The Boston Public Library has a new cafe. Sidewalk-to-ceiling windows put Newsfeed, opened Sept. 30, right in the thick of things in Copley Square. Life on Boylston Street unspools in full view as you sit down for coffee and a bite with the book you’ve borrowed.
Newsfeed’s menu feels similarly in-the-moment. Of course there are cold-brew coffee and fancy ginger, cream, and fruit sodas from a local bottler, Harmony Springs. What better to serve alongside salad “shakers” that come in plastic jars, small plates of puffy Gruyere-infused gougeres, and dinner-size mushroom or fig-blue cheese flatbread pizzas? Truly revolutionary, though, is the new rule allowing patrons to take drinks and food into certain parts of the library itself.
If you’ve brought kids to visit the children’s collection upstairs, pep them up afterward with warm pretzels and cheese or creamy Sriracha dip, or rice crispy treats and glasses of milk. Or bring the whole book club, stake out a space at a big booth, and debate your reading list over muffins and coffee. Newsfeed is run by longtime library partner the Catered Affair.
Housed in the significantly made-over Johnson building, the cafe is also home to a new WGBH radio and TV satellite studio. Several news tickers blast headlines, and bright lights and fuzzy microphones jutting up on angled stands dominate Newsfeed’s corner at Exeter Street, which from 1972 until very recently was closed off from the street behind stone slabs and tinted glass. Radio, television, and podcast reporters and producers will work in the space, and broadcasts from the library began on the cafe’s opening day.
The cafe opens when the library does, at 9 a.m. (1 p.m. on Sundays), and stays open until 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday and until 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Of course there’s WiFi available — just log in to the library network.
When it comes to cafes and culture, Newsfeed is far from alone. Several of the Boston area’s other landmark institutions have similarly welcoming casual eateries.
Taste, the coffee shop and wine bar on the first floor of the Museum of Fine Art’s Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art, has a lively vibe and a new menu from museum executive chef Brian Flagg. Set right outside a glass-walled room where birthday parties and flower-arranging classes are held and alongside the main bookstore, it is a good spot for people watching with your coffee or lunch.
Along with cookies, espresso drinks, and a selection of wines by the glass, there are new menu items such as baby kale salad with quinoa and roasted carrots, and sandwich specials including smoked salmon with caper dill yogurt on dark rye baguette. You can also keep it simple with coffee and a slice of chocolate cake.
Either way, you’re likeliest to snag a green-cushioned Harry Bertoia Diamond chair — that gorgeous, comfortable example of midcentury modern design — before noon or after 2 p.m. Visitors must pay museum admission, and members get a 15 percent discount on their cafe checks.
At the Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge, Jenny’s Cafe is a pretty little space with just a few tall chairs and tables tucked off the lofty Calderwood Courtyard.
More fun than sitting in the cafe itself, though, is to take your latte, curried chicken salad wrap, roast beef sandwich, or seasonal fruit tart and espresso — also the work of the Catered Affair — and claim a table in the courtyard itself. From there, you can watch your fellow museum visitors come inside and marvel at the enormous Carlos Amorales mobile, commissioned for the space by Harvard, under the skylights.
When the weather cooperates, visitors to the just-reopened Davis Museum at Wellesley College — a major makeover was unveiled Sept. 28 — can enjoy patio seating at Collins Cafe, which is open weekdays during the school year for breakfast and lunch.
Robust salads are built around fashionably healthful kale, lentils, avocado, and quinoa, and stuffed sandwiches (coleslaw on the barbecue pork, plenty of avocado on the turkey) come with good homemade chips. You’ll also find coffee and cookies from the campus bakery, and the prices are student-friendly.
Newsfeed Cafe, Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston St., 617-859-2251, www.the
cateredaffair.com/bpl/newsfeed-cafe. Taste, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, 617-267-9300, www.mfa.org. Jenny’s Cafe, Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy St., Cambridge, 617-495-9400, www.harvardartmuseums.org. Collins Cafe, Davis Museum at Wellesley College, 106 Central St., Wellesley, 781-283-2051, www.wellesleyfresh.com.