Upscale casual with macarons and opera cakes. Yes, opera cakes
WORDS + PHOTOS BY MARC HURWITZ @HIDDENBOSTON
One of the most interesting neighborhoods in Boston, and one that is often overlooked by newcomers and visitors, is the city’s South End, where you’ll find fascinating architecture, peaceful little parks, streets that look like something right out of London, and lots of shops, restaurants, and bars. And the SoWa subsection of the South End has been even lesser-known in some ways, as it is mostly a former industrial area with huge warehouses and other old structures, many of which have been renovated into office, residential, and retail space.
Due in part to the many warehouses there, SoWa has attracted a lot of artists, which in turn has brought in related businesses such as interior design and furniture spots, including a now-closed showroom store called Mohr & McPherson, a home goods boutique with global influences that also was home to a casual cafe. While that business is now gone (an existing location can be found in Middleton, by the way), a new luxury furniture design company called Modern Relik opened a showroom basically across the street from the Mohr & McPherson space a few weeks ago, and it, too, is home to a cafe and coffee bar, though one that has a decidedly different feel to it.
Modern Relik’s space on Harrison Avenue is an absolutely gorgeous one, with a variety of vintage and modern home furnishings shown throughout its quiet, elegant space. The Mod Espresso cafe is located in the front just to the right of the entrance, and it feels more incorporated into the space than that of the old Mohr & McPherson cafe, which was situated under the main part of the showroom and was more of a grab-and-go type spot, including for people visiting the adjacent SoWa Open Market.
Mod Espresso has a more upscale (though casual) vibe than that cafe as well, as it is more of a place to linger—and the attractive tables and chairs set up within the cafe help give it a bit of a connectedness to the showroom itself. A few window tables are situated to the right of the ordering counter, while more seating options can be found a bit farther in, and display shelves by the counter show some of the offerings including from local businesses (more on this in a bit).
You might expect from the name that Mod Espresso focuses at least in part on coffee drinks, and you’d be right; shots of espresso are indeed offered here along with cups of La Colombe coffee—and a number of tea options including a hearty English tea and a freshly made iced tea can be ordered as well. The cafe is still settling in, so the food (and drink) menu could eventually expand, but for now, such options as macarons, croissants, canneles (small cylindrical pastries with a caramelized exterior), kouign-amann (super-rich pastries made with lots of butter, and with the first word pronounced like “queen”), tarts, pretzels, opera cakes (little layer cakes with rich coffee and chocolate flavors), peanut butter cups, and more.
Prepackaged items at Mod Espresso include packages of goodies from such local businesses as EHChocolatier, Praliné, and Fastachi, and other local companies such as Eastern Standard Provisions and Toscanini’s have their products sold here, too. In general, prices aren’t all that bad for what is basically a higher-end eatery, as long as you don’t go overboard on buying pastries and baked goods (which is easy to do, as the ones tried here on a recent visit—including the aforementioned macarons, canneles, and kouign-amann—tend to be excellent).
The SoWa section of Boston’s South End wasn’t always a destination spot, but it sure is one now—at least for those in the know—and with the opening of Modern Relik and the Mod Espresso cafe, there is one more reason (or maybe two more) to check out this funky little neighborhood. The Mohr & McPherson cafe is certainly missed, as is its showroom, but based on early impressions, this new shop and coffee bar could take up the slack and then some for people looking for a bit of home decor to go with their cups of coffee.
MOD ESPRESSO. 485 HARRISON AVE., BOSTON. MODERNRELIK.COM