Prairie Bean Coffee is located in a beautifully designed space in the Fitchburg Center technology park -- it's on the ground level of an earthy looking office building called the Agora.
Agora is Greek for public space or marketplace. The white tentlike structure next door (home to the Fitchburg Farmers Market and other community events) is dubbed the Agora Pavilion, so Center planners must be optimistic for a marketplace-like bustle.
While the East Cheryl Parkway area is no longer a dead end (it flows through to the Swan Creek neighborhood development), there's a ways to go yet before this has a truly agora-like feeling. Still, Fitchburg needs public places for its burgeoning population to hang out, and Prairie Bean is a pleasant coffeehouse, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on grassland, and a lovely fieldstone fireplace anchoring one end.
Prairie Bean serves a nicely brewed cup of Ancora coffee, along with all the expected permutations of espresso (latte, cappuccino, frappe). Also on the menu: Sprecher and Capital beers and Sprecher sodas, too. Wines are also served, and the cafe throws a happy hour from 4-6 pm.
Lunch at Prairie Bean can be a pretty good deal. The daily special of a turkey ham and Swiss club sandwich on organic sourdough and a bowl of the cheesy broccoli soup was just $5.50. Less than a mile up Fish Hatchery Road, people are jamming the parking lot at Panera Bread, where a half sandwich and a bowl of soup is $6 and the din makes conversation difficult. Lunch at Prairie Bean is more leisurely and quiet.
While the club sandwich was a trifle bland, there is a make-your-own sandwich option, with choices from turkey, ham, and corned beef; sourdough and 8-grain; and Swiss, provolone, pepper jack and cheddar. Sandwiches are made at the time you order them, so special requests can be accommodated. Sandwiches are available cold ($4) or grilled ($5).
Salads include a chicken Caesar ($5), which came with crisp romaine and plenty of grilled chicken, but with a creamy but not very flavorful dressing.
Desserts are sometimes made in-house, but PB also relies on several local bakeries for its cookies, bars and pastries. "Our goal is to provide...premium local products priced for a good value," states Prairie Bean's menu, and the cafe seems on the way to fulfilling that.