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Suburbia HOA area food vs city food--how much did finding good food have to do with where you live?

It seems, near me, that areas that have more/larger HOAs have more chain restaurants and mom and pop type places are nicer on the interior but food is bland and generic. In/nearer cities, food gets more eclectic and your chances of finding a good hole in the wall place is much higher. Is that true near you? Why is it? Is it the people who like HOAs similarly like their food similarly controlled? That's what I'm finding where I live. People love the Cheescake Factory, PF Changs, etc. Even Thai or Japanese places are pretty uniform--pretty and generic. I know few people who would venture out of the sanitized comfort zone.

Living in suburbia HOA-land, I wish I had thought of this years ago, before we bought our house. How much did finding quickly access to good food factor into where you live, or how much will it in the future?

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    1. re: babette feasts

      Sorry, suburbanite talk--Home Owners Associations and planned communities. Where every house has to look the same.

    2. Not a factor in my purchase, as I do a lot of cooking at home. But I do see your point. I guess if I were to eat out more often I would choose some place with more Mom and Pop, whole in the wall type of places over chains. I rarely if ever eat at chain places.

      2 Replies
      1. re: JEN10

        I cook at home a lot, too, but I also think it's in part to the fact that I have to drive a good distance to get good food. I don't want Chopstix Express.

        1. re: chowser

          I feel the same way. Our little downtown area is 99% independents, otherwise it is chain city. It seems to be what many people want. I can't tell you how many people I know at work who were so excited about the recent opening of Marlin and Rays- s new seafood chain by Ruby Tuesdays. Neighbors invited us to go, but no thanks. According to them, food was just as you would expect from such a place. Also, there is much excitement for a new P F Changs coming to town. Apparently, if people have heard of the name, they will come. I'm going back to my kitchen.

      2. Areas with HOA communities built in are usually areas which used to be farmland/industrial/away from the main city and so don't have any established restaurants in the area, because the community is not established..

        We have moved because of jobs and look for a house that is safe to come home to at night. Coincidentally, all homes purchased have been foreclosures. Price and safety are the concerns. It is nice to be able to walk to a local place, but I can drive anywhere.

        16 Replies
        1. re: Cathy

          The question is, why are the restaurants that subsequently open then generally chains or bland generic ones? And, what I've found is the good places that do unusual foods usually close. If they adapt, they often don't. My husband's uncle opened a restaurant and he wanted it to be authentic cantonese food--with duck tongue, chicken feet, etc. Business was terrible until he started a cheap buffet, with sushi (because all asian food buffets, regardless of nationality will have california rolls). Business is amazing. Is there a reason people in suburbia don't want anything different?

          1. re: chowser

            As you point out, HOA's like homogeneity, and so do the people who choose to live there. A new development doesn't have existing buildings, which means businesses have to be built literally from the ground up. Only chains can afford that. In addition, there may be independent restaurants but they aren't going to be as visible because the chains grab the prime, most visible (i.e. corner) lots. I've visited Las Vegas a fair amount and because I'm staying with friends it's mostly off the strip, out of the tourist areas, in the land of sprawl and massive cookie cutter developments. The chains are highly visible. But most strip malls will have a small storefront restaurant or two -- some specialty chains (like a chain pizza parlor, bakery or coffeeshop) but some independents. You just don't notice them as you're whizzing by.

            To go back to your original question, I would never choose to live in such a place. Not only because of the homogeneity of the food, but the homogeneity in general. Not to mention the occasionally ridiculous CCRs, like that women in Michigan who is facing jail time for the audacity of growing vegetables in her front yard. I've lived in the same house for over 20 years, but if I were to move the kinds of foods available locally would certainly be a factor and I'm thrilled that over the years I've lived here more and more good and interesting food options have sprung up in my neighborhood. It's certainly been a point I emphasize when I'm advertising for a renter.

            Sure I could drive anywhere, but I'm glad that when I get home from work I can walk down to the corner, where there's an organic grocery, and a really good cheese store, butcher shop and bakery. Who wants to drive everywhere?

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Just for fun, I looked up the demographics for Tracy, California: a community that surely would fit the mental image that one gets when one thinks about "HOA": very suburban, LOTS of track houses that all look alike, and lots of new developments and strip malls.

                Is it homogeneous? Not if you are referring to ethnicity in saying that 'HOA's like homogeneity." Per the 2010 census: the population of Tracy is 36.9% Hispanic, 7.2% African American, 27.8% Caucasian, 14.8% Asian, 4% 'other'.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Just a friendly reminder, Folks. This discussion is about food, posts that discuss general HOA issues with the exclusion of food discussion have been removed.

