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Lunch, Anyone? Blue State Coffee

Coffee (and sandwiches) for a cause

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Photos by Vernon Doucette

Walking into Blue State Coffee on a dreary, rainy Monday afternoon, we were immediately greeted by a blast from the past, as ’90s rock music filled the small room. Otherwise, it was quiet, and there was a surprisingly small crowd for the time of day. Artwork from local artists and photos from the company’s coffee roasting farms line the walls, giving the coffee shop an intimate flavor. While many know Blue State Coffee as the place for a morning caffeine fix, its sandwiches make it an equally desirable lunch destination.

Blue State Coffee has five locations. In addition to the one on Commonwealth Avenue, which opened in September 2010, there are four other locations, two in New Haven, Conn., and two in Providence, R.I. Blue State’s philosophy is unique. Being committed to sustainability, philanthropy, and community involvement, the company donates 2 percent of its proceeds to local causes, such as the BU Community Service Center and Girl’s LEAP, a self-defense program for girls. (Customers nominate the nonprofits Blue State supports and vote on how donations are allocated.) Since opening its first location in 2007, Blue State has donated $225,000 to 50 local and national nonprofit groups that reflect the owners’ values.

Photo Courtesy of BU Photography

Photo Courtesy of BU Photography

Now that you know about the company’s philosophy, a word about the food. On the afternoon we stopped by, we ordered sandwiches, coffee, and pastries. The sandwich selection is a bit limited, but the prices are reasonable and on a par with other cafés. We began our meal, of course, with coffee—a latte ($3.25) and an iced mocha ($3.50). While pricier than more commercial coffee shops, Blue State uses environmentally sustainable, fair-trade coffee that is shade grown. The latte was rich-tasting, with the espresso on the bitter side, and the foam thick and creamy. Aesthetically, we loved the latte’s foam leaf design. Many mochas lean towards chocolate overload, but not this one, which provided a satisfying mix of coffee and chocolate. As poor college students, we cannot justify paying that much every day for coffee, but Blue State’s drip coffee ($2) is a worthwhile compromise. And bringing your own coffee mug will even get you a discount (25 cents off each cup).

For lunch, we ordered a turkey sriracha sandwich ($7.50) and a smoked ham and Swiss panini ($7.50). The turkey sriracha comes on a ciabatta roll, topped with pickled onions and sriracha mayonnaise. While I was a bit skeptical about anything pickled, my dining companion was won over, proclaiming, “The pickled onions make the sandwich.” With just the right amount of spice in the mayonnaise to give the sandwich a kick, the onions provided a little extra flavor and balanced out the spiciness.

The smoked ham and Swiss panini arrived on a brioche and was garnished with roasted bell peppers, balsamic onions, and Dijon mustard. The balsamic vinegar gave the onions a much sweeter taste than regular caramelized onions and provided a nice contrast to the ham. Both sandwiches came with bagel chips.

Photo Courtesy of BU Photography

Photo Courtesy of BU Photography

We ordered two desserts: the first a generous slice of bread pudding ($4), the other a nutella bar ($3). Sprinkled with cinnamon, the bread pudding was full of flavor without being too sweet. The nutella bar was deceiving: a simple layer of nutella on a bed of granola crumbs. While tasty, I wouldn’t recommend it, as it was too rich to finish.

Blue State is crammed with students at night, so for a more relaxing atmosphere, consider grabbing a quick, delicious lunch and helping out a local cause at the same time.

Blue State Coffee, 957 Commonwealth Ave., is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Lunch is served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Phone: 617-254-0929. Blue State Coffee accepts all major credit cards.

This is part of a weekly series featuring Boston lunch spots of interest to the BU community. If you have any suggestions for places we should feature, leave them in the comments section below. Check out our list of lunchtime tips on Foursquare.

Allison Thomasseau can be reached at althoma@bu.edu.

4 Comments

4 Comments on Lunch, Anyone? Blue State Coffee

  • Anonymous on 04.14.2011 at 5:32 pm

    Deliciousness

    Blue State might just have the best coffee/espresso in Boston. It makes me angry when I see people walking past Blue State from the Dunkin’ Donuts a block down. Small businesses should be the standard for how coffee tastes. Support small businesses with a cause, not corporations lining their own pockets with cash!

  • Anonymous on 04.14.2011 at 5:34 pm

    Granola

    also.. the house-made granola is OUT OF THIS WORLD!

  • Anonymous on 04.14.2011 at 6:07 pm

    “While tasty, I wouldn’t recommend it, as it was too rich to finish. ”

    Oh man, if anything, I am disappointed by the fact that it is not sweet enough.

  • Sweets on 06.12.2011 at 6:37 pm

    Sweets

    Great review, we really admire their contribution to charitable causes whilst running such a delicious store!

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