Welcome to Boston’s newest American Coffeehouse
It looked like a retro poster from the post-World War 2 era, cryptic graffiti on the side of an empty retail building. It featured a man holding a gasoline dispenser. The caption was “FUEL: Ignite your journey.”
Then the paper went up on the windows and the wait began. Between the Boston College kids, young families, and aspiring writers in Brighton, another café has been sorely needed. I was ready for a new camping ground. Then, one magical day, it was open. The paper was down and the lights were on. I ran in like a crazed maniac that first morning and ordered my first iced latte to go.
Fuel America Café is everything you want your neighborhood coffee house to be. The coffee is fresh and the food is unique and delicious, number one. It’s spacious and open with high ceilings and a variety of different kinds of seating so you can decide whether you’d like to chat up the friendly coffee crew at the bevista bar, sit in the long white booth by the large picture windows, or in the quieter cozy corner of the library.
The décor invokes the national memory of a retro soda shop and the metal motif of the furniture calls to mind a classy full service garage back when everything was shiny and Americans were optimistic.
On Saturday, I sat down with Jeff Bonasia, one of the owners of Fuel America Cafe. Coming from advertising and a life surrounded by the arts, creating Fuel America was a convergence of a life’s journey for him.
I have been in the marketing and advertising business for many years – and it occurred to me and my partners that there really isn’t a “new American coffeehouse” out there – one that celebrates the American “can-do” spirit, the melting pot filled with people who work hard, share friendships, seek inspiration and innovate. I got to thinking that after all of the financial issues facing our country and the recent wars there still exists an indomitable American spirit.
I thought that our cafe’s aesthetic could be one that celebrates our American heritage, articulated through beautiful 1950′s black & white photos of every day Americans doing what they do – or did. I also wanted to feature inspiring & well known Americans that have made their marks in the arts, business, music, etc. on the back wall area. Great American characters and thinkers like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Mark Twain, Steve Jobs, Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Taylor, Groucho Marx and the like.
We wanted those photos to remind all of us of the great “stock” we all come from – hard working (and playing) people who built this country – and the journeys they were on…. I wanted us to see ourselves in them – but realize that we are all on our own journeys now and we should celebrate living life to its fullest every day. That’s where our tagline – “Ignite Your Journey” came from.
The idea of renewing our good old-fashioned American pride is one I think we’ve needed in recent years, and especially in the coming few months before the Presidential election when our political and social differences are most apparent. Fuel America has been open for two weeks, and most recently they made a drink to honor Neil Armstrong.
We’re also collecting vintage books with subjects on American architecture, music (jazz), business and Hollywood, etc. There are a few in the bookcase in the back of the cafe and I want to eventually fill it.
Customers are welcome to bring suggestions on how to fill the bookshelf. It’s a fun collection to browse on the cushioned bench style seating. Coffee and a good book is as basic as it gets.
It took about two years to take Fuel America from a concept to a reality. Jeff and his business partners personify the hard working American spirit they’re trying to convey. The care they’ve put into their dream of a coffeehouse that celebrates Americans is apparent in every detail. While Jeff and his business partners were scouting a location, he hired Brighton local illustrator Richie Stewart to design the branding and Lana Kirby Design redefined the space inside.
Jeff’s qualifications for his crew were that they were passionate about coffee or about the unique food they would be making. He emphasized that the food was just as important to the menu as the coffee. They have a very unique fare available. Every time I try a sandwich it’s something I’ve never tasted before, but it has all the flavors Americans are familiar with.
From a menu perspective I asked our chef to create sandwiches that are inspired by different American geographies, so they all have ingredients from those places (East Coast, West Coast, Gulf Coast & Third Coast) and he also created FUEL specialty baked goods – specifically FUEL Whoopie Pies – one is a Chocolate Cacao Nib with vanilla cream cheese filling and a Vanilla Cardemom version with Lemon Zest cream cheese filling. They are “killer” and perfect with coffee.
The chocolate whoopee pies will probably end up being a signature. Every time I go in at the end of the day they’re sold out. My personal recommendation will always be the espresso. But my favorite food item on the menu right now is the honey, ricotta, and pumpkin seed toast with sea-salt.
Another unique feature is that sodas and waters are served in mason jars, continuing that retro home-made style.
We also created what I call “Classic Modern” drinks that were inspired by the soda fountain era, but we recreated them with better-for-you ingredients – like Agave Nectar, Persian Lime Juice, Apple Cider Vinegar, Ginger Root, and Cucumber and Basil.
We are very mindful that today’s American innovation – as it relates to food and beverages – includes creating better-for-you options. At the same time we are into offering “comfort foods” like our steamed & flavored milks that we think people will love to try as it gets a bit colder out.
All of our milks are locally sourced – we visited Shaw Farm Dairy in Dracut, MA (only 34.2 miles away) – and met with Warren Shaw the owner – a great guy – he walked us around the farm – we met the cows. It was a great experience and the milk is spectacular. In fact, its one of the reasons our coffee (Espresso-based) drinks are so good – the milk’s a key ingredient. We even sell Shaw Farm Dairy milk in glass bottles and folks can return the bottles for new fresh ones – old school American – but in a very good way.
I’ve been thinking of buying some milk and pretending I live in another era. Inspirational for a writer. I’m happy to have some options for eating and drinking more healthfully outside of JP. Fuel America is a place I can point to in Brighton and say “That’s unique, and we have it here.”
We are very excited to be here and serving you and the Brighton Community – and are looking forward to Boston College students discovering us as well.
There will be a Grand Opening celebration for Fuel America over the next couple of weekends, as the college kids return to roost, featuring beverage and food tastings. I highly recommend stopping over.
To sum up why I love this place: Well-executed theme, atmosphere, and delicious offerings.
Brighton MA 02135