NFT Boston North Cambridge / West Somerville

North Cambridge / West Somerville

Essentials
Once upon a time, this neighborhood was dominated by slaughterhouses and a slightly less refined clientele. Today it's a bit different, blending NPR culture with town-center appeal. (Peter Sagal used to hang out here!) Vegan vittles, farmers markets, hip taverns, and young families abound -- quite an advance over the slaughterhouses.

Sundries/Entertainment
In this 'hood, there's no shortage of variety with food and entertainment. Redbones still delivers with colossal 'cue and beer. Dave's Fresh Pasta keeps slingin' awesome sammies and perfecto pasta. Newer editions like Five Horses, Saloon, and True BistroSee more.

> have found their niche as welcome neighborhood scenes. Sacco's Bowl Haven has joined forces with Flatbread Company to create fantastic 'za, cocktails, and candlepin bowling -- don't even think about skipping out.

Transportation
Unless you live here, parking is painful. And there are enough crosswalks, traffic lights, and stop signs to wear your brakes out in an afternoon. Ditto for the area around Alewife. Luckily the Red Line serves both areas. For North Cambridge haunts along Mass Ave, as well as outer areas like Arlington, get to know the 77 bus.




         


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Take One: The Boston Film Festival Circuit

By Nancy Howell
Gay and Lesbian, International, Irish, Jewish and Latino-centered, the Boston Film Festival has it all! Unless you want to watch films about mating sea turtles, in which case this city has nothing to offer you.

Read More...

On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Sonia Weiser
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Buffalo Exchange
Two years later, Buffalo Exchange has outlasted Poor Little Rich Girl in the race to fill Davis Square with student budget-friendly shops. There is something extremely unique about BE (that's what the cool kids call it). While going through your clothing, they can either make you feel a.) like an idiot for ever buying something or b.) proud to have had something in your wardrobe worthy of Ms. Hipster buyer's approval. They don't buy back a lot (or maybe they just don't like my clothes), but when they put a little price sticker on something you brought, you feel just as good as when a fitting room lady tells you, "that dress looks great." It doesn't really matter if this one person thinks you look good or likes the clothing you brought in, but by god, it's nice to be validated. And if they don't take anything, you feel like a fashion disaster...And then you buy "better" clothing from the store to fix the situation. So both ways work in their favor.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

The Boston Shaker
When I was a little girl and was lucky enough to accompany my parents to a fancy pants adult cocktail party, the whole event seemed so glamorous. The slender cordial glasses, the futuristic looking martini glasses, the tinkling of the ice, the crunchy sound of the shakers, all the big liquor bottles of all different shapes, sizes, and colors. Then, in college, when I was finally old enough to drink, I forgot about all the glamour, and instead found myself playing Flip Cup with Natty Ice and chugging some purple concoction called Jungle Juice. But now I am reminded of that sparkly, sophisticated drunken dream of my childhood, with the opening of The Boston Shaker in Davis Square. Vending everything from exotic bitters, garnishes, syrups, shakers, and strainers to drink ware, how-to manuals, and in-store classes, the time to revive the classy cocktail party has arrived! The Boston Shaker is putting on the finishing touches to their storefront and is estimating a late January 2010 opening. I'll be ready, with my white gloves, strand of pearls, and long cigarette holder in hand.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Sacco's Bowl Haven
Some people--myself included--despise bowling. Even if you're okay with the possibility of bowling becoming an Olympic sport, the skill involved in attempting to gracefully roll an overweight and oversized ball with three fingers can often being viewed as a waste of brain matter. But candlepin bowling is another story. Though it shares a name and a basic concept of rolling a ball to knock down long, thin pins, bowling and candlepin bowling are very different, and the latter is something that everyone can enjoy, not to mention a New England tradition. The pins are smaller, lighter, and narrower, and the ball is slightly larger than a skeeball. If you don't believe me, head to Sacco's Bowl-Haven in Davis, where candlepin bowling is alive and well--and half the price of an awkward bowl at Lucky Strike. It beats the movies, the bar, and any respectable restaurant in the cheapest-date-spot-in-town department. Plus there's a ton of pool tables, a rad jukebox, and a retro vibe, with lanes, furniture, photos, and a cash register all frozen in time, around the year 1955. This is not the bowling I have come to know and hate!



