Neighborhoods: Coffee and Crepes with a Conscience
Tucked away on Peterborough Street’s delicious Restaurant Row is a quiet family-run Parisian-style café that’s quickly become a vibrant part of The Fenway community.
Since 2012, Neighborhoods Café has been the local buzz for coffee lovers in the know. It’s a bastion of calm, steps away from the busier heart of The Fenway. The kind of place where you can relax and chat with friends over a cappuccino and their famous crepes (savory and sweet – sometimes simultaneously!), or hide away with a laptop sipping a pour-over coffee on their picturesque patio.
Neighborhoods Café is a labor of love, owner Betsy Hill explains, made possible by collaboration with friends and strong support from neighborhood regulars. Just 3 years ago, it was a vacant burned-out storefront abandoned in the middle of the block until Betsy started dreaming of opening her own coffee shop.
“I would play across the street with my kids, wondering why on earth someone wasn’t putting in a good coffee shop there,” Betsy said. “And nobody did it. I tried to get a bunch of my friends interested and one day I was like ‘I should just do it!’”
The fantasy of the perfect neighborhood café percolated in her mind as she pitched the idea to her friends. After convincing her friend Charlotte Mosinki to manage the business affairs, the dream swiftly moved forward to become a reality. She began drafting up plans with her interior designer friend Stephanie Sabbe, imagining of what they could do with the space while their kids played in her living room.
The result is an authentic neighborhood café with a beautiful modern-meets-vintage interior of blonde wood, fleur-toile wallpaper and chic white tile, built on the strong foundation of sustainability and community. The baristas are free to experiment and invent new coffee creations, the crépiers and bakers come up with new recipes based on what’s in season and the ethos of sustainability is the spirit of the café, from locally sourced organic produce and cheese to fair-trade coffee and tea.
“We want to benefit each person in the process,” Betsy said. “From the grower to the consumer—including the environment—we care about each step of the way."
The coffee beans are supplied by George Howell, a pioneer of the fair-trade coffee and artisan roasting movement in the 1970s.
“He is an amazing man. He was one of the first roasters who cared about where the bean came from,” Betsy said. “Their coffee is just so good and they’re local.”
Among Betsy’s favorite coffee drinks are the single-cup pour overs, affogatos with the espresso over ice cream and a Neighborhood staffer’s own invention “The Bee Stinger” – espresso with honey, cinnamon, nutmeg and steamed milk. The crepes are also a delectably eclectic favorite with savory and sweet combinations like “The Billy” – goat cheese, arugula, tomato, walnuts, cranberries with a drizzle of balsamic or honey.
“When you watch people with each other, laughing about something…or they look a little groggy and they sit down to eat and by the time they’re done, they look refreshed,” Betsy said. “If we weren’t here, they might be having this interaction somewhere else. But to know that you’ve made a space where people can have a human connection with someone else that brings them joy, it’s an incredible feeling.”
If you visit Restaurant Row, stop by and say hi to Betsy at the Neighborhoods Café located at 96 Peterborough Street, The Fenway, Boston.