A few blocks away from Inman Square, at the corner of Cambridge and Elm, Bom Café stands out amid a crowded food scene. Bright yellow paint and colorful artwork cover the interior walls, alluding to the restaurant’s upbeat vibe. Loud, celebratory music turns every breakfast and lunch into a party. The display on the counter is filled with cans of Guaraná, the popular Brazilian soft drink. Behind the display, a hip, older gentleman in a fedora and fashionable eyeglasses takes orders. The restaurant’s name promises a pleasant food experience — after all, “bom” translates to “good” from Portuguese.
The restaurant offers an enticing range of breakfast and lunch options. Omelets and subs — like “the linguiça” with sausage, caramelized onions and peppers served on a buttery, toasted roll — constitute the heartier dishes. Lighter options include a variety of pastries and beverages. After ordering at the counter, only a few minutes pass before a waitress who also works in the kitchen brings out an açaí bowl, signals for me to extend my arm and places the bowl in my hand instead of on the table. Her smile is kind and adds to the warm, welcoming atmosphere of Bom Café.
The açaí bowl arrives adorned with three pieces of strawberry lined along the middle, while four slices of banana are placed in opposite quadrants of the bowl. The fruit rest atop a bed of granola. It is a crispy mixture of small oats and several types of seeds, but it lacks an expected crunch without larger clusters. The textural flaw, however, may be overcome by the granola’s delicately sweetened flavor, allowing the true essence of its constituent parts to present themselves without being overpowered by excessive amounts of sugar. This subtlety of the granola is essential because the star of the açaí bowl — namely, the frozen and mashed açaí mixture — hides just beneath.
The açaí mixture is a deep maroon with purple undertones. The consistency is reminiscent of a sorbet but with the softness of a yogurt. A perfect spoon includes all components of the bowl — the açaí, the granola and a piece of fruit. Unfortunately, there is far too much açaí mixture and not enough granola and fruit to get enough perfect bites. Still, it is a peculiar and pleasant experience to eat something that is simultaneously refreshing and so rich. The flavor of the açaí berry or pulp, however, is disappointingly restrained by an overpowering taste of frozen banana in the açaí mixture. Despite this, the açaí bowl is sweet and delicious by any standard. To warm up before heading back outside, Bom Café offers a great coffee menu. The latte is delightful, and their popular pao de queijo, a delicious ball of cheesy bread, provides a much needed savory bite after a sweet açaí bowl.
It is unreasonable to expect Bom Café to perfectly replicate the açaí bowl experience of Brazil or its Southern Californian interpretations. After all, Boston usually lacks the pleasant pace of life and the sun required to enjoy this cold treat. But with a bit of imagination, Bom Café’s açaí bowls provide a great temporary escape from Boston’s capricious climate.
Bom Café is located at 1093 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, Mass. 02139. They can be reached by phone at (617) 864-0395 or on their Facebook page. It is open Monday through Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.