On the Cheap: Bom Café (Boston Phoenix)
Bom Café is a neighborhood gem: unique, heartspun food served warmly by its makers in an inviting setting. This is good news for the frugal diner still clutching the hope of excitement on a dime. In its sunny Inman Square corner, this Brazilian café serves breakfast, lunch, and assorted sweets. Its goldenrod walls, burlap-under-glass tables, and languorous pothos vines impart a transportive quality.
For breakfast, load up an omelet with three items from a list of accoutrements; for example, diced tomato, mild stretchy cheese, and tangy bites of palmito (hearts of palm) in fluffy folded scrambled egg. Scoop that onto toasted French bread, or stick with the included side of yucca home fries, chewy hunks of the creamy root. At $6.95, it's a delicious and ample breakfast. A linguiça sub ($6.95) is simple and satisfying: a pressed, split loaf stuffed with layers of grilled pepper, onion, and blackened, griddled linguiça roulettes. Giant, chewy pao de queijo ($1.50) are worth the trip alone. These warm cheese buns combine the best elements of a popover and a gougère (do either possess a downside?) with delicate flaking on top, chewy dough that pulls apart seductively, and a toasted-cheese-speckled bottom. I'd consider this a desert-island food.
By peering over the counter into a prep area, Bom's proprietor can be seen patting tart shells into pans; the many homemade desserts here are exceptional. A slice of wafer-thin cake spiraling around cranberry paste is $3. From the case, a trio of coconut-scented confections: an eggy tart in pie crust, a gooey coconut cream spilling over its flaky pastry cup, and a dense cakey macaroon (each $1.50). A perfumed cup of green papaya preserves is a floral green jelly flecked with shredded coconut ($2). Bolo de cenoura, carrot cake with a citrus zing, comes cradled in a layer of chocolate ($3.50). An apple-and-cranberry cake's chewy exterior, stacked with sliced fruit, gives way to a soft crumb ($3.75). The passion-fruit-and-coconut tart ($3.50) is spangled with the surprising crunch of black passion-fruit seeds. Little baggies of vanilla-laced polenta cookies contain star-shaped bites of grainy crumble ($1.50). Fresh juices are made to order: a cascade of fresh berries became my blueberry-and-cashew juice ($4), which paired berry brightness with the fatty richness of nuts. The iced coffee ($2.25) isn't the strongest, but laced with whole milk, it's a cool complement to all those sweets.