When grad students sleep, they dream about places like this: a big room full of books with lots of tables, free wireless Internet access, and people who’ll bring you coffee if you want it and leave you alone if you don’t. And did someone say perpetual breakfast? Juice bar? And 25 kinds of tea? We think we’re in heaven. Wait — no. Newbury Street. Same thing. Unlike some of its swankier neighbors, Trident Booksellers & Café is not exactly dressed to impress. That vibrancy you’re feeling has more to do with the varied and lively clientele who keep the place hopping at all hours, and — maybe it’s the small tables? — think nothing of suddenly leaning over to include you in their conversations, which, depending on the table, might be about computers, Jesus, backpacking in Asia, or your dessert.
For a bookstore with a small kitchen, the menu is surprisingly expansive, ranging from appetizers like the muy grande nachos ($8.95) — muy grande indeed! — to full-on entrées like chicken-cashew lo mein ($12.95). There’s also an extensive pizza selection, from the traditional pepperoni ($9.95) to gourmet prosciutto pesto ($12). Almost everything here is something you could cook for yourself with minimal effort — but if you did, you wouldn’t be sitting in a café surfing the Internet, now, would you? Besides, few people have the means at home to make a Super Stress Reliever drink (spinach, parsley, celery, carrot, red pepper, tomato, and broccoli, $3.95), fresh-squeezed orange juice ($3.50), or cappuccino milkshake ($3.95) to go with the meal. (Yes, the juicer runs pretty much full-time. You’ll get used to it after a little while.)
Breakfast is not only perpetual — it’s also enormous. Start your day with the migas burrito ($7.95) or the smoked-salmon scramble ($9.95) and you’re set until dinner. Adventurous eaters might choose the white-cheddar-and-horseradish fondue ($6.95), which is just the right size for an afternoon snack. If you need a little something more, add a glass of pinot grigio ($3.95), and maybe even a slice of apple-crumb pie ($4.95).
It’s easy to develop an affection for Trident. After a couple of visits, things that initially looked like flaws begin to seem like crucial parts of its character, and you want them to stay that way. Then again, maybe it’s just impossible to be unhappy with hot food and a good book in front of you.
Trident Booksellers & Café, located at 338 Newbury Street, in Boston, is open daily, from 9 a.m. to midnight. Call (617) 267-8688.