I first discovered L.A. Burdick in my pre-Coffee Spot days, after a recommendation by some Boston friends. It sounded so awesome that I had to seek it out when I was looking around Harvard. I must confess, I was not disappointed… When it came to starting the Coffee Spot, L.A. Burdick was one of the places I wanted to write about, but, of course, in traditional Coffee Spot style, I first visited L.A. Burdick’s New York City branch, plus the branch in Boston’s Back Bay, before finally getting around to a return visit to Harvard at the start of my coast-to-coast trip last summer.
As well as being the hot chocolate equivalent of a coffee shop, L.A. Burdick sells chocolate (and chocolates), the retail space usually being of equal size to the café part. There’s also tea, coffee and a wide range of sumptuous-looking cakes. However, for me, the whole purpose of coming to L.A. Burdick is to indulge in the amazing, rich and, above all, chocolaty hot chocolate.
Be warned: Harvard is smaller than the other two branches. You’ll often struggle to get a seat, having to wait for a one to become free before putting in your order.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Although the Harvard branch is very different from either L.A. Burdick’s New York City branch or the one in Back Bay, they share many common features, including a similar look and feel, the emphasis on sumptuous elegance. While the others are essentially square, Harvard’s long and thin. Despite a window running the full width of the store, glass door on the left, very little natural light reaches the back, so even on the brightest days, L.A. Burdick’s numerous light-fittings and chandeliers are essential.
Another common element is the retail counter, which is always at the front, by the door, while the café counter is at the back, forcing you past the shelves of chocolate. This is equivalent to coffee shops putting cake at the start of the counter. This particular branch of L.A. Burdick is better at it than most. Since it’s long and thin, if you want to get to the seating at the back, you have no option but to run the gauntlet of banks of chocolate on either side of you, calling out your name as you pass.
Although probably not much smaller in terms of floor area, because Harvard’s long and thin, it doesn’t have as much seating as the others. There are two wooden benches, one either side, similar to those in Back Bay. On the right, there are four small, square, single-person tables, although you could probably double-up on the bench and seat eight people in all. On the left, the tables are a little wider, each with a wooden bar-stool attached to the floor on the opposite side. With five tables and by doubling up on the bench, you might be able to seat 15 people on this side.
A wide gap has been left between the two rows of seating, down which you can stride purposefully towards the counter, pausing to glance nonchalantly at the menu on the wall to your right. Directly in front of you is a little piece of L.A. Burdick overkill, a display cabinet chock full of extremely tempting cakes and patisserie. As if the hot chocolate wasn’t enough…
Once you’ve placed your order, take a seat and, civilised folks that they are, the staff will bring your hot chocolate to you. Be aware though, that you do need a seat to be available. I was told that due to local licencing laws, if the staff take your order and there are no seats available, they have to serve your drinks in takeaway cups. At busy times this leads to a lot of hanging around, waiting for tables, but trust me, if you like hot chocolate, it’s well worth the wait.
Having tried the (dark chocolate) house blend when I visited the Back Bay Branch in 2014, I was keen to try something different. Much in the same way as speciality coffee has its single-origin beans as well as its blends, so too does speciality chocolate. Here the term is “single-source” and L.A. Burdick had three on offer during my visit, chalked up on the board, complete with tasting notes: Grenada, Venezuela and Jouvay. I went for the Venezuela, finding it rich, smooth and very sweet, but at the same time, well-balanced. Lighter and frothier than I remember the (dark chocolate) house blend, it was nonetheless extremely drinkable.
|52 BRATTLE STREET • CAMBRIDGE • MA 02138 • USA|
|www.burdickchocolate.com||+1 617 491 4340|
|Monday||08:00 – 21:00||Roaster||N/A|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 21:00||Seating||Tables|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 21:00||Food||Cake|
|Thursday||08:00 – 21:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||08:00 – 22:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||08:00 – 22:00||Wifi||No|
|Sunday||08:00 – 21:00||Power||No|
|Chain||Regional||Visits||3rd June 2015|
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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