How I Pick The Best Cafes To Visit Anywhere

The more overpriced lattes I drink, the more picky I get about where exactly I’m spending (wasting?) my money. I’m not exactly a coffee snob– in fact, I’m totally happy with Dunkin’ or Starbucks– but I prefer going out to coffee to be a relaxing, sit-down experience. I like local spots, hidden gems, places with great ambiance and even better coffee. So, how do I pick where to go?

First of all, Yelp is my best friend. Overall ratings out of 5 are helpful for getting a general sense of a cafe’s general popularity and quality. Around a 4-star rating or higher pretty much guarantees I’ll have a good experience. I also like to be able to read through reviews for specific menu recommendations and other considerations.

Other factors that influence my decision include the parking situation, amenities like Wi-Fi and restrooms, and whether I can expect crowds. It all depends on what I’m looking for– a place to sit and do work, a fun brunch spot, a place with easy parking for a to-go order, etc. Obviously, priorities have shifted a bit towards good contactless pickup and online ordering since the pandemic struck, although I eagerly await safer sit-down dining in the future.

Once I take the time to look through Yelp, I usually make a short list in my phone of my top choices. Sometimes I’ll include a little bullet point to remind me why I chose that spot. Maybe the cafe is known for their pastries, is near my hotel or has a 5-star rating. That way, I have a convenient coffee bucket list for the area that I can quickly refer to and I don’t have to sink any more time into deciding once I arrive. 

Here’s an example of my coffee bucket list of Boston cafés I still want to visit.

  • Thinking Cup
  • Gracenote
  • Curio Coffee and Wine (Cambridge)
    • liege waffles
  • Jaho Coffee
    • Many flavor + milk options
  • Kohi Coffee Company
  • Ogawa Coffee
    • Cute latte art
  • Solid Ground Cafe 
    • 5 stars!

It can also be helpful to Google search for the “Best Coffee in ____” and click through lists that others have made for any given area. I am working on putting together a list of my favorite coffee in Massachusetts, and specifically the Boston area soon. And don’t forget about word of mouth!

I know there’s really not that much to it, but I hope this was helpful for fellow coffee lovers with decision paralysis.

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