                2. re: chowser

                  I think a lot of people are afraid of the unknown. And many of these are the same people who indulge their kids with a separate meal at home instead of having them eat what is served. I have friends whose kids will eat anything because they were exposed to different things, but know many more people whose kids diet rotate only between the types of foods offerd on typical kids menus.

                  1. re: sherriberry

                    Good points. When I was a kid there was no such thing as a "kid's menu" or separate foods for kids at dinner -- kids ate what adults ate.

                    My sister is raising a little chowhound, and she's always eaten everything -- at a family dinner out when she was just shy of one she reached out and grabbed and ate a piece of radicchio off her grandma's plate, and ended up eating more of her mom's dinner than the kid friendly dish they'd ordered for her. If we're going to be eating out family style my sister will make sure there's one dish she knows my niece will eat, but otherwise, no special food for the chowpup.

                    1. re: sherriberry

                      I think that may or may not be true. Certainly kids who aren't exposed to different foods may shy away from them, but I also have come to believe that my kid was just born with a conservative palate. In this case I think it's sometimes nature, rather than nurture.

                      1. re: Glencora

                        I agree. But only feeding your kid food that he already likes is a sure way to reinforce any tendencies to a conservative palate.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          True. And thank goodness we live in an area with a huge variety of markets and restaurants (and people). He's been exposed to so much, and even though he rejected a lot of it, he's gradually become more adventurous. I hope that when he visits his friends on "the other side of the tunnel" in their big bland houses and goes with them to the malls with all the chain restaurants that he realizes something important is missing. I think he does.

                          1. re: Glencora

                            I'll respond to everyone here--I think you've hit the nail on the head with everything you all have said. Most people who live in HOAs like to know what to expect and expect to know what they get. It's kind of soul-less which is what I'm coming to deal with here. Had I known we'd be here longer, I would have planned better.

                            1. re: chowser

                              Making generalizations about people who live in HOA's is patently misinformed. HOA's have become more prevalent in the past quarter century and likely most prevalent in former exurbs or rural areas that have traditionally had low population density. In time, any area that has a large contingency of HOA's will develop and independent food businesses will proliferate. Also consider the general economy and who has the dollars available to expand existing or open new businesses at any given time.

                              Please don't lump all of us HOA residents in to some arbitrary designation of being predictable and needy of routine, it just is not accurate.

                                1. re: ChinoWayne

                                  "In time, any area that has a large contingency of HOA's will develop and independent food businesses will proliferate."

                                  It might be an area specific thing. My HOAs and others around have been here since the mid 80's. The independent restaurants aren't chow-worthy, nor are the chains but I don't think most people want anything different. They're happy w/ their choices and Starbucks on every corner.

                                  I'm not lumping all HOA-ers as the same--as I said, I live in an HOA. But, there is something, in general, about people who will accept being told what color house they can live in, how much decoration they can have, whether they can have brass numbers on their mail box, whether they can hang their laundry up outside, etc. uniformity.

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    You seem to be contending that most HOA residents are incapable of or unwilling to overcome or deviate from the mundane regimentation of the common interest housing communities they live in, ergo there is no local market for any "chow-worthy" food purveyors. Yet you claim to be an HOA resident, and quite obviously you are passionate about and capable of seeking out chow-worthy establishments, whether in you immediate neighborhood, or across town. So are you the only exception to the rule, or is it possible that many of us who could be considered your HOA neighbors also are discerning eaters, and that if there is nothing chow-worthy in our immediate vicinity we are capable of finding a way to get to the chow-worthy venue and that we do represent a local market for chow-worthy venues should they decide to penetrate this geographic area?

                                    I just don't think your generalization about HOA residents as a group holds any water.

                                    1. re: ChinoWayne

                                      Yes, almost everyone I know, in my area, loves the Cheesecake Factory, Starbucks and PF Changs. I'm not saying everyone is like that but I do think that often if someone chooses to live in an HOA, they're fine with everything being sanitized. Not everyone, obviously there are exceptions like those who've said so on this thread but enough that it does dictate the type of restaurants around it. This was not meant to be an attack on CH who live in HOAs but that there aren't enough of us, at least in my area. I was throwing out the idea to see if it's true elsewhere but I seem to have touched a nerve and I apologize if that's the case.

