Boston's Hidden Restaurants

Renee's Cafe

198 Holland Street, Somerville, MA, 02144
(617) 623-2727 Find location!
--- Winner, Best Breakfast Place in Boston Area, 2014 ---

Photo of Renee's Cafe, Somerville, MA Restaurants that specialize in breakfast can be some of the most satisfying places to go to, as they are often low-key spots where you can dawdle over a plate of comfort food and a cup or two of coffee, and not spend a whole lot of money. But as you get closer to the city, these spots can often be jam-packed on weekends, and not all of them allow folks to take their time eating. This is certainly the case in Somerville, as there are indeed some breakfast and brunch places that constantly have long lines out the door on Sunday mornings and are not all that pleasant if you're looking to have a slow and relaxing meal. This is why Renee's Cafe on the edge of Teele Square is so special; it is a neighborhood eatery that has enough room to keep the lines relatively short (compared with some of its competitors) and isn't really a spot where they push you out as fast as possible. Oh, and the place also has terrific food, much of which is made from scratch.

Renee's Cafe is just outside the main part of Teele Square, at the beginning of a mostly residential stretch of Holland Street that becomes commercial again as it approaches Davis Square several blocks to the southeast. Because of its slightly out of the way location, the eatery is often overlooked, especially considering all of the dining options in the heart of nearby Davis Square. While Renee's looks rather small from the outside, it is actually relatively spacious, with an "upper" room by the entrance door and a "lower" room to the left. Both rooms are quite pleasant and rather funky-feeling, with red and yellow walls, an old wooden floor, hanging lights, and slightly high ceilings that can sometimes make the place rather loud and echoey. With servers and bussers constantly on the move in both rooms, and diners going to the back of the upper room to get water from the self-serve container, it can often get hectic at the height of the weekend rush here, though the hustle and bustle is really part of the charm of this spot.

The everyday menu at Renee's Cafe holds few surprises, but because so many items are cooked to order, the quality is quite a bit better than your typical greasy spoon (plus the daily specials on the board do include some unusual dishes). Highlights include a wonderful house-made corned beef hash that is heavy on the corned beef and light on the potatoes and onions; a "French" French toast that is made with French bread and has a sweet, rich taste coming from the vanilla batter; an "Ole!" omelette that features freshly-made black bean chili mixed with Monterey jack cheese, sour cream, and salsa, all placed on an open-faced omelette; a hearty waffle that can be topped with fruit and whipped cream; sausage patties that have a peppery taste yet are mild enough for even non-sausage lovers to enjoy; and the eggs benedict, which seems to be the signature dish here, and can be ordered vegetarian-style (no Canadian bacon), with grilled tomatoes and/or sauteed spinach. The daily specials run the gamut from a bacon, broccoli, and cheese omelette to crab eggs benedict to a plate of apple cinnamon pancakes. One more note--if you are a coffee lover, Renee's has an excellent version of it (including its iced coffee), with even the decaf being terrific.

With freshly-made dishes, reasonable prices, friendly service, and a fairly decent amount of parking along the street out front, Renee's Cafe has a lot going for it. And with some of its competitors often having very long waits on weekends and the pressure of finishing quickly and getting out, this Holland Street eatery is even more appealing to those who are looking for a place to eat in West Somerville or North Cambridge. Breakfast lovers certainly need to seek out this neighborhood gem a few minutes northwest of Boston.