Travel may broaden the mind but caffeine expands it. Salem has no shortage of “coffee shops” that are really lunch counters where the brew is–at best–an afterthought. The Witch City is rich in excellent bakeries (to be covered in another post) serving bismarcks, macarons, gluten free cupcakes, fresh bread, and croissants. All will sell you a cup of joe. Some are even quite good. This post is not about those places. This post is about establishments that are dedicated first and foremost to coffee and tea:
Front Street Coffee House 20 Front Street, Salem, MA 01970
Still the coolest coffee house north of Boston after nineteen years. Chris and Brenda Silva’s temple to the leaf and the bean is also the closest to the MBTA station. Tucked behind Essex Street adjacent to Old Town Hall and Derby Square, this stretch of Front Street is worth a visit for the architecture alone. What appears at first to be one long building is actually two historic structures and a very clever imposter. At the east end touching the square is the Federal Pickman Building, with its gable end fan light, arched windows and doors, dentil cornice and Flemish bond brickwork dating from 1816, now housing Maria’s Sweet Somethings and Avalanche. At the other end of the block is the 1844 Henfield Building. The space occupied by Front Street Coffee and neighbor B. F. Goodstitch actually dates from 1972 when architect James Ballou restored both buildings and designed this elegant connector.
The coffee at Front Street is as satisfying as the environment. Try the Big Kahuna or sample the extensive selection of loose leaf tea. Fresh fruit is juiced to order and the hearty sandwiches make an excellent lunch break. Don’t miss the changing installations of work by local artists–much of it for sale.
This outpost of the Boston standby is located right next to Derby Wharf and the Maritime National Historic Site. The location is tough to beat. It’s steps to the Customs House where Nathaniel Hawthorne worked while writing The Scarlet Letter and you can take your cup of joe for a long walk out to the lighthouse at the end of the wharf or to the period garden behind the Derby House. The menu is extensive with lots of drinks not found elsewhere in Salem (red velvet lattes, cold brewed coffee and bubble tea). Open later than Front Street, this is the place to come when you need a fix after 7pm.
A relative newcomer to the area Derby Joe is a tiny gem of a coffee house. It’s the closest cup of joe to House of the Seven Gables and the last serious coffee house on the way to the Salem Willows. The interior is light, bright, and cheerful, they have a terrific selection of MEM teas and even a selection of gluten free pastry.
Find a great new coffee spot? Share it in the comments!