                  2. My city looks like a big square divided into four- NW, NE, SW and SE. The downtown would be a little circle in the middle, where the four quadrants meet. It makes sense that the most eclectic or "niche" restaurants would be in the middle, so people from all quadrants of the city could visit relatively easily. When you eat at a locally-owned, non-chain restaurant in the city center and you talk to other people, it's not like they all walked there. They drove from all corners of the city to come get Ethiopian or Ukrainian food. It would be illogical to open a South Indian restaurant in the extreme far northwest corner of my city, as there wouldn't be enough interest from the local neighbourhood and it would be too long of a drive for people from most of the other quadrants.

                    Also, I would suspect it has something to do with demographics. People living in the suburbs tend to have families with children, and while it would be great if everyone raised their kids on balut eggs and tacos de lengua, it's not going to happen. So they like restaurants with kids menus and crowd-pleasing fare (not to mention seating for mom, dad, two teenagers, a kid and a baby in a high chair, plus grandma and grandpa if they come too!). I rarely eat in my neighbourhood as it is mostly chains, but when I think of the independent restaurants nearby they aren't set up for high chairs and they're not wheelchair accessible, while all the chains are.

                    1. I think it depends on where those HOA communties are. Here in So Cal, there are often smaller, take-out places with all sorts of cuisines that are one of a kind. Their food may not be quite as "authentic" as those within their own ethnic communities, but they're still good. And I do believe it can be harder for those places to survive in the suburbs because rents tend to be higher than in inner city ethnic neighborhoods. (Please excuse the use of the word ethnic, I am not using it in a pejorative sense but only to define it as different from main stream American/chain foods.)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: escondido123

                        That's what I was wondering--if different areas have different experiences w/ HOAs and I'd expect, of all areas, that California would be different. The places I lived in CA (Long Beach, Monterey, Alameda) were established long before HOAs came along and were much more diverse as food choices go. And, as those people moved out, some to HOAs, they bring their expectations with them. Plenty of chains, definitely, but also plenty of good restaurants.

                      2. I think it can depend on a few factors. Generally the parts of the city with the most diversity have restaurants with soul and diversity. This is not always the case however and the establishment of ethnic communities may not always be in the heart of the city. For example, I live in an older suburb (not necessarily an HOA suburb) but since the mid 80's have had a lot of Vietnamese immigration. Hence, we have probably a dozen good pho places, and one of the largest Asian markets in the state. I think ultimately the local restaurant scene in most places is a direct reflection of the demographics of the community.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: LorenM

                          Definitely--areas with larger populations of a culture often have those types of good restaurants. In my area, they tend to be outside the city but inside the HOA suburbs. That's where we head for good food.

                        2. Both have their pros and cons and Suburbia and HOA don't always coexist.

                          Pros - City
                          City food more diverse - lots of local restaurants
                          Restaurant food types - ethnic to modern all available
                          who needs a stocked fridge in the city - no one
                          restaurants open longer hours or 24 hours
                          you don't need a car to get around

                          Cons City
                          Crowded restaurants - need to make reservations
                          I miss my moms cooking syndrome
                          have trouble finding good local produce and veggies at supermarkets and farmers markets or lack of them.
                          can not grow a garden unless it's on your balcony

                          Pros - Suburbia / HOA
                          Neighborhood block parties where everyone brings their best recipes
                          Momma's home cooking - if not your momma someone elses
                          Out of a cup of sugar? Borrow it from next door.
                          Farmers markets and local produce available
                          The ability to have your own garden

                          Cons - Suburbia - HOA
                          Restaurants are mostly chains
                          Mom and Pop and local restaurants are not open extended hours or are closed
                          No real variation or ethnic food
                          Nothing ever open on Sundays.
                          Need a car to get anywhere or drive into the city for food

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                            Hi Sandwich, In the suburbs in So Cal, virtually everything is open on Sundays. There's lots of grocery food in the suburbs, often a local Farmers' Market and both a Trader Joes and Costco are close by. Mexican, Vietnamese, Japanese, Greek and Chinese food places are everywhere--often small concerns not chains.

                            1. re: escondido123

                              Hi Escondido,

                              I was trying to keep very general as So Cal does have a lot to offer I'm sure. so do the suburbs of larger cities.

                              1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                Hi Sandwich, I understand that suburbs are by definition next to cities. My town happens to be both which allows me to walk to Farmers' Market and be at big stores in 10 minutes by car.

