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Moving to Porter/Davis - Where to go?

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After 6 years of living in various places around the Central/Inman/Harvard area, I'm somewhat reluctantly moving over to the Porter/Davis neighborhood. I'm trying to embrace my new life as a Somerville resident, and would love any tips on your favorite neighborhood joints and hidden gems (markets, cafes, restaurants off the beaten path). Thanks!

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    1. re: Taralli

      The carbonara they have on the menu at Posto right now is insanely good

    2. Not too far from Davis SQ Mass Ave has a lot of good restaurants. We really love the food at Greek Corner. Cafe Barada and Hana Sushi are good restaurants for their respective cuisines. Davis SQ/Porter do not come close to Inman/Harvard in terms of food. I can see why you were reluctant.

      1. Lots of great stuff in the area:

        For markets:
        -Dave's Fresh Pasta is excellent. Great homemade pastas and some prepared items, as well as a small but high quality grocery, cheese, deli, and dry goods selection (and fresh fish on Thursdays & Fridays). I shop here constantly. Dave's also has a good selection of wine for sale and a small but well-curated selection of beer.
        -Downtown Wine and Spirits is a great liquor store, with a large selection of excellent beer.
        -Pemberton Market (on Mass Ave in Cambridge), in addition to being a fully stocked garden center, has a pretty good range of deli, cheese, and grocery items.
        -The Davis Square farmer's market, on Wednesday afternoons from June-Nov, is one of the better ones around. Located in the parking lot between Day and Chester streets.
        -When Pigs Fly has a store on Highland Ave where you can get there excellent bread.

        For cafes, you have a huge number of good options in this general area:
        -Diesel in Davis Square and Simon's in Porter Square are the best all-around places for coffee IMO. Diesel has more space and pretty good sandwiches; Simon's has perhaps slightly higher quality coffee.
        -True Grounds Cafe, in Ball Square, is a bit of a hike depending on which part of the Davis/Porter area you live, but does excellent iced coffee and breakfast sandwiches and is worth keeping in mind.
        -Porter Square Books has a nice cafe with great cold-brewed iced coffee and pretty good baked goods.
        -Bourbon Coffee in the Porter Exchange building is a nice comfy place to sit and work but I haven't found the coffee to be quite as good as other nearby options.
        -Three Little Figs, on Highland Ave, is not exactly in the area but is reasonably close and has amazing coffee from one of my favorite roasters (Gimme! in Ithaca, NY), as well as excellent baked goods.

        For restaurants, some of my favorites include:
        -Rod Dee in Porter Square for excellent Thai
        -The various Japanese places in the Porter Exchange for Japanese. I like Cafe Mami and the place way at the back (Ittyo I think?).
        -For sushi, I like Hana Sushi on Mass Ave, but really for the best sushi you should head into Arlington to Toraya.
        -Qingdao Garden on Mass Ave in North Cambridge for excellent Chinese (the Sicuan and northern-style dishes are particularly good: try the cumin lamb, the fish fillet in fiery sauce, the salt and pepper anything, the pork with cilantro, the Chongqing chicken, and the dumplings).
        -Amsterdam Falafel, a newcomer falafel shop that is probably one of the better options in the Boston area for falafel.
        -Martsa on Elm for Tibetan with a skew towards Indian-influenced dishes (Tibetan-in-exile cuisine).
        -House of Tibet Kitchen in Teele Square (a bit far from Porter but reasonable from Davis) for Tibetan-in-Tibet cuisine, including excellent yak dishes.
        -Istanbu'lu in Teele Square (again a bit far but definitely worth the trip) for excellent Turkish - everything I've had there is great, but especially the lamb dishes (get the lamb soup - Paca - if they have it) and what they call Turkish hot tapas, things like mucver.
        -Flatbread Pizza for quite good pizza with a great beer list.
        -Posto for Neapolitan style pizza, pastas, and other Italian dishes. Lots of great stuff, probably one of my favorite restaurants in Davis. They also do a nice brunch.
        -Painted Burro for Mexican and tequila-based drinks. Try the fish tacos and the ceviche, although everything I've had there has been good. Also does brunch.
        -Five Horses Tavern for pretty good causal pub food with a great beer list.
        -Marsala in Teele Square has great Indian; there is also a new place that just opened in Davis (Punjabi Grill) with a positive early report on the Davis Square Livejournal (which is a great resource for local news, by the way), but I have not been myself yet.

