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Middle Eastern groceries in Watertown

I'm a recent transplant to the Boston area and cannot parallel park. Is there a public parking area (aside from street parking) close to Arax or the other Middle Eastern groceries in Watertown? It will take me 45 mins to get there by bus versus 12 minutes by car so I'd rather drive.

Also, I need saffron, dried limes, pomegranate paste, Angelica powder and Calendula. Do you know if these groceries carry these items?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. There's a small lot with some metered spaces off of Wells Avenue, around the block from the dunkin donuts, kind of across Bigelow Ave. from the Deluxe Town Diner.

    1. You should be able to get the dried limes and calendula. I am not sure about the pomegranate paste and angelica powder, but there's a fair chance. If you cannot get saffron there, try Penzey's in Arlington. That's not terribly far and they do have their own parking lot.

      1. Try arax for saffron (when I've compared they are the best for prices) Try Massis for the pomegranate paste. Easy meter parking, which takes dimes and nickels.
        What is Angelica powder used for?

        1 Reply
        1. re: bornagainitalian

          I just got this cookbook called "Silk Road Cooking, A Vegetarian Journey." Leafing through it, I found an intriguing recipe for Pistachio Soup that requires angelica powder. Other recipes in the cookbook call for it too. The book's appendix mentions that angelica powder is used as a souring ingredient for recipes also including pomegranate paste. Maybe the two have an affinity?

        2. arax actually has a tiny little "lot" in the back, but it's normally filled with the cars of the family that owns the place. If you go on Sunday, late Saturday or evenings you could almost certainly park in the Uncommon Grounds parking lot right next to Arax. They have "no Parking" signs, but that's mainly to discourage people from parking overnight during the winter, and I can't believe that they'd tow you for a half hour trip to the markets.
          Same thing at the 7-11 parking lot a couple of blocks east.

          OTOH, the street parking in Watertown is very forgiving (bigger spots) and it would be a good place to practice what is going to become an important life skill!

          4 Replies
          1. re: cpingenot

            Arax and Sevan (& probably Massis) are closed on Sundays currently.

            1. re: cpingenot

              Actually, I think the coffee shop is pretty protective of their parking. I wouldn't chance it. But the lot Ralphie mentions is good.

              1. re: cpingenot

                The small parking lot behind Arax is good to know. I suppose I have to learn parallel parking sometime, although I've been trying hard to avoid it. I'll just try going there at night so there will be more available parking spaces.

                1. re: cpingenot

                  DO NOT park in the Common Grounds lot. They WILL tow you if you do not dine at Common Grounds. It is a source of some irritation at Arax, but in some way I can understand as the lot would always be full of Arax customers.

                  The lot behid the Dunkin Donuts is your best choice. Or, a little further down, between the 7-11 and the Mobil Station is Templeton Parkway (funny name, definitely NOT a parkway. which is a long street with lots of legal parking and few cars so you would not have to parallel park. I fact the streets on either side of the 7-11 have lots of legal spots.

                  I got Angelica at the Harvest food coop in central Square.

                2. Oh, and I know that they have dried limes and am almost completely certain about calendula. If Arax doesn't have it, one of the other places in that strip almost certainly will.

                  1. i've never had to actually parallel park there - i've usually been able to slide into a space head on. but maybe i've only been on slow days.

                    it really is easy to learn to parallel park - and it's really something you need to know how to do to get around boston!

                    1. Also, try Eastern Lamejun Bakers at 145 Belmont St, in Belmont.

                      Great array of spices, baked goods etc. They are NOT open on Sunday, just FYI.

                      1. Thanks all for a good description of the parking situation in Watertown, and for the bakery recommendation in Belmont. I'll try to drop in after work when it is less busy in that area. The maneuvers required for parallel parking are intimidating enough, but the idea of drivers waiting behind me (and maybe honking!) just makes me anxious.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: amy_wong

                          Ah, be a typical Boston driver; f**k 'em...BTW, if you need to get a Mass. license, I think you have to know how to parallel park...

                          1. re: galleygirl

                            Good thing the RMV just let me trade in my out-of-state driver's license for a MA one. The sad thing is that I flunked the parallel parking part of my driving test.

                            1. re: amy_wong

                              Ah, each state is different...But it will change your life!

                              1. re: amy_wong

                                I moved to MA after a lifetime in the southwest, where parallel parking is something you learn -- sorta -- for your drivers test when you're 16 and then forget forever. I was a terrible, terrible parallel parker for a few years, until one day I realized I was zipping right into a tiny space without a second thought: like anything, you get good at it with practice.

                                In the meantime, if there's any way you can schedule your errands for mid-afternoon, you shouldn't have any trouble finding a parking spot you can glide right into and out of. Even on Saturday afternoons, if you go around 2 or so, it's rarely particularly crowded.

                                But if the small lot across the street from Deluxe Town Diner is full, if you continue the three or four blocks down the street that Deluxe is on, it ends at a T intersection at which there are a couple dozen pull-in spaces. That adds a longer walk to your errands, but perhaps that means you'll start balancing your fear of parallel parking against not having to schlep your groceries as far!

                                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                  Yeah, I came from TX myself, where most places have abundant parking. Nowadays, I feel trapped because I can no longer go to places with no dedicated parking lots, which is no way for a food lover to live. I'll have to take your advice to visit in the early afternoon. It would be nice to have a Lexus with a push-button parallel parking capability, but that's not going to happen anytime soon.

                          2. Note: Arax sells something that's labeled "saffron" over in their dried spice section. It's an impressively large bag of dried-flower looking stuff, and sells for about $3/pound. Needless to say, it is *not* saffron. No saffron on Earth (or no saffron on Earth worth eating) is three dollars a pound. My Iranian wife and her mother burst out laughing at the label, immediately recognizing it as "poor man's saffron", a.k.a. calendula (which you also say you're looking for). So buy that to cover your calendula, but prepare to pay much more for a smaller packet of real saffron. Not sure what call there is to have both of them around, though.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Dereklowe

                              Oh, so that's calendula. I've seen that in Mexican groceries too, where they were labeled "mock saffron" or something similar. I'll keep a lookout for the real stuff, even if it burns a hole in my wallet.

                              1. re: amy_wong

                                I've found decent saffron at most of the Indian Grocers around. Expensive per pound, yes, but you generally only purchase a few grams, so not a horrible upfront expenditure.

                                1. re: amy_wong

                                  I've found teeny jars of saffron at Trader Joe's for correspondingly less money, and the flavor was fine.

                                  1. re: galleygirl

                                    Thanks for the recommendations! Yeah, I go to Indian groceries around here but for some reason, I never look for saffron. Nice to know Trader Joe's has them too, since there is one close to me.