                            2. re: Sandwich_Sister

                              The biggest con for the city is the price--which is why we're not there. Have you been to good potlucks in the suburbs? I tend to find a lot of Sandra Lee type foods, ones that look pretty but are reprocessed processed foods. I have been to a few good potlucks in that ring between the city and HOAs, where a lot of immigrants tend to live, as mentioned above.

                            3. As Ruth mentioned chain restaurants can build from the ground up whereas it would be hard for a mom pop place to build. In addition, some strip mall rents can be high and mom pop shops have a harder time making a lively hood. Chains OTOH, can support a fledgling store until it starts turning a profit. I live in area that has a good mix of mom/pops and chains and I pay HOA dues every month. We have a farmer's market which is packed every Saturday and the health food store and Whole Foods do a brisk business. IMHO, better ingredients in a given area are driven by the income level of the population. My beef w/ my area is the dearth of discount grocery stores and often worry how low income families make it w/out Winco type stores. Though I know the ingredients may not be stellar there at least it is affordable.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                That was/is a good point about restaurants being built from ground up and the cost. Why is it chains have a look to them? Even if you don't know it's a chain, you can tell it's a chain.

                              2. Ugh...once pointed out, the correlation between planned neighborhood communities and an abundance of chain eating is obvious. I cannot believe it never occurred to me before, as I have lived 30 years in a chain food wasteland. I am sure all the reasons pointed out are completely true.

                                The one nice change in our town over the past decade or so has been the growth of a few Asian populations, particularly Korean. As a result, we have had some really great non-chain, ethnic restaurants crop up and stick around. Also some great food markets.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: jlhinwa

                                  I think there are probably more gems hidden in strip malls than we're aware of. If I lived in Las Vegas I might start some kind of systematic exploration of them. Unfortunately, with the big chains in prominent locations the smaller restaurants just fade into the woodwork.

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    I live in a place where 95% of the population growth was during and after WW2, so it's essentially all suburban here. It seems like you can't have a good-sized strip mall in these parts without a Thai restaurant. They buy out a closed restaurant to get kitchen and dining area at a discount, scrub everything immaculate, maybe put down a some white paint, and then add the universal strip mall Thai decorating kit- one picture of current King of Thailand or royal family and two Southeast Asian pastoral scenes on the walls, and one Japanese lucky cat placed over by the cash register. Meanwhile, the chairs are still pure Bob's Country Bunker, as are probably the tables underneath the tablecloth.

                                    And yes, they're glad to make it as hot as you want your food to be. They'll just remind you politely that if you do find their Thai hot to be too spicy, you'll still have to pay for it.

                                2. One good reason why I refuse to give up the city. There is a very good grocery store and a decent variety of restaurants and bars that I can walk to, and absolutely every cuisine within a 20 minute drive. The man wants to move back to the rural/small town area he came from, and though a simpler life may be nice in some ways I love the diversity of the city. I really don't see myself ever moving to the kind of suburbs we're discussing.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. I would say a big part of why I like living in an urban area if the abundance of dining choices. In my neighborhood alone (limiting that to within a ten-minute walk of my home) I can eat/drink a variety of cuisines at a variety of price points, shop at a bigger supermarket or smaller specialty stores and get produce at a farmer's market. On a recent road trip through a much more rural part of the country I did get a little frustrated at some of the dining choices we were limited to.

                                    An aside, but I always find it kind of funny that discussions like this often boil down to chains or "little" holes-in-the-wall (or my personal pet peeve "mom and pop") as if these are the only options.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: LeoLioness

                                      Why is "mom and pop" a personal pet peeve? What would you call individually owned restaurants?

                                      Obviously there are other options, like upscale non-chain restaurants but to me, those are ones you drive to, no matter where you live. I'd drive into the city or out of the city for a place like that. I'm thinking more about every day type restaurants. There are non-chain restaurants in the suburbs but I find the food is more bland and uniform, despite different owners. We have so many Greek owned Italian restaurants where the menus and food are all about the same that it doesn't matter where we do go eat.

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        I guess I'd call it an independent restaurant if I needed to label it by its ownership. "Mom and Pop" just bugs for some reason.

                                        I guess a lot of my everyday restaurants could be classified as "upscale" (though I tend to scale down my ordering/order off the bar menu to make them more affordable as a frequent destination)--again, these are places I walk to, in my neighborhood.

                                        1. re: LeoLioness

                                          Independent restuarnt is a good way to put it. I've only heard mom and pop type places and since I have family who have restaurants like that and they're moms and pops the phrase seemed to work.

