Arriving at Rita's Cafe (Brookline in Boston) arrived and entered, I noticed right away that this was one of those fairly generic coffee shops that are basically a Starbucks imitation plus a sandwich/wraps menu, but, in this case, with a few notable differences.
For one thing, they have eight flavors of ice cream (the usuals: mint chocolate chip, strawberry, cookies and cream, etc.). They had several pastries that were of the very generic sort, probably ordered in but also stuff you might as well buy at, say, a Wal-mart. I always wonder with sadness who buys these things at the cafe mark up. They also had some really great, decadent looking cakes and a tart, but those were also ordered in (I asked, just to make sure, though I was really already quite sure.).
I didn't want a whole wrap or sandwich and so, predictably, ordered one of the Mediterranean items in the bakery case that looked like they might have made it themselves.
|Za'atar with tomato slices, pickles, lettuce and sour cream|
I was happy that I was given tomatoes, lettuce, pickles and sour cream with my Za'atar on this nicely presented plate. There hadn't been a price listed, but it turned out to be $5, so it's a good thing they did give me those things, or else I would've felt quite gypped. The Za'atar itself was okay, but they cooked it too long. Other than that, it was pretty much the same at the Za'atar I once got at Sahadi's in Brooklyn, except at Sahadi's it was fresh and soft.
Their menu mentions some soups, and if I'd seen any evidence that they had a Hungarian Mushroom soup or even a Carrot Ginger soup, I would've ordered one of those. Those may only happen on occasion. Their website seems to be a little out of date anyway and definitely mentions more desserts than were on display.
The reason this place has gotten good ratings was clear from the get go. The people who work there are persistently friendly. When I walked in and was looking at the menu, I heard two people chatting behind me about how it was nice not to have people constantly in there on their laptops, as they are at most coffee shops. I'd assumed two patrons had struck up a conversation from across the cafe, but one of them turned out to be a woman worked there (and was either the owner or part owner). I think she might have been saying she's actually stopped having wi-fi available.
A mom with her two boys walked in, and the owner lady clearly knew her and remembered her kids, asking after them and exclaiming about how cute they are with some "My, how they've grown!"-ing for good measure. The owner's mom emerged from the restroom, which led to a conversation that was a delight to overhear.
"..and this one's Grayson."
"Oh! I have a niece named Grace! It's a beautiful name. Is Grayson a boy's name?"
"Well it's usually a last name... And I know a woman with a daughter named Grayson too."
After the mother and her kids left, the Greek lady took a phone call and spoke in Greek the whole time but kept saying, "Grayson" during the conversation. Oh, how I would've loved to have spoken Greek (or, really, whatever it was she was speaking; I'm just guessing with this whole Greek thing) to have know what she was saying! I can only assume she was really making fun of stilly white yuppies.
My americano was nice and large, but I don't think they really know their espresso here. For one thing, they got the water : espresso ratio wrong.
I looked at everyone's food there, which included a bagel with sausage, egg and cheese as well as several wraps, and there's nothing culinarily interesting or gourmet happening here. Basically, this is not the kind of place to which I'd want to go again, but if you want a simple, quiet little neighborhood cafe with some friendly service, you could do worse.
It seems that the norm here is to bring your plates and such up to the counter at the end, which is also when you pay. They also have a nice single occupant bathroom, which was clean, well stocked, and decorated with cute Lavazza coffee posters.