DOUBLE SOY LATTE, PLEASE! I’d rather be studying on Newbury Street

Espresso Royale has a fantastic atmosphere, and the lattes aren’t half bad either

If the Student Center has become your all-in-one dining hall, study room, and bedroom, allow me to suggest a simple lifestyle change. Coffee shops and cafés are no longer havens for artsy Mac users with thick-rimmed glasses who work from home. Toting my clunky Dell, visually aided by my contact lenses and armed with full-time student status, I’ll be writing about Boston-area cafés near MIT so that you’ll finally be able to get that Reading Room stench out of your clothes.

“I don’t really like John Cusack movies.”

“Well, I thought Must Love Dogs was like, a cinematic masterpiece.”

Walking into Espresso Royale Caffe, I think, Damn, these baristas are awesome. Located on a lower level brownstone on Newbury Street, Espresso Royale is just two blocks east of Mass Ave. It’s a Friday afternoon, and the small tables are only about half full. I find a spot near an outlet and settle down for a few hours.

In addition to a small display of baked goods, Expresso Royale offers a substantial selection of made-to-order breakfast and lunch sandwiches. They are served on their kettle-boiled bagels, which come in a variety of flavors.

I opt for the Santa Monica, which is essentially a glorified lox sandwich (via a generous helping of avocado spread) that doubles as a tribute to my birthplace. They also have an impressive selection of vegetarian options, like the Veggie Blast and the Joy of Soy sandwich.

Espresso Royale’s no-frills drink selection keeps it basic, with regional coffee beans, espresso-based drinks, and teas. My soy latte is topped with leafy foam art, putting a little smile on my face (easily amused: guilty as charged).

Several key factors converge at Espresso Royale to make it one of my favorite study spots. For starters, the wi-fi is free, the music is not distracting, and the people are friendly. Grab a seat in the back to avoid cold drafts as customers walk in and out. The tables are close together, but most other customers are either studying or sharing funny work stories — nothing your iPod can’t block out.

I would not recommend Espresso Royale for attempting that twenty-hour p-set requiring five classmates, unfettered e-mail access to a TA, and a sleeping bag, but it is conducive to reading HASS papers or doing online research.

Of course, not everything is perfect. I wish my bagel had come toasted, and I prefer my latte a little hotter and a bit stronger. But Espresso Royale more than makes up for its shortcomings in environment, proximity to campus, and entertainment — where else would I overhear references to Sideshow Bob, The Hobbit, and Scarlett Johansson in the span of fifteen minutes?

Damn. These baristas are awesome.