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Neighborhoods: Somerville

Somerville is self aware – The Boston Globe August 22 2013

Written by Danielle Sangalang

If you are already planning on crossing the river to visit Cambridge, why not journey a bit further to explore Somerville?  The Boston Globe once described Somerville as “so hip that it worries itself…” 

For the purposes of this blog I am focusing on three neighborhoods that are accessible by public transportation, Union Square, Davis Square and Assembly Row.  Just be sure to plan accordingly and wear comfortable walking shoes as the city is made up of many hills. 

Union Square – newly accessible by public transportation, this neighborhood has lots of history and lots of great food!

At the time of writing this article (July 2022) everything listed in this section is accessible by taking the E green line branch to the Union Sq. stop.  However, there is a slim chance that this might change by August if the green line extension is completed, then it would then be the Union Sq. stop on the D line branch of the green line.  I am guessing the former, as this project was originally supposed to be completed in 2014… then December 2021, then May 2022 and then “summer 2022.”  Can you tell that I have been anxiously waiting its completion?

Maple Bacon donuts at Union Square Donuts

Why not start your day off with a maple bacon donut at the Original Union Square Donuts (33 South Street in Union Sq. or 457 Grand Union Blvd. in Assembly Row ; so popular there are now 5 locations)Vegan donuts are available including jumbleberry, cinnamon sugar and vanilla sprinkles.  Or if you are in the mood for something more savory go to Vinal Bakery (222 Somerville Ave.).  My husband swears by the miss maple breakfast sandwich and when I asked him if he would like to join me so I could take a picture for this blog post he tried to hide his excitement.  He said something along the lines of “I guess I could help you – but only for the archivists.” 

Miss Maple sandwich at Vinal Bakery

Tour the Taza Chocolate Factory (561 Windsor St.) and see how they make Mexican stone ground chocolate.  Online reservations are required.  The best part is sampling all the different flavors at the end, personally I love the chipotle chili and cinnamon.  Or soak in some history and experience a panoramic view of the city at at Prospect Hill Park, once an important site of military fortifications for the revolutionary war.  Fun fact: The first American flag was raised in Somerville in January 1776 and Major Charles Lee used a home on Sycamore Street as a headquarters in the Revolutionary War.  

Tower in Prospect Hill Park

Have a great outdoor lunch at, former storage building,  Bow Market (1 Bow Market Way, it is a little set back from the street and can be easy to walk by at first.) and even reserve a fire pit!  There are over 30 different independent food, art retail shops including Remnant BreweryBe sure to check out the website as many stores and restaurants have odd hours.  I recommend Tanam (featuring Filipino-American cuisine), Buenas (so many delicious empanadas, like the sorta samosa curried cauliflower, potato and peas (vegan!)) and Beach Bar (with fun summery drinks).

Try your hand at axe throwing at Urban Axes Boston (2 Union Sq.)I did once, I wasn’t very good but I washed away my sorrows across the street at Bronwyn Restaurant (255 Washington Street ; outdoor dining is available) with a Caesar salad with pretzel croutons and spaetzle with currywurst.  If you still have room for dessert head over to Gracie’s Ice Cream (22 Union Sq. ; they open at 2), my favorite flavors are salty Oreo and cornbread and honey.  If you are feeling extra indulgent get the fluff cone!  Did you know that marshmallow fluff was invented in 1917 in Somerville by Archibald Query who originally sold it door to door and the New England lunch staple the fluffernutter sandwich was invented in 1918?  I guess some interesting inventions came out during the Influenza of 1918…

Salty Oreo ice cream on a Fluff cone – Gracie’s Ice Cream

Davis Square – A blend of mom and pop shops, cool places to eat and unique shops.  

For everything listed in this section take any green line train inbound to Park Street Station then switch to the red line going towards Alewife and get off the train at the Davis Square stop.

Crispy fried tofu taco from Taco Party

Try out candlepin bowling (invented in 1880 in Worcester, MA) a variation of bowling with a handheld sized ball and ten narrow pins that look like candles, at Sacco’s Bowl Haven (45 Day St.).  While you are there have some of their wood-fired flatbread pizza.  Other great dinner spots include Redbones Barbecue (45 Chester St.) or if you are looking for a completely vegan restaurant with outdoor dining (with lentils al pastor, chorizo seitan and jackfruit tinga tacos) try Taco Party (711 Broadway).  Or if you just want a light snack go to Q’s Nuts (349 Highland Avenue) Try fun flavors like banana foster, chocolate raspberry or garlic basil sage.  All flavors are available in almonds, cashews or pecans.  

Sacco’s Bowl Haven in Davis Square

Assembly Row – Spend some time shopping and dining all near the Mystic River. 

Take the orange line from Back Bay Station towards Oak Grove to the Assembly stop.

Legoland Discovery Center – Assembly Row

Head over to Assembly Row if you want to shop at some outlets (there is no sales tax on clothing in Massachusetts)!  While you are there you can visit Legoland Discovery Center (598 Assembly Row ; please note that all guests over the age of 18 must be accompanied by a child).  Try Zo Greek (355 Revolution Dr.) for plenty of vegetarian options or have dinner outside overlooking the Mystic River Reservation just over the river in Medford at Legal C Bar (301 Great River Rd.).  

Other Places to Check Out that May require a Rideshare:

As mentioned earlier, the green line extension is coming, but probably not in time for this meeting.  Here are some other worthwhile spots to see that may require a further walk or rideshare.

Aeronaut Brewing Company (14 Tyler St.)

Winter Hill Brewing Company (328 Broadway)

Somerville Museum (1 Westwood Rd.)

Sarma (249 Pearl St.) Their chef/owner Cassie Piuma was a James Beard nominee for Best Chef: Northeast in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020 and the co-owner Ana Sortun was a James Beard semi-finalist for Outstanding Chef in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019!  I have wanted to try this place for a while now, but sadly there is no outdoor dining this season.  

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