Work spaces near Central Square

moving to new house…
how can I own so much stuff?
thank gods for craigslist

In a desperate desire to escape the realm of boxes, I sally forth into my new neighborhood in search of the perfect workspace.  A few years ago I was debating whether to rent a cubicle at a local co-working space, but realized that for the same money I could spend my time in a place that was more comfortable and I could get coffee and food in the bargain: the local coffee shop.

Coffee shops are not perfect.  They lack anywhere to make phone calls or hold business meetings, but they are still pretty great if you want to sit somewhere and write code.  Soon Cambridge will have its own entrepreneurs’ coffee shop, but until then, I’m on the lookout for my new office.

Central square has plenty of coffee shops. Normally I like to find one that works for me and stay there all day.  Today I will be visiting a number of them to see which one will be my regular hangout.

First stop: Cafe Luna

Probably the cutest of my visits today, this little coffee shop has a lovely tile floor, dark wood bar with bar stools, and a cozy feel.  The also have outdoor seating, which would be great in this weather if I didn’t need to plug in or see my computer screen.  I chose a table by the window right next to an outlet.  The windows fold open completely, so I am looking out of a 10′ wide space onto the pedestrian courtyard.  The only buildings in view are brick, including a fire station and a building with lovely copper patina.  The café’s espresso is decent and they have a good variety of food (breakfast sandwiches, muffins, panini, salads, wraps, soups, sweets).  I am currently enjoying a macchiato and a grilled egg and cheese croissant.  NB: grilling a croissant smushes it into almost paper-thin buttery-flakey-goodness that looks like a tire tread.

At first I thought there might not be internet here…what else could explain the fact that half the seats inside are empty?  But their internet works fine, so they must have some other deep dark secret.  Built on an ancient Indian burial ground?  Skeletons in the bathroom?  Werewolves behind the counter?  I don’t know, but since I plan on spending plenty of time here, I’ll tell you when I find out.  While I’d love to stay, I am determined to stick to my agenda and visit a variety of potential work-spaces today.


Second stop: Andala

Great outdoor seating under a trellice where I can sit now, since my battery is fully charged.  A nice menu with sandwiches, pastries, soups, hummus, and juices, all with a middle-eastern flavor.  The inside has multiple rooms which work well for entrepreneurs; in one room I saw some people working on laptops while in another there was a group of four discussing the creation of a dating website.  They have a decor that is comfortable and interesting, with carved wood and oriental rugs.  They don’t have very many outlets, but it’s not crowded so that doesn’t seem to be a problem.

I’m on the internet and all is going according to plan.  There are plenty of seats available inside, so this seems to be another great option for a regular hangout.


Third stop: Clear Conscience Cafe (C3)

This coffee shop is at the front of a food coop, so you can write, code, and get your week’s shopping done all in one place.  It’s near and dear to my heart because they have organic ingredients and fair trade coffee.  (Coffee is the second largest industry in the world second only to oil, yet the average coffee grower does not make a living and many live under “extreme poverty” — less than $1/day.  If I’m going to spend $3/day on something, why not also help the world’s poor?)

The C3 has the usual sandwiches, salads, soups, pastries, smoothies, and cafe drinks.  The space is fairly utilitarian, but has quite a few small tables as well as couches and a few five-tops.  They also have plenty of outlets.

The limiting factor here is the wireless.  You can only use it for one hour, then they deny access.  So while this is a great place for meetings or work that does not demand that we hook the internet into our intravenous system, I probably won’t use it as my daily hangout.  I will, however, fully enjoy my organic blueberry-raspberry-strawberry-banana smoothie.  Mmmmmmm….


Fourth stop: 1369

Here I am at 1369, which has more outlets per square inch than anywhere I’ve ever seen.  They literally have an outlet every six inches on one wall, and an outlet every 12 inches on the other.  (You know those people who say “literally” when they mean “figuratively but with emphasis”?  I’m not one of those people.)  1369’s menu is somewhat limited, consisting mostly of coffee drinks and pastries, but they do have a couple of sandwiches and some pre-wrapped salads.

The wireless appears to be for pay only, which I don’t mind doing if I’m going to be coming to the same place all the time…but having a limited menu becomes tiresome after a couple of weeks.  I will admit that I’m surprised that this particular coffee shop is not matching up in comparison to other local cafes; I know many people who have a great love for 1369.


Last stop: Carberry’s

I’ve been to Carberry’s before, but figured it would be good to go again, this time with documentation.  So here I am.  I remember their sandwiches being great, with their own baked breads, and they also bake their own muffins, scones, & croissants.  It’s a sunny and airy place, but has a bit of a warehouse feel with metal tables and large metal ducts visible overhead.

Carberry’s also requires one to pay for wireless.  I really have been happy to pay for my wireless at Diesel Cafe in Davis square (where I’ve been working for the last six months or so), but I don’t want to pay a wireless fee at multiple places, and I don’t think this is the long-term place for me.  It’s just not my vibe.


Next day stop: Mariposa Bakery

I love this little café.  They are very open about their devotion to all things organic, fair trade, and local.  They even have organic fair trade sugar for your coffee — “from small farmers…with love” say the little packets.  The wood beam ceiling is high overhead, sporting two nice skylights to let in the sun.  They have all the café drinks you could ask for, as well as sandwiches, salads, muffins & scones, and plenty of breakfast foods (even waffles!).

This café is fairly spacious; they could definitely fit many more tables than they have.  With 10 tables and a two-sided bar that seats six, they could easily seat 30 now, and they could easily add another four tables if they chose.  I look forward to trying their sandwiches on a day when I don’t need the internet. That is their only downside, but for those in search of an office, it is a big one.


Unmentioned: Starbucks & Au Bon Pain

I’m not even going to cover these, because everyone already knows exactly what to expect from them, and I just don’t like the chain feel.  There’s one of each in the square.


Conclusion

I am extremely happy to find that there are two absolutely great coffee shop workspaces in Central!  It may appear that I am choosing free wireless over paid wireless, but the truth is that even if there were free wireless at 1369 or Carberry’s I still wouldn’t choose either one as a regular place to work. 1369 has too limited a menu, and Carberry’s makes me feel like I’m working, instead of being some creative bohemian indie.

The summary

Tied for first place: Luna Cafe and Andala Cafe

Great menus, free wireless, not packed during work hours, atmospheres/decor that inspires, and very nice outdoor seating.

C3 and Mariposa get bonus awards for organic & fair trade ingredients;
Carberry’s gets a bonus award for baking their own breads & pastries;
1369 gets a bonus award for having some interesting history with Cambridge that I don’t know about.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 at 10:24 am and is filed under Programming. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “Work spaces near Central Square”

  1. samg_boston Says:

    I love Carberry’s! :-D Used to be my main hookup for pastry… mmm, cinnamon swirls… so sad they’re gone from Davis. I hear ya bout feeling like you’re working though; good to have them as a backup when you need to just block out the world and crank out code. Really, though, you’re blessed in Central with a bunch of great cafes. Have you been to Mariposa? Also pretty good, not sure about teh interwebs.

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