Monday, March 30, 2009

Day 4: Diesel Cafe & Kickass Cupcakes

Photo by Dan4th.

My camera battery died halfway through Sunday (3/22), so you'll have to excuse the jacked photos. I met up with my friends Aya and Renee at Diesel Cafe in Somerville, off the red line Davis Square stop. I'd heard about the hipster vibe but that didn't daunt me.

Framed abstract paintings of faces in watercolors and acrylics lined the walls, along with geometric prints and images of foliage and flowers. The cafe is a lot more spacious when you step inside. Nine to ten booths stretched out into oblivion (or what seemed like it), but each one was occupied by focused folks speedtyping away on their laptops, their caffeine fix (ahem, "friend") next to them.

From my high stool, my peripheral vision took in two Asian chicks playing pool, a vintage Mobil regulator and a busted photo booth. An old man wearing a grey newsboy, royal blue cardigan and a plaid shirt stood guard in front of the photo booth, arms akimbo, right arm lightly resting on his cane and an unswerving gaze to the right (cash counter). That's when I noticed his chunky silver chain. Grandpa's a true G!

A bright red stop sign in French ("Arret") next to the "Employees Only" swinging door arrested my attention. Diesel Cafe was super crowded and bustling with noise, but a good kind of noise.

My grub.

The counter person served up my Vietnamese iced coffee and sausage, egg & cheese sandwich with a chipper tone and a wide smile. This is the best Viet iced coffee I've had in a cafe -- bar none. Though Renee found it "too smoky" for her liking, I downed the entire thing. Not too sweet like those boba drinks, with just the right strength to keep me awake but not in zombie mode.

A mix-up in my order resulted in me lugging back an extra Vietnamese coffee. If I had downed both of them, I would have been a jittery mess. One thing's for sure: Diesel doesn't shortchange you. The size small coffee is easily the equivalent of a Grande at Starbucks (take that!). Starbucks, incidentally, is right across the street. If you're not a coffee person, Diesel also sells croissants, muffins, bagels, sandwiches, non-caffeinated tea and chocolate.

The cafe wasn't as "lesbo" as the reviews hinted. I didn't get any chicks hitting on me this time, so I was a happy camper.

Aya chowing down.

So was Aya. That huge Italian thing of pastrami, ham, cheese and fixins' sure looked scrumptious. And required additional maneuvering in the chomping department. Some random bits of lettuce and honey mustard flew across the table. Whoops! Aya also bought some Taza Chocolate here and shared some with me. Renee, sadly, is allergic to chocolate, so she had to pass on this one.

Tazo Chocolate Mexicano is stone ground, organic and locally produced in Somerville. We sampled two flavors: Vanilla and Guajillo Chili. The chocolate was nutty and crunchy with sugar flecks (cane sugar) aplenty. Since I prefer dark chocolate, I liked the bitter undertone.

Photo by Nodame.

Before I parted ways with my buddies, we walked a couple blocks down to Kickass Cupcakes. A more fitting name for this bakery would be "Kicking to Stay Afloat" -- hardly kickass.

Photo by fromourruins.

I asked the counter lady what the special of the day was and she suggested the Mojito Cupcake ($2.75). I gladly obliged. The cupcake's cream cheese filling gave it a moist sheen. While I thought the frosting was overly sugared up (See those sugar crystals? Pumped it up three notches above the normal sweetness level), I would be content just chomping on the cake part. Although the rum factor initially drew me in, it was toned down in the actual cupcake. I didn't even taste a hint of rum. Disappointment.

OK, so I wasn't expecting J.P. Licks-like rum raisin ice cream, but still... The cake's texture was too crumbly and hollow. I've tasted more heartier cupcakes. Though the gimmicky store name was worth a shot, I probably wouldn't go again.

Diesel Cafe - 4.5 out of 5 stars. Kickass Vietnamese coffee, bombdiggity sandwiches and lots of people-watching character to boot. You do have to pounce on a table, though.

Kickass Cupcakes - 3 out of 5 stars. I'm being generous here: The cream cheese filling saved this otherwise too-sweet-I'm-parsing-my-lips cupcake from being a complete flop. I'm just glad I didn't spend more than $2.75 on this one.

Diesel Cafe
257 Elm St
Somerville, MA 02144

Kickass Cupcakes

378 Highland Ave
Somerville, MA 02144

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