Study Guide

I’m one of those people who has a hard time concentrating at home. And if I’m going to leave the house, there’d better be caffeination at my destination. So, after two semesters, here are the best cafes for studying in the Porter Square-ish area, with or without your computer:

Zing (inside Porter Square Books)
You’ll love it for…
their quirky, cheerful staff, Equal Exchange coffee, addictive Vietnamese soft rolls, scones from Petsi Pies, and oversized mugs.
Best time to go: Around 5 pm on weekdays. The working crowd is usually on its way out by then, and you’ll beat the rush on the free wireless internet (comes on at 6 pm). Stick around til closing (usually 8 or 9 pm) and you’ll probably walk out with some free baked goods.
You should know, though, that the location is tiny and it can be hard to get a seat (though turnover is usually pretty good if you’re willing to wait it out). And make sure to bring cash, because the cafe doesn’t take plastic. Also, those addictive Vietnamese soft rolls? Gone by 2 pm.

Simon’s Coffee (1736 Massachusetts Ave, between Harvard & Porter)
You’ll love it for… the excellent taste in overhead music, expertly-pulled coffee, oddly-shaped layout, and decent choice of food items (for when coffee’s not enough).
Best time to go: Early on a weekend morning or almost anytime during the week. The tables by the window offer the best chance of picking up an outside wireless signal. (Simon’s offers wireless, but for a fee. That said, it’s super reliable.)
You should know, though, that it’s a small place. That said, it’s open til 9 or 10 pm (except during the winter), so it’s a great choice for all hours of the day.

True Grounds (Ball Square at Broadway & Willow)
You’ll love it for… the comfy couches, free wireless, cozy atmosphere, and good selection of both coffee and food. And the fact that there’s always an outlet for when your battery dies!
Best time to go: Whenever college students are unlikely to be there– so, early mornings or Mondays.
You should know, though, that it’s kind of a schlep (15 minute walk) from the Davis or Porter T-stops.

Diesel Cafe (Davis Square)
You’ll love it for… the hipster atmosphere, the people watching, and the tasty sandwiches and baked goods. There’s a fairly studious vibe in the back, but it’s also a good place to meet a friend and catch up. Outlets are generally available.
Best time to go: weekdays.
You should know, though, that it tends to be crowded. Also, the drinks tend to be a little pricey. Not suitable for group work unless you can finagle a coveted booth.

Petsi Pies (285 Beacon Street, near Star Market)
You’ll love it for… the amazing array of baked goods, and the open wifi signals you can pick up from the surrounding neighborhood.
Best time to go: weekends.
You should know, though, that the four tables they have are usually taken on a weekday morning. But your roommates will love you if you bring home some pie!

Petsi Pies

Petsi Pies has all the signs of being one of those classic urban hidden jewels. Tiny. Inconspicuous location. No website.* Limited hours. And the distinct feeling, whenever you’re there, of being in a secret society. Patrons glance slyly at each other while eying the bounty behind the counter, as if to say, “Can you believe you didn’t know about this place before??”

Located on Beacon Street about halfway between Harvard and Porter, you could easily walk by it on the other side of the street and never take note of it. But any closer and you start to smell the most amazing aroma of baking things. Mostly pies: apple, sweet potato, blueberry, rhubarb, and more. But it goes far beyond pies: Cheese tarts with caramelized onions. Pumpkin cake with almond extract and cream cheese frosting. Muffins. Cookies. Scones. Whoopie-pies.

Your diet? It just ended.

Saying everything’s homemade is almost redundant. There is just no way something could be this good and not be homemade. The crusts are buttery, the flavors are perfect. Did you see the movie Waitress? Petsi (pronounced pete’see) has that same optimistic vibrancy about it. Everyone behind the counter is relaxed and cheerful, ready to admit at any moment that while they do have favorites, everything is good.

And it really is.

Overall: YYYYY (out of five)
Prices: $3 buys you a piece of pie. $6.50 gets you a small pie, and the prices go up from there.
Atmosphere: Friendly, easy-going. If you want to sit down, there is a small cafe area with three or four tables. Perfect if you want to get a cup of excellent tea or coffee with your decadence. But if there are more than two of you, get it to go.
Dress code: A belt that loosens.
Great place to bring… someone who can keep a good secret.

285 Beacon Street, Somerville, MA
(617) 661-7437
*They’ve recently added a website: