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POLL: Where to live in greater Boston based on food in the area

Curiosity has gotten the best of me, so I ask you, chowhounds:

Where in the greater Boston area would you live if your only criteria were what food/markets were nearby?

Disclaimer: Please don't use the "everything in Boston is so close together, that I could live anywhere and still eat everything I want!" reasoning we often tell tourists. As true as that might be, I'm more interested in what food neighborhoods you love. This is not for publication or a research study, just interested in what you think.

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  1. I live in the South End and one of the many reasons that I love it there is because of all the great places to eat! I end up going out to eat several nights a week and it is really convenient with so many good places ranging from the expensive (Hamersley's, Butcher Shop) to the more reasonable (Franklin Cafe, Dish). I'm also especially fond of some of the newer additions like Orinoco, Toro and Douzo. As far as markets go, I do wish there were more options, especially those with reasonable prices. The Butcher Shop has great stuff but it's quite expensive and I'm sure Barbara Lynch's new market will have great quality, but I suspect with prices to match. I like the North End for the butchers and salumerias.

    1. Has to be the North End for downtown Boston. Great restaurants and more importantly -- great markets like Salumeria Italiana, J. Pace, and good wine stores.

      And I have to say it, not just because I'm in the hood, Somerville is a pretty great chow destination.

      1. For sheer variety I think it's hard to beat Somerville. In Union Square alone you've got Korean, Mexican, Indian, Italian, Portuguese, Brazilian, Japanese, Chinese, Irish, and good old American!

        When you include Davis and Teele Squares, add in Winter Hill and Powderhouse, and even the Somerville side of Porter Square, it's a veritable smorgasbord of restaurants and ethnic food shops. Nowhere else even comes close.

        1. I live in the North End, so I think you know what my answer is. :)

          1. Well, for starters, I definitely would NOT live in Charlestown or Southie by those criteria.

            Most areas of Cambridge would be nice, but probably somewhere in between Inman and Central, which would give you access to the gamut of restaurants from the refined high-end (Salts and Rendezvous), to great bar food (Miracle of Science) and a number of less-expensive, but very tasty ethnic spots.

            The South End would be great if I had a salary to boot as the markets and restaurants are generally a little too expensive for regular eating. The North End is awesome, but it lacks variety.

            1. The North End is superb for Italian, no doubt about it. But (controversial though this may sound), there's more to foodie life than just Italian!

              5 Replies
              1. re: BobB

                Poll within a poll: how many of you think (as I do) that this thread will quickly become one of the longest and most hotly debated on the board? ;-)

                1. re: BobB

                  I agree. But even if you only eat Italian say, 33% of the time, it's still the place to be (what other cuisine is eaten as often as Italian?). Also, it's just a great neighborhood regardless of the food.

                  1. re: Bostonbob3

                    What other cuisine is eaten as often as Italian? Speaking from a planetary perspective, I'd have to say Chinese ;-)

                    Locally, though, you may be right, especially if you count pizza joints as Italian (though not 1 in 100 serves pizza Italian-style - small, thin, and with minimal topping).

                    1. re: BobB

                      Touche on the Chinese comment.:)

                      I agree with you on the pizza. Have you tried the ones at Antico Forno though? They make a pretty good traditional Neopolitan with just fresh buffalo mozzarella, a little suace, and a few basil leaves, then cook it in their brick oven.

                      1. re: Bostonbob3

                        No, that sounds good. I don't get down to the North End nearly as often as I should.

                2. I don't think so. Most would agree that the South End and North End are excellent altho the comment about all/mostly Italian in the NE is true so I think the SE is better overall. I don't think you can just say Somerville, you'd have to pick a square/area i.e. Union, Davis, etc. Who have good options as do Central ad Inman Squares. JP has its virtues, Roslindale and W. Rox are getting much better, Dorchester has lots of stuff but again, it's a big place and you'd have to concentrate on certain parts of Dot. If I had to choose, I'd probably pick Central.

                  BTW, I noticed a place opening next to Ten Tables called Sweet Christopher's or something like that. Wonder what that's all about.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Joanie

                    If you want to narrow it down to an area, rather than just pick a square I'd pick a triangle: specifically, the roughly one-mile-on-a-side triangle formed in Cambridge and Somerville by Union Sq, Porter Sq, and Inman Sq. Not only does that get you everything actually IN those three squares, it also gets you everything in between (Zoe's, EVOO, Dali, etc, etc, etc.)

