Flour versus Tatte: The ultimate food rivalry of Boston
Which cafe chain will reign supreme?
A cannoli from Modern Pastry or Mike’s Pastry? A warm, buttery lobster roll or a cold lobster roll with mayonnaise? Harvard versus MIT? (Even though that answer is obvious!)
Boston and Cambridge are filled with rivalries, but I consider Flour vs. Tatte to be the ultimate one and the one I have been debating the most. Upon my arrival to MIT from Jersey as a new, slightly terrified freshman — who just so happens to be the biggest foodie — I found that exploring the Boston and Cambridge food scene was a way for me to take my mind off of problem sets and focus more on spending quality time with friends. Food has the incredible ability to bring people together and lift the spirits of an entire group of stressed out college students.
My recruiting trip with the women's lightweight crew team back in September 2021 was when I first discovered and experienced the notorious yumminess of Joanne Chang’s Flour Bakery via devouring every morsel of their chopped Greek salad, leaving only the tomatoes. (Even though I am a foodie, raw tomatoes have always been a food I cannot stand.) Tatte made its way to my 133-restaurant-long Boston Yelp list after my dad sent me an article about Tom Holland and Zendaya, who are two of my favorite celebrities and make up my favorite celebrity couple, being spotted together at a Tatte in Boston. If Tom Holland and Zendaya liked it, I was sure I would too.
Fast forward to moving into my dorm and becoming an official MIT student and resident of Boston, I was curious to see just which bakery chain would reign supreme. I was happy to discover that a Flour was located just minutes away from campus, making it extremely convenient for me to snag another chopped Greek salad and quickly rack up Flour rewards points. After seeing Bobby Flay declare on Food Network's “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” that one of the best things he has ever eaten is Flour’s Sticky Sticky Bun, I knew I had to give it a try.
After just one bite of a warmed up sticky bun, alongside an iced pumpkin spice latte and breakfast egg sandwich (with no tomato of course), I fell in love with the homemade, cozy taste and feelings I got from the gooey, sweet, nutty pastry. This cozy feeling is directly reflected in what I believe to be Flour’s unique ambience: warm, homey, and calming. The inviting sight of stacked, fresh pastries behind the glass and the intoxicating smell of freshly pressed paninis contribute to Flour’s unique atmosphere that makes eating their food feel like home.
Upon entering Tatte, on the other hand, one cannot help but fall in love with its aesthetic and the minimalist vibe of the interior. Like Flour, one is immediately greeted with piles of pastries, bread, and the incredible sight of a Jersualem bagel, which looks like an oblong sesame bagel. Unlike Flour, there is an official printed and laminated menu like a real sit-down restaurant, for food is brought out to the customer, originating from a kitchen in the back that is not open to the rest of the cafe.
I visited the Back Bay Tatte, which I found incredibly spacious, clean, and grand. The walk across the bridge and into Back Bay is a little over 20 minutes, making it a longer walk than to Flour in Central Square, but worth the journey.
My dad and I tried the prosciutto and scrambled egg plate, served with their homemade sourdough and perfectly soft scrambled eggs. But what really made the best first impression was the bacon, potato, and mushroom shakshuka, also served with their sourdough. Unlike their traditional shakshuka, it is not made with a tomato base. Rather, it has a creamy potato base that is perfect on a cold day with bread for dunking. To round out our breakfast, we tried their House Halva Latte and kabocha squash latte, their version of a pumpkin spice latte. Both drinks were perfectly balanced with just the right amount of milk foam on top. Tatte offers what feels like a posh, more fancy breakfast, lunch, or brunch experience with all the comforts of a convenient cafe and an extensive menu and baked goods selection.
While the rivalry of MIT versus Harvard is one that has a clear winner in my mind, the battle between Flour and Tatte is one I cannot make a confident decision on. Flour’s reward program, app enables ordering ahead, and convenience due to its location made it the initial winner to me, but after visiting Tatte and falling in love with its minimalist, more upscale ambience and diverse menu, I sway back and forth between the two. But this indecisiveness is perhaps precisely what sustains the rivalry, for when it comes to food, who can really choose one absolute favorite?