It’s time to wrap up this series on Boston coffee with the new kid on the block.
Pavement Coffeehouse sits in Boston’s Back Bay, just a few blocks from Espresso Royale Caffe’s three locations. In fact, Pavement is the fourth cafe in this mini-chain that is no longer affiliated with the larger, Midwestern Espresso Royale Caffe. Boston’s ERC has teamed up with Barismo and Atomic Coffee (the one in Worcester and not the one in New Zealand) to provide top quality coffees in nicely located, but somewhat traditionally operated coffeehouse environments. I haven’t reviewed any of ERC’s locations, but my limited investigation found that they pull shots of Barismo espressos from Synesso machines and brew Atomic coffee in Fetco brewers.
It seems that Pavement represents version 2.0 of ERC. It ups the ante with interior design set to rival the country’s hipper cafes. The interior is enormous. My guess is that most of Barismo might fit behind Pavement’s bar. Fortunately, someone has given some thought to the style that should go with that substance. There’s plenty of exposed brick, pressed tin, woven ceiling tiles, and sparkly silver vinyl-clad booths to settle into once you’ve braved the long line for coffee. Rumor has it that if this project goes well, you might even see Boston’s three ERC’s changing their name to Pavement too.
Just as important, though, is what they’ve done behind that bar. Pavement offers the traditional ERC menu with Fetco-brewed Atomic coffee and and Barismo espresso drink choices. They’ve added a selection of hot and cold sandwiches. And at the other end from where you pay is where the baristas pull espresso shots on La Marzocco GB/5 and prepare brew-to-order coffees from a frequently rotating guest roaster. This “slow bar” finds uber-hip baristas doing side-arm pours from their Bueno kettles into Hario V60 cones. They also may offer single origin espresso options, depending on that week’s guest roaster. I can’t tell if this “slow bar” is merely clever marketing and a somewhat arbitrary distinction from the rest of the bar, or something slightly pretentious that Todd Carmichael might have a heyday with. Either way, I’m not going to argue too loudly since they seem to be preparing impeccable coffee.
On my visit, I ordered a shot of Barismo’s Sonata 2 espresso, which produced a clean and syrupy shot with golden brown crema that had thinned out by the time I found a table. It was sweeter and had a more juicy, wine-like quality than did the shot I had at Hi-Rise. This much more berry-centric espresso blend was very good but the shot had the slightest off aftertaste and just wasn’t as much a favored profile of mine as was the Sonata 4. (4-)
The real coup for Pavement was my Hario-brewed cup of Ecco Caffe’s El Salvador Matalapa Pino. Wow! I only regret not buying a bag when I had the chance since Ecco quickly ran out after my visit. This coffee was full of pistachio with a buttery, round body and a just the touch of a caramelized edge. I won’t go on since you can’t even get this coffee again, but it was really fantastic. (4)
I don’t know if Pavement will be able to repeat this performance with the handful of coffees they are pushing through the slow bar each week, but if they do even half as well as they did with the Pino, things are looking good for Boston coffee (even if they had to rely on a west coast roaster to make it happen, ahem!). Then again, just when I thought I had a handle on Boston’s coffee scene and could settle down a bit, rumors like this tweet comes along. Looks like even bigger changes are on the way.