                                    2. As someone who recently moved from the 'burbs into the city primarily to get away from chain restaurants this is interesting. It's still a novelty to me to be able to walk to (good) restaurants, the grocery store, and the liquor store.

                                      1. A major correlation is with the ethnic population in the area rather than if it's urban/suburban.

                                        Korean food in LA is better in the city than in the burbs because that's where the Koreans live. Chinese food is better in the SGV suburbs and Vietnamese food is better in OC because that's where they live.

                                        In Fountain Valley, you often wake up on Saturday mornings to the sound of a youth swim meet at the community pool where Green Valley(one HOA) is taking on Greenbrook(a neighboring HOA). Talk about suburbia! And yet you have better access there to great Japanese and Vietnamese food than most every large urban center in the US.

                                        Focusing on an urban/suburban divide breaks down when you get to California because the suburbs aren't as homogeneous as other areas of the country.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: huaqiao

                                          I agree in part and disagree in part. Unfortunately from my point of view. diversity doesn't always = great food. It is much more dependent on the size, density and socio-economic status of the community...

                                          I moved from one of the great restaurant cities in the world (San Francisco) to, well, one that isn't a great eating city, if you can even call it a city and not a small town (Merced, CA, population 79,000); FWIW Merced's website calls it a 'medium size city', but I wouldn't go that far.

                                          Merced (located in Central California) is very diverse, with a considerably higher Hispanic population by percentage of total population than San Francisco, a higher Southeast Asian population by percentage than San Francisco and a comparable African American population by percentage, per the 2010 Census . Overall Asian populations are lower by percentage in Merced compared to San Francisco because there are very few persons of self-identified Chinese ethnicity/ descent here.

                                          Merced is also very poor and very hard hit by the recession (about 20% unemployment county wide right now), which doesn't exactly make it easy for restaurants, particularly not 'mom and pop' type restaurants, to grow and flourish. On top of that, the population is young, with lots of school age children, which I don't think is the ideal demographics for restaurant dining.

                                          So, I take issue with the argument that lack of diversity or lack of ethnic populations is the reason that food is not as good as in urban areas. It is a much more multi-facited and complex issue.

                                          Moreover, I take issue with calling my community an "HOA". I live in a small 'HOA' but in fact that is NOT typical of housing options in my town; most housing options are NOT part of HOAs. Moreover, it is a ten minute bike ride from my 'HOA' to downtown (well, fifteen minutes if, like me, you are a slow rider or get stopped by the train running through town), so it isn't like the restaurants on Main Street aren't accessible to me...

                                          Did food factor into my decision to move? heck, no. If I had based my decision largely on food, I would never have left San Francisco. I probably wouldn't have left my neighborhood. Indeed, I really didn't leave my neighborhood much: despite the great diversity of places to eat in San Francisco I tended to stay within twenty blocks of home. This ability to walk to great, world-class restaurants is indeed an advantage to City life, but it has much, much more to do with economies of scale, socio-economic status of its residents, and density, than with diversity, IMO.

                                          My decision to leave the city was an economic decision and an overall quality of life choice. The longer I live here, the more I enjoy the slower pace, the LACK of TRAFFIC, the quiet, the great bike paths (that I can actually ride because of the lack of hills!), the good food available at farm stands and from neighborhood farms (I mean that literally; the closest farm to my house is about four blocks away), the space and weather for a garden, the beautiful kitchen I couldn't afford in the City, and the open skies. It's a good place to live, if you have a job and don't have to worry about the quality of the schools because your kids are grown....

                                          That said, do I miss San Francisco restaurants? Every day. We have a few good places, mostly SE Asian (Mexican food is a weakness here, despite the high Hispanic population, to my great disappointment). When withdrawal gets really bad, I come into town for a night or a weekend.

                                          I will agree that not enough is open on Sundays here. Sigh. Sundays are definitely cook at home days (though last night we made the treck to the 'Big City' (of Modesto; population 210,000).

                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                            A lot of good food for thought in your posts, hunqaio and susancinsf (or would susancinmerced be more accurate?:-)). Let me clarify I said "Suburbia HOA" because I was talking about areas of suburbia with HOA after HOA; not just one HOA surrounded by other non-HOA neighborhoods (these are the ones where a developer fit in homes in an existing area, rather than going out to farmlands and building acres of homes). I can't walk or bike anywhere. We could not have afforded to live closer to the city, without sacrificing separate bedrooms for kids and grass so it was a give and take but when we want to eat out, that's when I think of it the most. It's not a huge sacrifice but I was wondering if others made the other choice for food.

                                            1. re: chowser

                                              well, I do think that suburbia as such is taking on a different look, at least in California, as I noted above in my description of Tracy, CA, which fits the 'HOA' parameters you describe. (but then, so do portions of my town, where LOTS of farmland was taken over for building developments. Many of which are half empty now, but that is another story)...

                                              Apart from that, however, I am guessing that there may be a partial clue in your answer as to why it is harder to make a go of an independent restaurant in a suburb than in a city: based on my own experience back when I was a young (and sometimes broke) parent, I think parents of school age children (and particularly those who can't afford to live where there are lots of services, including restaurants) go out to eat less often. Given those types of demographics, the lower population density, and the difficulty of finding already built out space to lease, I can see plenty of reasons why getting independents to open restaurants in suburbia would be a challenge...

                                              and that said, of course, there is also the simple problem that less is not more. Population density is (I suspect) a huge factor. There are PLENTY of not-so-great restaurants in the City also. It is just that one can keep walking a block or two and find something else, because there are just that many more restaurants, period. Simply put, lack of choice isn't such an issue when there are more choices.

                                              No easy solution, but I would consider borrowing an idea referred to earlier in the thread, and getting your neighbors together for a block party and potluck now and then. You might find more diverse, good food among those home cooks than you imagine. Apart from that, keep looking. I've found gems in areas that, on the surface, appear to be the most suburban or rural possible. One just has to look harder with less choice (and then remember to post on CH about one's finds!).

                                              and you do have my sympathy on the food choices. Believe me, I know your choices are less than if you had chosen to live in the city. As you say, however, there are trade-offs.

                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                There is also the fact that many of the suburban strip malls want to rent to chains which they feel bring customers and are dependable. So the company that owns a dozen of those will make a deal with the company that owns the chain restaurants at a better price than they'll do for an owner with just one restaurant.

                                                1. re: escondido123

                                                  yes, that seems likely and makes sense (from the point of view of the company that owns the mall): rightly or wrongly the company may believe that the chain is a better risk in a new development.

                                            2. re: susancinsf

                                              Some great points there, susanc. I'll revise my "ethnic populations" theory to make it subordinate to economics. :) But I think both of those have a bigger impact on local food availability than a urban/suburban divide.

                                          2. The irony of this discussion is that when it comes to grocery wastelands I understand inner city neighborhoods are the hardest hit. Water, water all around but not a drop to drink!

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: escondido123

                                              Sadly, true. We're comparing one relatively affluent lifestyle with another.

                                              1. re: escondido123

                                                Depends. Where we are there are three supermarkets within walking distance, including a Whole Foods, and a great farmers market in season with (semi-)local veggies, meats, and cheeses. Also more restaurants than I can count, offering all sorts of ethnic cuisines as well as simple great burgers when I'm in the mood for that.

                                                But I will admit this is sort of a unique area - I live in a town (Brookline) that is partially embedded within Boston but has successfully resisted being acquired by it for some 300 years now. So we live in a quiet, green oasis that is also a five-minute walk to the Boston subway system. And yes, we do pay for the privilege.

                                                1. re: BobB

                                                  I'm from Providence and my husband lived in Brookline for a good amount of time, but I really see it as a city in itself next to a really big city. One of the best delis I ever went to was in Brookline, everyone but me was speaking Yiddish.

                                                  1. re: escondido123

                                                    It's technically a town, but I know what you mean. Though there are really two Brooklines - north Brookline, where I live, which is the urban area embedded within Boston I described above, and south Brookline, which is much more suburban (albeit posh suburban) in feel.

                                                    Most of the good old delis have closed, alas - Rubin's is still around, though I don't recommend it to anyone who doesn't require kosher food. But you can still get an amazingly good corned beef sandwich at Michael's.

                                              2. Our major influence for buying in our community was the quality of the schools. We figured correctly that we could get to everything else that we needed, by car, except for schools, which are dictated by residency. Our city schools, where all of the good delis and mom and pop shops are located, are unfortunately not very good.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                  Hmm, I wonder if there's a correlation between excellent school districts and poor food choices. I live in an excellent school district, too, and poor food choices.

                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                    Nope - my town has great food choices and among the best public schools in the state. But of course, it also has housing prices to match. Once again, it comes down to money.

                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                      I doubt if there is a correlation. Near where I live, there are excellent school districts with good food choice and bad food choices. There are areas with average school district but with good food choices.