It's not so unusual to find coffee shops decorated with the works of local artists, but at Voltage Coffee & Art, it's part of the name and part of the mission. Not even a year old, this Cambridge cafe/gallery has already made a name for itself in the bustling tech heart of Kendall Square.
The layout is a maze of white walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a mix of high tables and standard tables. Bright light and clean lines make it a perfect home for art exhibits - and not the timid landscapes and skylines you see in many coffee shops.
No, Voltage's art is as energetic as its name: bold colors, three-dimensional structures pushing off of the walls and into your face, and a modern aesthetic deserving of its spot amongst the fast-paced start-ups and research labs surrounding it. It keeps up, but it allows you to slow down as well - a perfect mid-day escape in Kendall, a neighborhood that can be almost overwhelming in its sheer volume of technology.
As expected, the artistry carries over to the drinks, particularly the selection of eleven "exotic-flavored" lattes and hot chocolates. The menu, itself a lovely example of striking graphic design, features tiny circular icons for each drink that the baristas use as notations to keep track of orders. For example, my current favorite, the midnight sun (hot chocolate with cinnamon and capsicum) is unsurprisingly represented by a sun icon. Other unique drink options include the paper plane latte (with cardamom rose water and honey) and the kitsch and the cactus latte (with lime peel and agave). On the food end, there's a variety of tea sandwiches, toast, and even fun snacks like "ants on a log." Hot drinks come with the requisite artsy foam, beautifully done.
Since it's a cafe above all, this isn't the type of gallery you'd visit just for the art; at least purchase a coffee if you'd like to browse. (It's not a hardship as every drink I've had here is rather good.) Since the attention is divided between the art and the coffee, It might not be worth a long trip purely as a gallery destination, but Voltage is definitely deserving of a visit - or many - if you live or work in the area. Come for the coffee; stay for the art.
Voltage Coffee & Art
295 3rd Street
Hours: Mon – Fri 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sat 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Sun Closed
Rachel Leah Blumenthal is a Somerville-based writer, photographer, and musician. She writes about food on her blog, Fork it over, Boston!, and runs Boston Food Bloggers, a networking community. For more information, visit RachelBlumenthal.net.
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