        4 Replies
        1. re: greenzebra

          Wow! Thank you so much for this great list--exactly what I was looking for. A lot of these I've never heard of, but I have to say that Dave's Fresh Pasta is one of my favorite places and I'm pretty excited to move within walking distance!

          1. re: bk80

            You can also read a review of M3 in today's Globe. Southern comfort food. I haven't tried it yet, but you may want to check it out.

          2. re: greenzebra

            tried amsterdam falafel for the first time yesterday, take out, and I wanted to go back and get another for dinner! There is a separate thread on the place....so many great toppings and the falafel itself, best I have ever had, better than Rami's, Fordee, ..... Rami was my previous favorite. I did not like the whole wheat pita (too sweet)...got a bowl, which is sold by weight.

            1. re: greenzebra

              By the way, Pemberton Market is now selling alcohol and the beer selection is unexpectedly fantastic, especially for super-local (Cambridge/Somerville) brews.

            2. A few others to consider in addition to Green Zebra's excellent list:

              -Addis Red Sea (Ethiopian, in Porter Sq. on Mass. Ave.)
              -Christophers (Basic American, also on Mass Ave. Not everyone loves, but I like them for a simple brunch or lunch)
              -Sabur (Mediterranean in the broadest sense. Between Davis and Teele Sq.)
              -Yak and Yeti (if you wander up to Ball Sq., Himalayan) Several other Ball Sq. options, mostly breakfast, that you can find with a search.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Stride

                Pescatore Seafood, also in Ball Square, is good and reasonably-priced. I haven't tried the pizza, though.

                1. re: bear

                  I've actually liked Pescatore's pizza better than some of their other stuff. They used to refuse to serve it to eat in, however. Only take out, or the option of an overpriced "personal" pizza to eat in the restaurant. Not sure if that's still the case.

                  Also, to the OP, this is a GREAT area to live and seems to be rapidly getting even better.

                  1. re: Parsnipity

                    When we were there a couple of months ago, people were eating pizza in the dining room. It looked quite good, good enough to go on my list of take-out to try.

                  2. re: bear

                    I really like Pescatore's pizza. It's become my go-to for delivery.

                    1. re: LeoLioness

                      Ditto - Sausage with broccoli rabe, onions-green peppers-anch - two favorite combos.
                      Although I will say that the quality of the pie varies somewhat by day, presumably based on who is cooking each day. I feel like Friday pizza is consistently better than Tuesday pizza, for example.

                  3. re: Stride

                    I always forget about Sabur. Istanbu'lu, which is right across the street, has sort of displaced it in my mind, but I used to go to Sabur a lot and liked it, so thanks for the reminder to give it another go.

                    I have to say I have not had good experiences at Addis Red Sea; I found the food to be bland and underspiced. My last (and worst) trip was a Sunday at lunchtime, which may not be the most representative time, so I should really give them another try.

                  4. Lots of great suggestions above. I'd also add:
                    - Snappy Sushi, which is a bit cheaper than Hana and has brown rice sushi exclusively. I like several of their rolls quite a lot.
                    - The new iYo Cafe, which has very decent coffee, a rotating selection of 8-12 frozen yogurts, a make-your-own-waffle station, and an extensive toppings bar for both.
                    - We've got a Spike's Hot Dogs, if that's your thing.
                    - Deli-Icious has some of the best and most reasonably priced deli sandwiches in the area. I prefer some of the sandwiches to Dave's Fresh Pasta.
                    - Out of the Blue is an underrated seafood restaurant next to Painted Burro. I much prefer it to Summer Shack.
                    - Boston Burger Co., right in Davis Square, is very very popular for their huge and tasty burgers.
                    - I'm becoming a fan of Saloon, which has 'pre-prohibition' cocktails, brown liquors, and well done pub food in a cozy and quiet basement environment.
                    - The Burren is an Irish pub with well priced drinks and good pub grub. I really like their fish & chips. Good veggie burger, too.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                      Second on Deli-icious sandwiches. They are so huge for the price and include a side (I always get the waffle fries which are similar to the late Gargoyle's fries) that you really can split one between two people. At least, when I get the chicken foccacia one dripping in mozzarella and pesto and griddled with olive oil, I feel like I probably should be eating only half of it...

