31 Putnam Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02139
Travel time from 77 Mass Ave: 16-20 minutes by Bus
Businesses that alliterate their names make me nervous. As in, “Lovely Loyal Landscapers,” “Cool Carpet Cleaners,” or perhaps worst of all, “Julie’s Jubilant Jewelry Shop”. That last one conjures up images of a fourteen year-old girl with braces and pigtails making lanyards in her room, selling them from her front porch, getting the change wrong and definitely not filing her taxes. But thanks to the recent announcement by the mighty mindful MWRA to boil Boston’s broken pipe water, I found myself café-hopping on the safe side of the river and quite spontaneously stumbled into Petsi Pie. With a name like that, located in a neighborhood full of quaint front porches near Harvard Square, I couldn’t help but be highly skeptical.
I should really deliver a formal apology to Petsi Pies for passing judgment before trying it out, because this place was fantastic. More bakery than coffeehouse, Petsi Pies fills a void in the market for people looking for a place to work and socialize while munching on homemade baked goods and rustic sandwiches. The hum of the kitchen combined with other people’s conversations created a comfortable din, where you can get away with laughing out loud while watching “Single Ladies Devastation” on YouTube. As long as you don’t come for lunch (which is when they turn off their free wi-fi anyway), you can find seating — if you’re open to occasional elbow-bumping. Case in point: I shared a moment pointing and laughing with the stranger sitting next to me by the window while watching a Range Rover parallel-parking fail unfold before our eyes.
I forgive Petsi Pies for their alliterated name because they actually serve up delicious pies. I don’t particularly care for fruit pies and I still loved my hand-sized slice. The filling had soft chunks of both rhubarb and strawberry, but my favorite part was the crust. It was buttery and subtly sweet, not overly dry and crumbly. The ratio of filling to crust was just right, so that neither part overwhelmed the other with each bite. I can even forgive them for having a broken espresso-maker, because their iced coffee was flavorful, not bitter and burnt. I’ll definitely be back for my double soy latte.
Aside from the precious pies and delicious drinks, what completely eliminated my preconceived notions about Petsi Pies was the service. The employees know what they’re doing and go the extra mile. They weren’t pushy or rushed, and a charming employee described each of their pies to me, the obviously indecisive newbie. I only regret not asking him to explain the difference between apple pie “classic” and apple pie “chrome” (I was too busy laughing). Later, they sent off their supply delivery man with a free iced coffee. And when a customer sauntered off without her credit card, the same charming employee sprinted outside at full speed for a whole block to return it to her. Maybe this kind of appreciative, treating-customers-like-family courtesy is the flip side of alliterated homegrown businesses that I never thought about before.
I don’t expect become a fan of “Carla’s Cat Cradle” or “Glinda’s Granite Gifts” anytime soon, but Petsi Pies has disproved my theory about alliterated businesses. I know I sound like the pie version of Bubba from Forrest Gump, but my must-try list for the future includes blueberry pie, Bourbon chocolate pecan pie, Mississippi mud pie, roasted vegetable pie, and Spanish ricotta pie. And topping it all off will be an ice-cold latte. Nice weather, here I come.