I am looking for--as always--good cafes in Boston. I know Boston is a cafe and coffee-challenged town, but I'm hoping the collective wisdom of the board can help me sniff out some places I don't already know.
My criteria are:
1) Good coffee. By which I mean: strong & smooth (not burnt); espresso is thick, rich and has good crema. A full panoply of espresso-based drinks and real baristas. While the intrinsic value of latte art is lost to me, it does usually signal a place with serious coffee. (I HATE watery coffee!!!)
2) Decent atmosphere: not sterile, but not faux-coziness with ugly velvet sofas and adult contemporary on the radio. I.e., no Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks, please. (If #1 above didn't already do it.) Ideally a low ratio of stroller moms w/small kids, teeny boppers w/cell phones and/or too-cool-for-thou hipsters, although I can overlook this if the other components are there.
3) Somewhere where it is possible and ok to stay for 2-4 hours at a time, reading, working on a computer, doing a crossword, staring into space, etc..
To give you a sense of where I like and where I don't like:
GOOD: Darwin's off Harvard sq (my current fave); Peet's.
BAD: Cafe Paradiso in H.Sq; Diesel (decent coffee, but fails on #2 above); 1369 on Mass Ave. (coffee is merely ok, and fails on #2, though I hear the other location is better); Junebug; Java Jo's; any place that also serves ice cream.
I'd prefer to concentrate my search to cafes in the greater Boston area--places accessible by public transportation or bike, though if there are any truly exceptional places in the 'burbs, I won't rule out a special trip.
I don't have any experience with cafes in the South End area--anything going on over there? Is there anything not over-touristed in the North End? Perhaps a hidden gem in Cambridgeport or by BU? Help me please...