                    I think for a total area of about one-half a square mile, it surely offers the most tang for the buck.

                    1. re: BobB

                      see my reply below---it kind of got out of sequence. Just wanted to say thanks for appreciating my 'hood. I agree wholeheartedly. Don't forget Christina's ice cream, Muqueca, O Cantinho, and Macchu Picchu.

                      1. re: BobB

                        Not to mention Savenor's, the butcher for Julia Child (back in the day) and Radius (right now). And also the Wine and Cheese Cask.
                        Kudos for putting Zoe's on your list, BobB. Back in the day, it was also Julia Child's Chinese Delivery Place.
                        In fact, I'd answer the original question with a mere city block: The Dali/Cask/Savenor's/EVOO corner.

                        1. re: enhF94

                          Your mentioning Julia Child made me remember a funny story a friend told me...

                          Years ago he saw Julia Child at Savenor's and was totally speechless. He leaves Savenor's and goes to the Star Market down Beacon Street (now a Shaws) and sees her there. She gave him that "I just saw you" wink.

                          1. re: enhF94

                            Radius? That's down near South Station. Or is there another one I'm not aware of?

                            1. re: BobB

                              Never mind, I just realized I misread your phrasing. My bad.

                      2. I've thought that the Huron Village area is great because of Formaggio Kitchen, Fresh Pond Seafood, Whole Foods, Iggys, but I don't like the housing much around there.

                        Your question doesn't include restaurants as part of the choice, that would probably affect where I would choose to live. I do think that anywhere downtown is pretty great because things are so close together and walking is such good exercise.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: steinpilz

                          "Where in the greater Boston area would you live if your only criteria were what food/markets were nearby?"

                          I'm sorry, I thought it was apparent that restaurants were included in this poll.

                        2. What about Watertown? You've got Iggy's, great Armenian deli, and the fabulous Russo's, all right in town. And Formaggio Kitchen et al not far away.

                          1. I love this thread but it's impossible to answer your question objectively without having lived in all of Greater Boston's neighborhoods. I have lived in West Roxbury for twelve years, and I'm still discovering new places to eat/shop. But my neighborhood doesn't have a good Asian market. For that we travel to Allston to Super 88 to shop and have a cheap delicious meal in the food court. If I want good Italian cold cuts, I either go into the North End during my lunch hour or I drive over to Tutto's in Hyde Park where they serve a mean tuna fish sandwich. In my neighborhood, I shop at the Roslindale Fish Market for fresh fish, imported feta, and veggies. I shop at Droubies for fresh pita bread, produce and oil cured Morrocan olives. For artisan bread, I visit Fornax. Their ham and brie grilled sandwich is to die for. If I want good Lebanese pastries, veggie pizza and meat pies, I go to Bay Sweets. For the best Baba Ganoush, I go to Samia's on Center Street. Cheeses and pates, John Dewar's in Newton Centre! And for everything else, good old Roche Bros. I am a financial analyst at a Fortune 500 company, and my dream job on the way to retirement is to be a personal shopper at Rochie's. I love to shop for food!

                            1. Well, much of the low-down chowhound-type action is in places like East Boston and Quincy these days, where relatively new immigrant communities are setting down roots with a vengeance; it's not Flushing, but it is very promising; Malden is starting to glimmer a bit that way too (and that city's root and branch rebuilding of its school system has been a key to its vector that way, I think). I would say the South End has passed its peak as a chowhound (but not foodie) destination because the escalating rents have driven more and more interesting places out of business a la Back Bay. The North End is more interesting now than it was a decade or more ago (perhaps thanks to investment after the Big Dig). The eastern half of Cambridge has retained interest despite unlikely odds with the real estate boom just ended. For grocers, Watertown is virtually impossible to beat.

                              1. Its stretching the "Greater Boston Area" a bit far, but if I could my choice would be in Bristol County (Dartmouth, Westport) -- lots of fresh seafood (grab your own mussels), plenty of farmers markets, wine importers all over the place, cultural festivals, portuguese bakeries, etc.

                                Overall, I think its hard to pick one chowish place in the MA area. Saugus might be synonymous with Rt 1 Kitsch, but has Karl's Sausage kitchen, J Pace, Super88 nearby, restaurants in Wakefield, a nice cafe and easy access to both the north shore and downtown... and Lexington might have a dirth of restaurants compared to Arlington, but has 4 farm stands, easy access to Waltham for restaurants or Watertown for shopping.

                                That said, where I live in West Medford is pretty darn good. Decent access to farm stands in Lexington and Concord, endless italian options for food and shopping, high end suburban (flora, bistro5), fried seafood, 3 wine stores, easy access to Arlington, Somerville, and Everett. A 10 minute train ride to downtown and eventually to have the green line directly into Union Square (I have even done haymarket and north end butchers on the train). Chinatown is really quick, etc. I can even choose between 3 different Market Baskets depending on what I want to buy.

                                No matter what, wherever I have lived in the Boston area I have needed to go somewhere else (I lived in Huron Village and needed to go to Cambridge St, etc). As long as you are going to have a car, I think accessibility is most important.

                                1. This is really two different questions:
                                  - Best places to live for shopping for food
                                  - Best places to live for restaurants
                                  There does not seem to be much overlap between the two.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: BBHound

                                    Well, I've combined the questions. Deal with it:).

                                  2. We moved away two years ago, but at the time we were in Boston we really enjoyed living in Brookline. I'm not sure if its quite chow-ish enough for hard core hounds but having Rod Dee for hole in the wall Thai, Anna's for decent burritos, Upper Crust for pizza, Kupel's for Bagels, The Wine Gallery for wine and almost daily wine tastings, Athan's for fancy pastry, Anam Cara for its great beer selection, and Matt Murphy's for Irish all within close (beautiful) walking distance, and Taberna de Haro for Tapas a bit of a further walk away was just about as much as I could ask for from a neighborhood. For low end tasty chow and lots of beautiful old trees for after dinner strolling brookline can't be beat.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: China

                                      I agree, though I'll take Boca over Anna's ;). I'll also add the wonderful farmer's market; the convenience of Trader Joe's; and great falafel at Rami's and schwarma at Schwarma King. And Khao Sarn. Oh, and an easy walk to Audubon.

                                      I'd say we're a little light on the "nice place" front, but I'm pretty happy with my lower-end options (and, these days, that's about 95% of my dining).

                                      1. re: China

                                        I have to second the Brookline mention. Between Coolidge Corner and Allston, there are plenty for restaurants and markets. In Allston there is the Reef, Carlos Cucina, Shanghai Gate, several Vietnamese restaurants, and several others. For markets there is Super 88, the Russian market, and other smaller ethnic shops. In Coolidge Corner in addition to what is mentioned there is Dok Bua, Michaels, several Japanese restaurants, and Khao Sarn. For shopping there is Wulf's fish market, the Butcherie, Clear Flour, and another Russian market.

                                        There is also easy access to Washington Square, St. Mary's restaurants, Kenmore Sq, Back Bay, the South End, and JP. Living space is also a plus compared to other areas and there is a great independent movie theatre and bookstore.

                                        I don't mean to sound like a snob. I did live in Cambridge between Inman and Harvard Squares for fifteen years and it took me a while to adjust but I did.

                                        1. re: chuck s

                                          I hear you, but from my perspective (13 years in Union Sq Somerville, the past 3 in Brookline off Harvard St), there's no comparison. Much as I love Dok Bua and Taberna de Haro, I still miss the food options in my old neighborhood!

                                          1. re: chuck s

                                            Uh, Chuck, pardon my prying, but are you Annie and Linda's Chuck? In which case I would expect you to give it up over ice cream, or can something in Brookline compete with Gus?

                                        2. Yes! I just bought a condo right in the middle of this triangle, and the food options did play a part in my buying decision. You've got lowbrow to high and everything in between. Great markets, restaurants, pubs, cafes. If you throw in East Cambridge you get the New Deal fish market too.

                                          1. How can we choose among so many wonderful neighborhoods? I agree with everyone!

                                            The solution my husband and I came up with was to buy in the Back Bay near the Hynes T-Station and the Number 1 bus.

                                            I know this seems to break Gini's rule about not saying "everything in Boston is so close together, that I could live anywhere and still eat everything I want!"

                                            However, we actually decided not to leave this area because it gives us so much easy access to food destinations. There are other areas of the city where it is far more difficult to get from A to B.

                                            We have a Whole Foods, Trader Joes and the Copley Farmers' Market within easy walking distance. (There is even a Shaw's supermarket- but I seldom go there.) I often walk to the City Hall Farmers Market as well.

                                            There are a variety of acceptable restaurants within a few blocks. We walk to the South End. And, all the little gems in the Fenway are easy for us to reach.

                                            The number 1 bus takes us to Cambridge and all that it has to offer. Now that the South End restaurants are heading down towards Mass Ave we can take that bus to places like Toro.

                                            Outbound the Green line takes us to the Super 88 in Brighton or to classes and seminars at the BU School of Gastronomy. Inbound we can hit Chinatown or the North End.

                                            One change of bus or subway seat will reach many of the other places mentioned by hounds as favorites.

                                            And, we have plenty of Zipcars in the Back Bay for trips to Watertown, Russos' and Huron Avenue.

                                            So while the Back Bay is full of chains and food factories for the tourist and convention trade, it is a great starting point to reach the rest of what the city has to offer.

                                            1. We just moved from the Back Bay to what I think is called Mid Cambridge (triangulated among Harvard, Inman and Central Sq). We couldn't be happier where we are now. It is far better foodwise than the Back Bay. We can go back there once in awhile to hit an old favorite, but we are eating reasonable meals which we love almost every night in Cambridge!

                                              1. okok... forget Soho and Tribeca. Let's go for Triharincen, or Triporincen... or better yet, Quadporharincen... Trapincenporhar?

                                                1. Well, even though I agree with some of the other posts, I'm going to give a shout out to Waltham, since it's where I'm currently living. To be more specific, South Waltham. You have many great places to eat along Moody St. like Tempo for higher end American, Mi Tierra for Salvadorian, Skellig for Irish pub food, Watch City for decent micro brew, Taqueria Mexico for authentic Mexican, a number of Indian places, Campania and Tuscan Grill for Italian, Beijing Star for Chinese, Carambola (Elephant Walk) for Cambodian, Domenic's for panini's, Franco's and Pini's for good pizza, and a whole lot more. Can't forget Carl's for the best steak and cheese I've ever had. You can even get sushi or Korean at Sushi Yasu. The only thing really missing is a good Vietnamese joint.

                                                  Besides, when you get sick of the choices here, there is a bus that runs right into Central Sq, commuter rail that runs into North Station, and you are only a 10-15 min car ride from any other place in the city you want to eat.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Ali G

                                                    I'm more of a shopper than a diner, and I'd also say that the Waltham/Watertown area is pretty great. Between the Indian, Latin American, and Italian markets on Moody St. for their respective cuisines, a short trip to Watertown for the Armenian markets, and Russo's for everything else, there's not a lot that I'd need to go elsewhere to buy. Add to that the Chinese dim sum place whose name I forget, Domenic's for subs, multiple excellent taqueria options, several higher-end Italian places, it would have my needs pretty well covered. Oh, and that little bakery on the Newton border has the best muffins in the area I've found. (i'll post about them when my brain freeze is over and I can remember the name!)

                                                  2. I"d pick either the North End or North Cambridge. While the North End is a pretty obvious choice, many people don't realize how many great restaurants can be found along Mass. Ave. between the Arlington border and the Porter Square area. There are too many to name here, but some of my favorites are Greek Corner, Passage to India, Joe Sent Me (amazing steak tips), Christopher's, Cafe Barada, Thai Kitchen, and Spirit. And Pemberton's is a great market that, while a bit pricey, has excellent foods for home cooking.

                                                    1. I've got to toss in another vote for the Porter Sq., Union Sq., Inman Sq. triangle overlapping Cambridge and Somerville. It has pretty much everything I could ask for (including some fantastic grocery stores in the Union Sq. area: Capone's for Italian, Reliable for Asian, several Indian markets, Brazilian/Portuguese on Somerville Ave., and a decent fish market not too far away on Cambridge St.) All in all, I think the area has the most variety/tastiness per sq. mile of anywhere around.

                                                      1. I live in Charlestown now (obviously) and while it's far from the "best" location as far as really local dining and food shopping, it's definitely easy to get to enough from. However if we're going to branch into suburbs at all, I lived in Arlington for 4 years, and was pretty happy overall with the foods choices - especially with Cambridge and Somerville so close.

                                                        So those are my personal experiences, but I think overall I'd say somewhere in the Somerville/Cambridge vicinity is the best, because I think it offers the most variety.

                                                        1. If budget is no issue, (and in my fantasy world it is), I would likely choose Bay Village, which has almost nothing itself, but is SO convenient to SE, BB and BH. In the real world where I can not afford to eat at all those places all the time but can't afford those 2 mil dollar condos, Somerville is tough to beat.