                      1. re: Parsnipity

                        one of the things i love about Dave's Pasta sandwiches is the Iggy's bread. Are the Deli-icious breads more like the usual deli breads?

                      2. re: Boston_Otter

                        I've had mixed luck with cocktails at Saloon - some of the bartenders there seem to be pretty careful and make good drinks, others are pretty sloppy. And don't go expecting a 'pre-prohibition' old fashioned, as you won't get one (at least in my experience). Good list of whiskeys, though. Haven't tried the food; be warned it is not at all veggie friendly, if that matters to you. Honestly, while Davis has a number of places to get great beer (Five Horses, Redbones, and Flatbread are my favorites; Foundry also has a pretty extensive list), it doesn't really have a good cocktail bar, certainly not one of the caliber of the best places in Central Square.

                        1. re: greenzebra

                          I'll agree there on Saloon; I've had mostly good experiences with drinks, but some of the bartenders are pretty sloppy -- that said, they're also really good about re-making or fixing drinks, even if it's something you ordered that you're just not a fan of. Their meat pies and fried pickled peppers are killer.

                          1. re: Boston_Otter

                            otter, i wonder if those pies were a special; they don't appear on this menu. Would you describe them plse?! i have a thing for meat in pastry :-}


                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                              They've been changing up their menu once a month or so, and sadly they're doing some kind of fish special now instead of a meat pie. I saw both the steak & kidney and the cottage pies, which were both about 8" across, served in a stoneware pieplate with one of those ceramic pie vent birds in the center. The cottage pie was really nice, a rich beefy stew with buttery mashed potatoes on top. My DC went nuts for it, saying it reminded of him of his mother's :)

                        2. re: Boston_Otter

                          I forgot to mention Redbones. A lot of people like to bag on the place for having supposedly mediocre BBQ, but I love going there and have never had a bad experience (well, once or twice some drunk, rowdy Tufts students have made it less than stellar, but otherwise, yum). Their baby back ribs are pretty excellent.

                          1. re: Boston_Otter

                            Still far from my favorite (although I do like the jerk beef when they actually bother to make it spicy) but I think part of it is that they had a serious downward turn a while back which they seem to have pulled out of.

                        3. masala
                          house of tibet kitchen
                          cafe istanbul'lu
                          guru the caterer
                          qingdao garden
                          rod dee
                          cafe mami
                          sapporo ramen
                          japonaise bakery
                          amsterdam falafel
                          martsa on elm
                          pizzeria posto
                          punjabi grill

                          1. Thanks so much for the great info, everyone. This is definitely making me feel better about the switch to Somerville!

                            1. Gotta throw in a shout-out to my former local, PJ Ryan's. Nothing spectacular, but the menu is slightly spiffed-up pub food. If you manage to skip around the Tufts kids, it's a great place. Early Friday evenings, Karen and Christine will take good care of you. I haven't seen Alan in ages behind the bar, but he is the kind of Irish guy who doesn't flinch when his arm hits a burning hot steam pipe. It's the kind of place you can snowshoe to in a blizzard with no doubt it'll be open for business. Or if you are a footie fan, the blinds are drawn tightly shut to keep the sun out to show all the fixtures. Check it out post- or pre-Istanbulu, House of Tibet Kitchen, Masala, True Bistro, or Guru. Or, heck, even Rudy's (not great food, but we liked sitting at the bar for a simple taco meal). Not a shabby block to visit, food-wise.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: digga

                                oh wow, I agree. I used to live in East Arlington and went to PJ Ryan's all the time, well before Sabur, Instanbulu, Masala, etc. were there. Love the place. the burgers are great and I really like the salad on the current menu that includes great hill blue cheese and apples. Rudy's is not great food, but the black bean chipotle nachos and other items are not at all bad and better than many places.

