This year, we launched a spotlight series focused on local foods, because no one should need to search far for good food. We started with a quintessential breakfast staple (bagels), and we then moved to a food item that’s perfect for lunch or dinner on the go (burritos). Today, we’re taking the only logical next step and focusing on desserts. We scoured coffee shops and bakeries in the immediate Newton area surrounding the BC Law campus to determine which one is the best of the best.
Travis Salters and I traveled to six different locations for donuts, cupcakes, tarts, and more. Depending on the breadth of each place’s menu, we opted for one to two treats per stop. Several days later, we have emerged from our sugar comas and are ready to share our results. Whether you’re looking for some goodies for a graduation party or are just treating yourself after a busy year in law school, these are some options to consider.
Tatte Bakery & Cafe
Our first stop of the day was Tatte, which is a Newton staple (but can be found all over Boston). Any time of day you can find students here getting coffee, having lunch, or studying with headphones in. Given the size of the Tatte menu, we ordered two treats: an espresso mocha mousse and a pear tart.
The espresso mousse was easily the best dessert we ate all day. If we hadn’t so painfully learned about the importance of pacing oneself during our burrito experience, this mousse would’ve been gone in seconds. But, even after only a few bites, it was clear this was a winner. It was rich, but not overwhelmingly so, and the coffee flavor came through without overpowering the mousse. 10/10, great dessert.
The pear tart was more of a rogue choice, but we wanted to try something we wouldn’t normally order. And even though this wasn’t something either of us would usually gravitate toward, it was still pretty good! The pear was soft, but the tart shell was buttery and crisp – think apple pie, but with pears. Overall, a decent surprise.
Tess: 9/10 — they know what they’re doing
Travis: 8/10 — probably would be higher if it wasn’t a chain
Our next location was Salt, which is right around the corner from Tatte. This was a smaller operation with only a few tables, so we can’t really recommend this as a prime spot to study or have a long lunch break. They also had fewer options so we only ordered one dessert: a pain aux raisin.
This pastry had potential, but there wasn’t much to it. The bread was fine, and the raisins added a little pop of sweetness here and there, but there was just a lack of flavor. I also thought the yellow glaze (a crème pâtissière, per Google) tasted a little bit soapy, though Travis just thought it tasted like nothing. Either way, not ideal.
Tess: 3/10 — below average for sure, and the worst dessert of the day
Travis: 3/10 — more raisins, please!
Blackbird Doughnuts Newton Centre
Next up was Blackbird — a donut shop in Newton Centre. Both Travis and I had tried Blackbird before, so we knew we were in for something good. Once again, this isn’t exactly a place to sit down and hang out, but it’s a great option if you’re looking for a treat on the go.
We opted for a strategy here that was similar to our strategy at Tatte: We ordered one classic item and one that we might not like as much. Here, the classic was “the Blackbird,” which was a vanilla cake donut with a vanilla glaze. You really can’t go wrong with this one, as it’s as standard as it gets. The donut was yummy and not greasy like some donuts can get.
The second donut we tried was the salted toffee, which neither of us had ordered before. Although this donut could’ve been sickly sweet, it was surprisingly balanced. The toffee had more of a honey flavor, and the flakes of salt cut through the sugar well. Like the pear tart, this was a dessert that could’ve been a disappointment, but was actually a pleasant surprise.
Tess: 8/10 — donuts aren’t my thing, but these are good donuts
Travis: 9/10 — I love donuts, and these deliver! The only perfect 10 is found in my hometown – if you’re ever in the Western suburbs of Philly, it’s called Suzy Jo Donuts.
Tous Les Jours
To round out the Newton Centre locations, we next turned to Tous les Jours. Of all the locations, this was easily the best place to sit and study. It was quiet, peaceful, and had great couches and chairs. But, how were their desserts?
Tous les Jours seemed to specialize more in breads than pastries, and they had some items we had never seen before and didn’t find anywhere else. To keep with the spirit of adventure, we opted for a milk cream cornet pie and something that was simply called “chocolate avalanche.”
The cornet pie was almost shaped and filled like a cannoli, but the outside was a croissant-like flaky pastry rather than a hard shell. As you can imagine, this was a messy eating experience, but it was definitely yummy. The cream on its own was sweet and light, and it paired well with the buttery pastry. It didn’t blow us away, but it wasn’t bad.
On the other hand, the chocolate avalanche was a bit of a disappointment. It was filled with dark chocolate, which typically wouldn’t be an automatic issue, but the aftertaste of the dessert was undeniably bitter. The pastry just wasn’t sweet enough to cut through the dark chocolate. Unfortunately, this was one we wouldn’t try again.
Tous les Jours’ Score:
Tess: 6/10 — the desserts weren’t amazing, but they get an extra point for ambience
Travis: 6/10 — there are likely some great desserts, but we made poor choices
Next up was Bettina’s Bakery, located a little farther out in Newton. This cute little bakery had a cozy window seat and bookshelf full of cookbooks to peruse. As for the baked goods, the selection included many options that originate in Latin America. To stay true to the menu, we ordered a concha and a slice of their tres leches cake.
The concha was a traditional sweet bread roll that was pretty standard, though the bites of cinnamon sugar on top helped elevate the dish. However, while the concha left something to be desired, the tres leches really stood out from the crowd. The cake was sweet and light, despite sitting in a pool of milk. The slice was as moist as a tres leches should be, and it was quite refreshing as we were starting to get full.
Tess: 6/10 — I appreciated the unique offerings, but I wasn’t blown away
Travis: 6/10 — definitely not blown away, but an extra point for the independently owned bakery!
Right off of Commonwealth Ave., our last stop was Blacker’s Bakery. This location is perfect for people with allergies or dietary restrictions, as all of their items are Kosher, nut free, and dairy free, and they also have vegan options. But you wouldn’t know these desserts were made without butter or eggs, because they were some of the best treats we had all day.
Although Blacker’s specializes in Jewish desserts, we once again opted for some less-traditional choices. First we tried the lemon square, which was a little divisive. Although I thought the lemon flavor was too artificial, Travis thought the dessert tasted just like his grandmother’s “Lemon Lush.” However, we also had a Boston cream cupcake, which we universally enjoyed. We might’ve had to dig a little for the cream, but the cupcake was sweet, light, and downright yummy.
Tess: 7/10 — I have faith that this rating will only go up after future visits
Travis: 10/10 — Blacker’s is the best! (I finished the lemon tart later that day)
Travis Salters is a third-year student and president of the Impact blog. Tess Halpern is a rising 3L, current Impact VP, and next year’s Impact president. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.