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Buffalo Exchange
Purchasing "pre-worn" clothing has mainly been the province of vintage lovers and unpretentious bargain hunters. But Buffalo Exchange, new to Davis Square (the burgeoning consignment store capital of Boston), is attempting to rope in a new generation, with trendy name brands (Gap, DC, Aldo, Marc Jacobs), low prices (but not so low that the kids will be suspicious), and a green ethic: reduce, reuse, recycle your clothes, too. On the one hand, I agree with this business ethic and I support it. On the other hand, it's becoming impossible for me to leave my apartment in Davis anymore without returning in deeper debt than when I left. Between Poor Little Rich Girl, Goodwill, and the brand new, fully stocked 2 floors of Buffalo Exchange, I'm going to have to sublet a second closet. Why don't they just get it over with and open a store called House of Emily's Cash Suckage?



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Verna's Donut Shop
I never eat donuts, because they are Satan's pastry. And when I never eat them, I never eat them at Verna's. So I really wouldn't know that they are always fresh and moist, baked nightly. Nor would I know that they are usually sold out by 3 pm because they're so damn good. And don't even ask me if they're better than Dunkin Donuts, because I am totally clueless to the fact that Verna's is so good, they have lifted the veil to reveal that Dunkin has been selling rings of poop in comparison. No sir, I would not know anything about that. I definitely wouldn't suggest the buttercrunch donuts, the raisin cinnamon crullers, or the plain, which is in no way cakey and delicious. If you are in North Cambridge, do not stop at Verna's. Do not look in the window, because I will definitely not be licking the glass outside the donut display cases. Nope.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Greek Corner
I am embarrassed to admit that most of my knowledge of Greek culture comes from the writings of David Sedaris (as well Rick Steves Europe, but they always end up slaughtering a lamb and then I have to change the station). But I know he's not doing his heritage justice because he never mentions the best part of Greece: the food! Sedaris often charges the Greeks with being tightwads, but this is ideal when you’re eating at a Greek restaurant because you get such a delicious bargain. And this is a way of life for Cambridge's Greek Corner. Not only is the menu extensive, but the portions are huge and the prices are low. All your favorite hits are playing, from grape leaves, gyros, and falafel to spinach pie, pastitso, and moussaka, plus new classics like their homemade sausage and Greek fries with parmesan, oregano, and lemon juice. I would say Greek Corner is a hidden gem, but actually their takeout business is booming and the line is out the door during dinner. But a steal like this is worth the wait. Sedaris may roll his eyes when he thinks of Greece, but when I do, my mouth waters.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Richardson's Ice Cream
I can only speak for Richardson's Ice Cream as far as my experience with their stand in Davis Square, but as far as I can tell, it is a New England institution. Creamy, homemade ice cream in traditional and less-than-traditional flavors at more than reasonable prices. Isn't that all anybody really wants out of life anyway? Their flavor variety might not be as far reaching--or weird--as some of the bigger ice cream names in Boston, like JP Licks, Christina's, and Emack and Bolio's, but they come close, and you really can't make a bad choice. Richardson's is also on par (at least) in the quality department and light years ahead when it comes to price. A small at one of the big name ice cream places costs about the same as a large at Richardson's. But even if you go with Richardson's small, you are going to get a LOT of ice cream. I don't know about you, but a lot of good ice cream for not a lot of money always makes me feel like all is right with the world. But your heart is going to break in September when the stand closes for the season.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Snappy Sushi
