|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 21:00||Service||Counter|
|Thursday||07:00 – 21:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Friday||07:00 – 21:00||Wifi||No|
|Saturday||08:00 – 18:00||Power||No|
|Sunday||08:00 – 17:00||Mobile||N/A|
|Chain||Local||Visits||26th February 2013|
|131 CLARENDON STREET • BOSTON • MA 02116 • USA|
|http://flourbakery.com||+1 617 437 7700|
|Monday||07:00 – 20:00||Seating||Bar, Tables|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 20:00||Food||Cake, Breakfast, Sandwiches, Soup|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 20:00||Service||Counter|
|Thursday||07:00 – 20:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Friday||07:00 – 20:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Saturday||08:00 – 18:00||Power||Limited|
|Sunday||09:00 – 17:00||Mobile||N/A|
|Chain||Local||Visits||25th February 2013, 5th June 2015|
Liked this? Then don’t forget to check out the Coffee Spot Guide to Boston and Cambridge for more great Coffee Spots.
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