                                1. just a few to add
                                  Newtowne Grille has very good straight ahead american pizza and good unspoiled dive vibe
                                  Sessa's has fantastic trad italian sandwiches, eggplant parm, specialty meats, cheeses, etc
                                  Victor's (Ball Sq) has a more italian-american take on the old favorites, also very good
                                  Yoshi's (Powderhouse) has good (not great) sushi and a very nice neighborhoody feel
                                  Johnny D's, acceptable food and great live music
                                  Frank's for value steaks and a charming time-capsule setting

                                  Bergamot is really not a bad walk on a nice night, or a very short drive
                                  same goes for O'Sullivan's (pub burgers), Pho n Rice, Zoe's

                                  avoid Blue Shirt Cafe, Rudy's, Foundry, Christopher's (just my opinion, obviously)

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: jajjguy

                                    Disagree on Newtowne Grille in the "unspoiled dive vibe".

                                    Ever since the hipsters "discovered" it (not unlike Columbus "discovering" America) the influx of money has led to many renovations which in turn has led to more mainstream popularity. Every time I go in there now it looks even more gussied up than the last time and the crowd has also become decidedly more of the pretty & popular set. (granted I'm also getting older so all of the youngins' might seem that way to me now!)

                                    1. re: jgg13

                                      Fair enough. But compared to, say, Christopher's.

                                  2. wow bk, with green zebra and others' lists, you have your CH 'search' work cut out for you! I will congratulate you on moving into the area at a good time- Davis Sq really is a hot spot now for new restaurants- seems like there's a new one every week.

                                    Some additional:

                                    DAVIS SQ.:

                                    * Amsterdam Falafel(recently opened) is particularly special because they offer 20 different salads and toppings , included in the price of the falafel sandwich (or, if you choose, same 20 you fill a bowl with- and pay by the pound.)Open late.

                                    *Dave's Pasta- so glad you've discovered this - a real neighborhood gathering place. I don't happen to care for their pasta but i think their sandwiches are super; their Cubano is best I've had; amazing.And some CHs like their pasta sauces.They have fresh local fish on Fridays(at least) and they also do wkly wine tastings.

                                    *When Pigs Fly Breads is now a stone's throw from you- on Highland! and free samples of anything you want to try. Lucky you!

                                    *JPLicks ice cream in Davis.yum Maple Walnut, and summer special is Peach- terrific.Open late.

                                    *McKinnon's Market is very popular for (low priced) meats and poultry.

                                    *Sessa's is an Italian market w/ alot of imported things.

                                    * Capone's, on Mass Ave, is the sister of the one in Union Sq. Italian specialty foods, pasta, frozen entrees.

                                    * Greek Corner on Mass Ave has been CH raved for its roast lamb sandwich.

                                    (While we like johnny d's for the music, we find the food just barely o.k.)

                                    * The Burren has Celtic music jams on Sunday afternoons (free) and also has a monthly series of live Celtic music shows (w/ major Celtic acts) managed by Brian O'Donovan of WGBH- 'Back Room at the Burren'

                                    * Somerville Theater serves beer and wine at their concession stand. Mostly a movie house but also home for World Music concerts.

                                    * Istanbullu serves a very unusual and delicious Turkish brunch. Sweet little spot.

                                    *Pemberton Farms and Market on Mass. Ave.has a big outdoor and indoor plants business; the market inside has a lot of specialty food items.

                                    * Highland Kitchen- while not really 'near' Davis, it is a very popular place w/ legions of CH fans. They also serve brunch.

                                    PORTER SQ:

                                    *The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, on Mass. Ave., has classes and evening events for

                                    non-students too.

                                    *TAGS in the PS Shopping Center has alot of cooking eqpmnt and gadgets.

                                    *Mex/Salvadorean restnt- Aguacate Verde 'recently' took the place of a CH raved restnt; most reports have not been good about AV iirc.

                                    * Elephant Walk on Mass Ave has Cambodian and French food; rarely CH mentioned but the space is colorful and attractive and they've been around a long time.

                                    * The small Japanese restnts in the Porter Exchange are a great opp to try diff inexpensive J food. Sapporo Ramen is many people's fav ramen in Boston,( and a new ramen place is supposed to open soon on Mass Ave., per a current CH thread. ) Expect to stand in line at peak lunch and dinner hours. The Japonaise bakery has many devoted fans. I love the adzuki cream puffs and the curry beef donuts. Bourbon is a new J coffee shop/cafe that looks like a spacious upscale Starbucks and is a nice relaxing spot for meeting friends. There is a CH thread on Porter Exchange from a few months ago.

                                    *Miso is a Japanese market on Mass Ave. