Restaurant Review | Diesel Cafe provides unique dining experience
Relaxed ambiance, quality menu justifies pricier drinks
Published: Friday, October 11, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 11, 2013 08:10
“Diesel is a foolish story with a happy ending. It is a love story, not the typical kind necessarily, but every bit as epic.” This phrase, on Diesel’s website, essentially sums up how the owners feel about their establishment. Diesel was founded by best friends Jennifer Park and Tucker Lewis in 1999. Though initially many doubted the duo’s vision of opening a quaint, hip coffee shop on bustling Elm Street in Davis Square, the eatery managed to defy odds. Fourteen years later, it is difficult to find a table on a Sunday at 10 a.m. — a testament to Diesel’s success and longevity.
At the front of the cafe is a smorgasbord of pastries that catches the eye. Other appealing choices are also listed on a giant menu, which is written entirely in chalk and complete with cute cartoon drawings. A broad assortment of brunch choices, ranging from bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches to tofu and edamame salads, gives patrons a wide range of options from which to choose. In contrast, the main drink menu (there is also a very small specialty drinks section) contains exactly 19 beverages, 10 of which are coffee-based. This narrower selection, however, ensures a high level of quality — the Diesel baristas know exactly what they’re doing. Indeed, the ever-crowded area around the drink-preparation-station is a constant confirmation of customer satisfaction.
And the coffee is top notch. While $4.00 is rather expensive for a small mocha latte, part of the price pays for the Diesel experience. Most of the drinks ordered in-house are served in customized Diesel cafe mugs. Each is dark navy emblazoned with Diesel’s quirky logo — a pink monkey holding onto a spaceship. Conversation flows easily throughout the cafe — even among strangers sitting next to each other. Here, nothing feels particularly rushed. And who doesn’t like that?
Although many orders are made to go, the welcoming ambiance of the cafe encourages customers to bring their laptops and stay a while. It is important to note, however, that Diesel’s wifi is not free and can cost $4.95 for an hour, though monthly subscriptions exist for frequent visitors. Winding through the L-shaped floor plan in search of a seat — it is just as challenging to find a table at Diesel as it is to find one in Dewick at lunchtime. Visitors pass dark grey walls decorated in framed paper art. These displays feature designs ranging from bonsai trees to bold text declaring, “Treat Yo Self.” Three stools face the counter and the blood-red booths lining the walls create a retro, throwback atmosphere. Antiquated Mobil furniture and a photo booth only add to this vintage aura. Behind the sugar and silverware station, two pool tables take up the majority of the square footage, inviting kids and adults alike to engage in a game or two. The contrast of the cool-toned walls with the burgundy and wood accents lends a cozy, yet detached air to the coffee shop. The space contains an excessive number of wooden block tables that seat exactly two (clearly a very couple-oriented spot) and benches cover the back corner. Stairs lead to a metal loft, which provides a small amount of additional space. But perhaps the most interesting decoration in the building is the giant mural of a blueprint-like sketch of a diesel engine, accompanied by a brief history of the machine.
If you want a coffee experience, Diesel is well worth your money. The lively and off-beat atmosphere puts a twist on caffeine culture, ensuring that both loyal and new customers will love Diesel’s concept as much as the cafe’s founders hoped they would.