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Lunch, Anyone? Pavement Coffeehouse

Killer coffee, hearty food


In a city that seems to have a Starbucks or a Dunkin’ Donuts on every corner, it’s easy to forget about the gems in between—those authentic coffeehouses that serve to remind us that all coffee is not, in fact, created equal. One of the best examples is Pavement Coffeehouse on Boylston Street in the Back Bay, just off Massachusetts Avenue.

We ducked in recently in search of a cup of joe and a quick lunch. Although the shop was packed with nearby Berklee College students studying, socializing, and grabbing some grub, the service was fast and efficient.

Pavement specializes in breakfast, but has an array of lunch offerings as well. The menu, ornately scrawled on a chalkboard, features a selection of breakfast sandwiches, bagel and spread pairings, and hearty lunch sandwiches that can be made into a salad upon request. The kitchen staff simply omits the bread, adds more greens, and serves the dish in an aluminum bowl. Bagels include standard varieties, such as sesame and cinnamon raisin, and more creative choices, like jalapeño. All bagel-spread pairings are just $2.75, perfect for a budget-conscious student.

Boston University BU, places to eat local Boston, Pavement Coffeehouse Boyslton Street, sandwiches coffee tea cookies lunch, study spot

The popular turkey avocado sandwich is stacked high with fresh ingredients.

At the recommendation of our barista, we decided on two sandwiches, the turkey avocado and Nonna’s Lunch, both reasonably priced at $7.25. All items on the lunch menu are $6.25 or $7.25.

The protein-packed turkey avocado sandwich, with peppercorn turkey, avocado spread, and bacon, came atop grainy rustic bread. Thick slices of Swiss cheese, greens, red onions, and tomatoes lightly dressed with honey mustard rounded out the accoutrements. The mustard and red onion gave the sandwich a bit of a kick, nicely balanced by the creamy avocado.

Nonna’s Lunch was equally satisfying. Stuffed with slices of mozzarella, breaded eggplant, sun-dried tomato pesto, arugula, and a dressing of garlic mayo and served on a freshly baked roll, it tastes like a healthier, lighter version of Italian takeout—close your eyes and you’d swear it’s your grandma’s eggplant parmesan. The moist, spongy mozzarella provided a cool, fresh-tasting contrast to the hot and crispy baked eggplant.

Although our sandwiches were enough to satisfy the hungriest of lunch-goers, we left room for one of Pavement’s famous toffee cookies, again at the urging of our barista. The large cookie was crunchy at the edges and doughy at the center, spotted with bits of chewy toffee. There is a small selection of muffins, cookies, bars, and other pastries as well.

Boston University BU, places to eat local Boston, Pavement Coffeehouse Boyslton Street, sandwiches coffee tea cookies lunch, study spot

Saving room for sweets is easy with Pavement’s soft, doughy cookies as incentive.

As good as the food is, the real specialty here is coffee. Pavement offers seasonal coffees roasted by Counter Culture Coffee, based in Durham, N.C. The baristas undergo a rigorous training program and certification and are impressively knowledgeable. Pavement’s house blend is distinctive and tangy; also available are a sugary sweet Spanish Latte, a Caffe Au Lait, espressos, lattes, and a variety of teas, as well as special drinks featured daily. During our visit, the offering was an Anyetsu espresso for $3.

We opted for one of Pavement’s signature “pour over” coffees, made from Ethiopian beans, and a piping hot jasmine green tea. Although this coffee requires a wait of about five minutes, it is well worth it. Watching the barista’s handiwork makes the time pass quickly. The coffee’s flavor was sweet enough that it required neither milk nor sugar.

It’s no wonder that Pavement Coffeehouse has become a popular study spot for area college students. The seating is a mixture of small two-seat, long multiseat, and half-booth style tables, in addition to a few cozy upholstered chairs in lamp-lit nooks. Paper chandeliers and small potted flowers add to the rustic, brick-walled décor, and calming indie music piped throughout further adds to the relaxed ambience. The outdoor patio is a good spot for people-watching and reading with a glass of iced coffee during warmer weather.

Boston University BU, places to eat local Boston, Pavement Coffeehouse Boyslton Street, sandwiches coffee tea cookies lunch, study spot

Cozy seating and warm lighting make for a perfect study spot.

It isn’t just college kids who have taken notice. Pavement Coffeehouse was named “Best of Boston” by Boston magazine in 2012, one of the “Top 10 coolest cafes” by Travel and Leisure, and “One of America’s top coffee bars” by Food and Wine. Best of all, Pavement has  just opened a new location on campus at the site of the former Espresso Royale Cafe, 736 Comm Ave. Visit and you’ll see why Pavement has earned so many accolades.

Pavement Coffeehouse, 1096 Boylston St., Boston, is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; phone: 617-236-1500. By public transportation, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Hynes Convention Center. The coffee shop accepts all major credit cards. Pavement has additional locations at 736 Comm Ave (formerly Espresso Royale), 44 Gainsborough St., near Symphony Hall, and 286 Newbury St., in the Back Bay.

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

Ingrid Adamow can be reached at iadamow@bu.edu.


2 Comments on Lunch, Anyone? Pavement Coffeehouse

  • BU coffee enthusiast on 09.12.2013 at 11:24 am

    New Commonwealth location has great coffee but the wait was terrible (20 mins!) Would like to try again but will wait for them to fix their staffing problems at the new location. Thought my latte was a bit pricey for a very small cup.

  • Anonymous on 09.13.2013 at 10:34 am

    Their food is good, but the regular brewed coffee needs improvement. It was bitter and flavorless. Next time I will try an espresso drink.

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