Sushi is a gateway drug that leads to a hard core foodie lifestyle. But if you're one of those middle class lowlife plebeians, you might find yourself doing things you're not proud of just to get your hands on that sweet raw fish. I've gone on many a bad date only for the sake of the sushi. But as the years have passed, and more people have come aboard the sushi boat, it's easier to get a hold of a roll without doing dirty deeds. The wonderful Snappy Sushi offers refreshingly cheap, high quality sushi, in a relaxed, unpretentious setting. What sets them apart (in addition to their affordability) is that they use only partially milled whole grain brown rice in all their dishes. If the idea of this turns you off, I strongly suggest giving it a try first. Rich in vitamins and minerals, brown rice also aids in digestion; a good thing, because you ARE eating raw fish here. And it's still pretty tasty. I'll admit, Snappy Sushi is no O Ya, but for those who have a sushi itch that your bank account--or your conscience--just can't scratch, Snappy Sushi is just the fix you need.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Boston Burger Company
I was glad when Antonio's in Davis Square closed its doors because they had a four cheese pasta dish that included American cheese. (American cheese + Italian cuisine = War. In your stomach.) And now in its place stands an eatery that serves as a much more appropriate venue for American cheese: the Boston Burger Company. Yes, Davis Square, you now have the perfect spot to frequent whenever you need to skyrocket your triglycerides to an alarming level. BBC offers 22 different types of burgers, including beef variations, deep fried varieties, and veggie, turkey, chicken, and conch vehicles. There are also 11 types of fries, the portion sizes of which are large enough to stand on their own as a meal. BBC also makes their own potato chips, which, as is usually the case when a restaurant is motivated enough to make things from scratch, are awesome. Apparently Americans eat about 13 billion hamburgers a year. So you’d better a get a move on to BBC. Because it is your patriotic duty to love and eat burgers without question. And if you’re not with us, you’re against us, you commie pinko.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Taipei Tokyo
Finally, a sushi place is putting fruit in their rolls! At first glance, Taipei Tokyo might just look like a run of the mill sushi joint, but they're actually rather creative with their dishes. The pineapple maki speaks to me; they must've known I was coming. And the curry lo mein is destined to be the hangover breakfast of champions: almost makes you want to skip the boozin' the night before and go straight to the noodles--almost. They also know how to make a mean fried tofu--it's not just for pasty hippies anymore. (No offense if you're a pasty hippy.) They seem to do more lunch business than dinner. Sometimes I walk by on Saturday evenings and get upset that they're not busier. I've loved and lost many places like this, especially ones with killer rolls. But as long as Tufts students are still swarming Davis, there will always be a home for Taipei Tokyo.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Teele Square Café
When I moved from East Cambridge to West Somerville, it was very hard to say goodbye to the trustworthy 2nd Street Cafe. But unbeknownst to me, Jonathan Adelson, the owner and operator of 2nd Street Cafe, would follow me a year later, with the opening of the Teele Square Cafe. This cozy, bright, and rustic space (formerly occupied by Soleil Cafe) provides exactly what this neighborhood was missing: solid, substantial, inexpensive sandwiches. Dave's Fresh Pasta in Davis Square has been the go-to spot for good sandwiches round these parts for a while, but Teele Square is a nice change of pace from Dave's high prices and looong lines. Teele's also has an extensive breakfast menu and a rotating selection of hearty, delicious soups served in generous portions. My only grievance is that their menu could stand a little expansion, because I know they've got the talent to pull it off. But Teele Square Cafe still gets extra points with me because they supply me with the other thing I miss most about East Cambridge: Christina's Ice Cream. Now if I could just get the Cambridgeside Galleria to move to West Somerville, too, I'd be all set.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Golden Light