                                                          1. I have no problems whatsoever with living in Allston. There's a fine row of great unpretentious restaurants from Babcock Street to Union Square, including most of my favorite hole in the wall places. There's a very large, very clean, and very well-stocked Shaw's a few hundred feet from our house, and a terrific Super 88 on the next block. Coolidge Corner is a 15-minute walk, Clear Flour is less than five (and our CSA's pickups are at Clear Flour as well, instead of way out in JP where they used to be), the Green Line is right here, and as someone else mentioned, there are a couple dozen Zipcars in walking distance for trips to Russo's. Plus, our house is tucked away on a little hidden side street that's as quiet as any street in any of the burbs, aside from the occasional noisy student party nearby. Allston all the way, as far as I'm concerned.

                                                            1. South End plusses: Ming's, Syrian Grocery, Brix, Formaggio; easy access to Chinatown, Downtown, Beacon Hill, Back Bay, Southie, Dorchester; decent access to Cambridge, Allston, Brighton, Brookline, JP, and Rozzie; easy highway access to dining destinations outside of the city; a handful of Chowish restaurants (the Franklin, Morse Fish, Don Ricardo, Anchovies, Billy's, Addis, etc.); strong brunch options; fine patio dining in good weather.

                                                              South End minusses: distance on foot to full-service supermarkets (I support Foodie's, but it is expensive and lacking on many counts); dearth of certain cuisines (e.g., Mexican, Indian); annoying expense, pretense, and/or unChowishness of most restaurants.

                                                              1. I know this is an old post but I thought it would be worth it to bring it back to the top. I just wanted to say that I am in the process of deciding whether to move to the Cambridgeport area or the Union Sq area and reading this thread made me feel a little bit better about moving to Somerville. If anyone has any new suggestions on places to go/things to do in the Union Sq area (between Union and Porter) I would greatly welcome them! (I originally wanted to contact people individually and thank them but couldn't find a way to do so... so this will have to do -- Thanks!)

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: meaganl

                                                                  I moved to the Union Square area four years ago [from Belmont] and have not regretted it for a minute. I do more eating at home than in restaurants, and have found the wealth of ingredients available locally to be without equal. However, when I want to eat out, my choices are almost endless. Every price point, and almost any regional cuisine.

                                                                  One of the true joys of this neighborhood is that the market employees know who you are, take the time to tell you how their mother cooked this odd looking thing you have never seen before, and take great pride in sharing their culture. Each year I have chosen a different cuisine to learn at home, choosing a cuisine for which I have a local store.

                                                                  It does take me longer to get to the farms in Lexington and Concord, but it is a trade off that has worked for me.

                                                                2. We recently moved from the Leather District to Acton (yes, I know but now I have a grill!) We've gone from having easy access to lots of great places to eat but no easy access to markets (the C-Market off the Surface Artery is a scary place), to no place to eat (Not Your Average Joe's, anyone?) but easy access to the terrific local farms and farm stores in Concord, Sudbury and Acton.

                                                                  We cook so much more than we used to, and we're supporting the local farmers too. I do miss the Boston restaurants, and having to plan a dinner out, with driving, is a downer, but our wallets are fatter out here and we're eating better food.

                                                                  1. Hands down, in my opinion, the BEST combination restaurant/grocery shopping neighborhood, is Inman Square at the Cambridge/Somerville line. There are great restaurants at a number of price points and across a variety of cuisines (O Cantinho for inexpensive Portuguese, East Coast Grill for pricier seafood and BBQ, S&S for sandwiches and matzoball soup, Ole for authentic Mexican, Punjabi Dhaba for takeout Indian...I could go on). You also have a great ice cream shop and SPICE shop under the same ownership (Christina's). It is a very quick drive to the River St Whole Foods, Trader Joe's on Mem Drive, and the fish markets further down on Cambridge St. Oh, AND you can walk to Union Square for India Palace and the Independent, or walk a bit up Beacon for tapas at Dali or a lovely dinner at EVOO, or to buy your wine at the Wine and Cheese Cask.

                                                                    Heck, why don't I live in Inman Square?!?!?

                                                                    In the North End a) many of the restaurants aren't actually that good, and b) they're full of tourists all the time. Neptune Oyster House, Pizzeria Regina and the Wine Bottega are all destinations for me, but I would say Somerville/Cambridge has more to offer overall and sans tourists!