It’s hard resist the urge to spend an evening in the South End: the bistros are abuzz with the clatter of cocktail shakers and the sloshing of freely flowing wine, while chefs carefully put finishing touches on artful appetizers. But you don’t have to strain too hard to hear the lunch-hour bells that summon you to the far corners of the neighborhood. Berkeley Perk Café offers one such charming chime. Perched a bit off eatery-clogged Tremont Street, it provides a warm, relaxed retreat from the urban buzz and the whirr of the highway that runs just under the Berkeley Street bridge not far from its entrance.
And warmth is certainly welcome this time of year. Start defrosting those frigid fingers with your choice of coffee concoctions. The menu appears about as assorted as the cabernet list in the wine bars around the corner. Hot chocolate alone comes in four varieties: Mexican spice, chocolate chai, lemon truffle ($1.90–$2.65), and your basic milk and cocoa ($1.50–$2). "Basic" also describes the sandwich bill of fare, sort of. There are a handful of staples reliably on hand, like veggie ($3.95) and a hummus-seeped deluxe veggie ($4.95), honey ham ($3.95), and turkey ($3.95), but we’re guessing that’s to accommodate the creature-of-habit regulars. Meanwhile, other customers deliberate over the 16 or so constantly changing choices, like French Brie and mango chutney ($4.25); classic Italian essentials like the Roma, with prosciutto, roasted peppers, and fresh mozzarella ($5.95); and any number of inventions that involve the house sun-dried-tomato pesto, like grilled cheese ($4.25). To complicate the decision, each can be made as a sandwich or roll-up.
If you want to try a slab of the daily seasonal quiche ($4.95), such as feta-squash, we suggest you get there before late afternoon.
Now that your appendages and appetites are warming up, here’s a scoop that no doubt qualifies as a perk (it just may go unappreciated until a few months from now): despite all the extraordinary baked goodies and epicurean confections to be had in any bistro, Berkeley takes the cake for being one of the few ice-cream shops on the block.
Berkeley Perk Café, located at 69 Berkeley Street, in Boston, is open Monday through Friday, from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sunday, from 8 a.m. to noon. Call (617) 426-7375.