One of the few things I don't like about living in Davis is that most businesses are not licensed to be open past 1 am. (Luckily, the older and lamer I get, the less of a problem this seems to be.) That is, until the tiny Chinese restaurant Golden Light got a special license that allows them to stay open until 2 am on weeknights and 3 am on weekends. Now I can get my high sodium jollies during the wee hours, too! But the late hours are not the only reason to love Golden Light. What will really persuade you to stay up late are their spring rolls. Kind of surprising, I know, since most spring rolls are pretty similar regardless of origin. But not these. The Golden Light masterminds have created an addictive cross breed of spring rolls and what can be best described as apple pie. There appears to be cinnamon and some other related spiced mixed into the standard spring roll ingredients of cabbage and carrots. And the dipping sauce--while I do love me some soy sauce--definitely contains some sort of apple derivative, almost like apple sauce. Definitely different, and most certainly awesome.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Diesel Café
"Cafes" in America have taken on so many different forms in the past 15 years, you really have no way of knowing what kind of cafe you're getting yourself into when you blindly walk through the door. Is it a Mom & Pop joint? Is it a snooty Starbucks where people bring their laptops so that everybody can see them working on their laptops? Is it a gathering place where all the nonconforming, pretentious poseurs from your high school gather to smoke cigarettes and pontificate on the joys of not owning a television? If it isn't any of these, then it's probably Diesel Cafe, an unassuming, surprisingly awesome cafe with lots of good breakfast, lunch, and dinner food (including vegetarian and vegan options), great coffee, smoothies, teas, and pastries. It's also unexpectedly huge in square footage, accommodating pool tables, a photo booth, and a whole lot of seating. It's pretty popular among the Tufts crowd, but you can almost always find a seat. Which is good, because even though you might just be dropping in for a coffee, you might just want to stay for a while.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Pemberton Farms
I don't know how you Porter Square residents have any money left, because if I lived there, I'd spend it all at Pemberton Farms. The big amazing sandwiches are what lured me in. The garden center, cheeses, and organic products are what made me want to stay a while. Pemberton Farms has a large, full service garden center, with big plants, little plants, tools, seeds, and everything in between. Their groceries, especially the cheese section, were made for foodies, and the huge range of organic produce and cleaning products (among other items) is worth the trip alone. And the cookies, oh the cookies! Go for the Lakota Bakery cookies because--and I'm serious, here--they're the greatest cookies ever made. But I won't lie to you, dear reader: Pemberton Farms is not exactly cheap. Definitely do not shop here when hungry. However, between the parking, selection, quality, and NICE PEOPLE, Pemberton Farms is absolutely worth the extra money to avoid the haughtiness of a trip to Whole Foods or the confusion of a trip to Shaw's. Plus, I hear John Malkovich shops at Pemberton Farms when he's in town, so it's gotta be good.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Blue Shirt Cafe
For years, I have been stupefied at the popularity of Red Bull. It tastes like cough syrup, but worse somehow. Humans, have we forgotten about the best energy boosters of all: vitamins and natural sugars (ie, fruit)?? Drink a smoothie, people, and feel the force of vitamin B12! But if you do not own a blender, or if your walls are already smattered with the staining power of pomegranate juice, weep not! The Blue Shirt Cafe peddles many fruit a combination that always equals the perfect smoothie. They also serve REAL lemonade, a craft that has almost been lost to the ages. And Blue Shirt's menu of solid foods is definitely worth a taste, as well, even for vegetarians. Blue Shirt recently completed a nice expansion, too, and now offers free Wi-Fi (with a $5 minimum purchase) and lots of seating. But most importantly, the next time you think it's time for a weird, synthetic energy drink like Red Bull, please try out a Blue Shirt smoothie instead. It will taste every bit as good, even with vodka.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

