Where to Roust Cafe on Mt. Auburn Street in Harvard Square.
Why To see what was going on in the former Darwin’s Ltd., a fixture since 1993.
The backstory Late last year, Darwin’s Ltd. owners Steven and Isabel Darwin closed their four Cambridge coffee and sandwich shops as workers voted to unionize. (There is an initiative by some former staffers to open a worker-owned cafe; they operate as the Circus Cooperative Cafe Crew on GoFundMe.) In February, the original Harvard Square location became Roust, owned by Valentin Hefco, who also owns Tokava in Jamaica Plain (drinks only). Roust’s manager is Mike Spires, who was the general manager when the space was Darwin’s. Where the old spot always seemed a little jammed and harried, Roust is more laid-back. Hefco and Spires are rolling it out slowly. The right-hand side of the storefront has 19 seats; as the weather warms, there will be more out front. The other has groceries, prepared foods, and eventually wine and beer when the license is transferred. Roust is “an invented name,” says Hefco. “I wanted to have a name of my own. I imagine that this name is to invite everyone in the morning for a cup of coffee and a bagel and a sandwich. Roust you out of bed with a cup of coffee.”
What to eat Pick a sandwich, all named for geographic locations in the area, and you’ll be delighted. Breads come from Iggy’s and Nashoba Brook. On the breakfast list, the Harvard Yard starts with toasted sourdough, and holds two eggs, bacon, cheddar, and avocado. Honestly, it’s enough for two, as are most of the choices. The Inman is built on seven-grain bread with eggs, red peppers, cheddar, and tomato. Lunch sandwiches include Darwin’s Mt. Auburn, the only combination exactly as it was before: turkey, Swiss, avocado, tomato, lettuce, mayo, and vinaigrette on sourdough. A delicious messy affair. The Highland stacks ham with pear, pickled onions, and arugula on toasted grainy bread. Hefco is smart to keep the menu short. Everything is nicely made, very satisfying.
What to drink Broadsheet Coffee Roasters, based in Cambridge, and MEM tea, of Somerville, is mostly what you’re sipping. Roust takes the same care with your drink that they do with your food, so your order is exactly the way you want it.
The takeaway This is a very friendly place that immediately makes you feel welcome. You know how you walk into a shop somewhere to order something and you’re wondering what mood the staff is in today? At Roust, there’s no wondering. They want to please you and they succeed at it and you’ll want to return often. 148 Mt. Auburn St., Harvard Square, Cambridge, 617-354-5233. (Drinks $3.50-$6. Sandwiches $1.50-$14.50.)
Sheryl Julian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.