Fine Java and a Whole Lot More

Stay warm this winter at the area’s newest cafés

The classy bar at S.P.Q.R.

This winter, stay warm at these fun and tasteful additions to the Worcester area’s cafe scene. Pull up a chair (or bar stool or couch) at any of these cafes and enjoy a fine cup of java — and don’t miss their delectable desserts and savory meals.

Billy Goat Beanery

895 Millbury Street, Worcester
(508) 421-GOAT

Formerly home to the Quinsigamond Baptist Church, this restored clapboard building now houses café tables instead of pews and a coffee roaster instead of a pulpit. The Billy Goat Beanery in Quinsigimound Village has turned a charming historic structure into a hip local hangout.

The inside of the café is dominated by open space, with two large rooms for dining. The capacious space, hard wood floors, wooden tables and chairs make it impossible to characterize Billy Goat as a “cozy” café. But it can be lively, especially on Tuesday nights when the Frantic Rabbit poetry series takes place.

Coffee is roasted daily in-house at The Billy Goat. “America the Beautiful” was the bold coffee of the day when I visited the café. For something lighter, try the soothing cinnamon, clove and cardamom flavors of the Chai Latte.

But don’t just stop by for a drink. The Billy Goat offers a large selection of soups, sandwiches and salads, including many vegetarian items. Billy Goat’s menu features well-conceived combinations of specialty items such as pancetta, fresh baby greens, sun-dried tomato pesto and goat cheese. Sandwiches are served with potato chips and a pickle on a parchment-lined plate, reminiscent of a New York City deli.

Menu items range from six to eight dollars — reasonable prices considering the gourmet ingredients. For example, the Pork Loin Rosemarino (marinated pork, roasted garlic mayo, balsamic onions and asiago cheese on grilled rosemary foccacia) is only $6.99.

The Billy Goat Beanery is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

S.P.Q.R., An Italian Caffé

82 Winter Street, Worcester
(508) 797-1011

For an upscale version of coffee and dessert, try the stylish S.P.Q.R., an Italian caffé. Gracious waiters in white dinner jackets, tuxedo shirts and black silk ties seat you at a small table up front or in the back lounge. In this restored mill building, the combination of industrial exposed brick and classic elegance, as seen in the rustic hard wood floors, create a classy, hip venue.

S.P.Q.R. keeps what most would consider bar hours, but it is unique in that it is both bar and caffé. Choose from an extensive list of mixed drinks ($5.00 to $6.95) and wines (from $7.00). To truly blend the caffé and bar experience, try one of the Espressotinis. The S.P.Q.Rtini combines iced espresso, Baileys, Frangelico and Kahluah for a creamy version of a martini with a toasted coffee flavor.

For a little something to eat, order a cheese plate ($8.95, serves two people), featuring cheeses from around the world, artisanal bread, crackers, tapenade and fruit. The goat cheese was drizzled with honey and the fresh mozzarella went well with a dollop of pesto.

The true test of an Italian eatery is if it can pull off one of the most traditional, but easily bludgeoned Italian desserts, Tiramisu. I was pleasantly surprised with S.P.Q.R.’s. The slice was tall and thin, and the buttery ladyfingers were just moistened with liquor. What made S.P.Q.R’s Tiramisu stand out most was the marscapone. Instead of being sweetened beyond recognition, the savory flavors of the cheese were still detectable. The balance of sweet and savory made for a complex dessert that was hard to resist.

S.P.Q.R offers a straightforward coffee selection. You can have an espresso, cappuccino, latte, mocha or a house blend. The only shot you can add to your coffee at S.P.Q.R is an alcoholic one in the form of Sambucca, Irish Whisky, Grand Marnier or Tia Maria. Forget “French Vanilla,” this is what International coffee is all about.

S.P.Q.R., an Italian caffé is open Tuesday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.

Café on the Common

1 Grafton Center, Grafton
(508) 839-7447

It’s always tea-time at Café on the Common in Grafton. Like a tea party out of Alice in Wonderland, the décor at Café on the Common is delightfully irreverent. Our tablecloth blossomed with pink daisies, while our checked, striped and paisley napkins sat in front of four distinctly different chairs. Each table was equally mismatched, the only uniform theme of the café being flowers.

Pick anything off the menu and you will get a sensational combination of fresh homemade ingredients. English muffin melts ($6.95) were served on oversized sourdough muffins topped with your choice of mushroom, artichoke or seafood salad. The whole pieces of artichoke heart were smothered with cheese and baked a crusty brown.

The savory cheddar dill scones were buttery on the inside, crusty on the outside and made a perfect snack with tea.

Make sure to end tea-time on a sweet note. Any of the homemade desserts ($4.95), including exotic Chocolate Lavender Cake with a scoop of spicy Pumpkin Ice Cream, White Chocolate and Brown Sugar Bread Pudding or piping hot Caramel Apple Crisp, will do the trick.

Whatever you order at this quaint café, you will go home with a full belly and a warm heart.

Café on the Common is open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.