China Fair Inc.
In these troubled economic times, it's extremely difficult for me to turn a blind eye to the recent amazing sales and rock bottom prices of many a retailer. So it was a really bad idea for me to check out China Fair, which has always had low, low prices, regardless of the economy. They've got TWO floors of kitchen items, encompassing everything from basics like dish sets, rice cookers, cloth napkins and holders, drying racks, pots, and pans to the entire gamut of glassware, sushi ware, and any kind of cooking tool you could ever need. Plus--and this is what really sold me--an ENTIRE ROOM of wicker baskets of every shape and size. At long last, I have finally unearthed the fabled 'bargain basement kitchen store.' So I decided to be naughty and buy a shameful amount of items with total abandon. And yet I only ended up dropping about $20. Oh, China Fair, why do you only encourage my spending habits that are already so hard to control?




Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Animal Spirit
After the pet food contamination scare in 2007, many pet owners now think twice about what their pets nosh on. You can kinda sorta find healthy, safe pet food at big chain stores like PetSmart and PETCO, but that involves dragging yourself out to a big chain store. (Kitty, I love you, but this parking lot is ridiculous.) But in Cambridge, the days of the little neighborhood pet store have yet to pass, so places like Animal Spirit are perfect for picking up munchies for your furry friend. Considering their smallish space, they carry quite a varied selection of food, treats, toys, clothes, beds, crates, dental products, and shampoo for several animals, from dogs and cats to bunnies, guinea pigs, and chinchillas. Their prices are more than reasonable, so your pet parent ethics are never questioned. And, if you're like me and have a frisky 20 year old cat and a lot of questions regarding her care, the owners are more than happy to provide answers. But don't worry if you walk through the door and the front desk is empty. A friendly golden retriever, Welsh corgi, or sleepy black kitty will be happy to greet you. 



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Somerville Community Path-Alewife to Davis Square
No matter how many winters you've spent in Boston, it never gets any easier. Surely we'd all like to hole ourselves up in our apartments for the duration, storing up body fat to keep us warm. But bathing suit season will be here before you know it, so, like it or not, you'd better get out for some exercise. Might I suggest the Somerville Community Path, a lovely little oasis that runs roughly from the Davis Square T station to the Alewife T station. This paved path combined with brick is surrounded by grass, trees, benches, links to nearby streets, and a community garden. You can jump onto the Minuteman Bikeway or the Fitchburg Cutoff Path near Alewife to the west, or, heading east, go all the way to Cedar Street in Somerville. It's a great alternative to the subway no matter what time of year. The path is well lit at night with emergency call boxes interspersed along the way, and it's plowed in the winter--sometimes even better than the sidewalks on the main roads. So get outside and enjoy this wonderful, community-supported jewel. It's such a pleasant experience you won't even realize you're exercising.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Qingdao Garden
It's always heartwarming to consider that there are more Chinese restaurants than McDonalds' in the United States. While it's no easy task resisting the greasy majesty of the French fry, apparently it's even harder for most Americans to defy the orders of General Gau. My personal weakness is the Chinese dumpling. Shumai, potstickers, wontons, whatever. If it's a stuffed piece of dough, I will eat it. And I always want more. The only Chinese place that has yet to attempt to satisfy my endless desire for dumplings is Qingdao Garden. They sell dumplings in BULK, for heaven's sake! You can buy up to 50 frozen pieces of their handmade dumplings for about $14. And then you can eat dumplings every day for almost week. But if you have burned down your kitchen, or do not own a wok, you can still order in from Qindao, where they will prepare them for you, along with a multitude of other Chinese delights, both Americanized and lesser known but equally delicious northern Chinese fare. Everything falls on the inexpensive side, but portions are huge. And the staff is really nice. Trust me, I'm there A LOT.




Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Poor Little Rich Girl
You should never just "run in and run out" of Poor Little Rich Girl. A shopping trip here requires at least an hour of your attention. It's worth it. This is an indispensable resource for women to find both new and used clothing of extremely high quality. As a consignment shop with a penchant for vintage, each item is hand selected from consigners and local designers, chosen specifically for its fashion relevance and reverence. It isn't just paisley polyester suits; it's Jackie-O alive and well. It's where you'll find antique kimonos and sequined ball gowns, Van Halen novelty stickers, and Beatles sing-along song books alongside wool trousers from Banana Republic, Lucky Brand jeans, and Coach clogs. This stuff doesn't go from the sweatshop to the warehouse to the store to you. And you don't have to worry about whether you're getting the most for your money. Sentimental value and antique charm go a long way here, and patrons of Poor Little Rich Girl are more interested in these motives than blindly following the latest fashion trends. This is the human experience of seeing style come full circle. From your grandmother to your mother to you.




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