Cambridge, MA: Area Four Café for a Great Breakfast Sandwich and Baked Goods
Though it sounds more like a destination for flying saucers than one for earthlings in search of a good meal, Area Four is in fact a new restaurant in Kendall Square, just a stone's throw from the MIT campus. (The odd moniker refers to the city-designated zoning section in which it resides.)
At lunch and dinnertime, the back of the modern, laboratory-inspired space houses a pizza-focused bar and restaurant (expect a pizza rundown over at Slice soon) but those in search of an early morning pastry and a cup of joe or a midday meal should check out the cozy café situated up front.
The pastries and breads are great. The croissants—filled or otherwise—are light, buttery, and flaky as hell, and the cinnamon pecan sticky buns are gooey wonders. You can trust what comes out of pastry chef Katie Kimble's oven, but there are two items you definitely don't want to miss: the breakfast sandwich and the craquelin.
It seems everybody is trying to do a good breakfast sandwich nowadays (which makes us pretty happy) but Area Four's is especially McGood. The brioche-like, homemade English muffin, buttery and soft, encases scrambled eggs and a slab of housemade maple-sage sausage—pork courtesy of Lucki 7 Farm—and it's tangy, salty, and just a touch sweet. It's under a blanket of oozy sharp cheddar cheese. Calorie-bomb? Let's just say this probably won't appeal to the marathoners-in-training who seem to gather at Area Four on weekend mornings, but don't let that stop you from ordering one.
The other must-order on the menu at Area Four is the craquelin, a rarely-seen sweet bun of Belgian and Dutch origin. It's little more than a cloud of brioche dough wrapped around a few sugar cubes, but in Kimble's hands, it becomes well more than the sum of its parts. The brioche dough is soft, buttery, and impossibly airy, and the homemade orange-zest scented brown-sugar sugarcubes see another round of caramelization where they erupt from the top of the bun, lava-like.
The coffee at Area Four is another draw. The house brew comes from the in-state phenom Barrington Coffee Roasting Company, while made-to-order options such as pour-overs and espresso are sourced from a rotating roster of "guest" roasters such as Barismo, Stumptown, and Common Grounds.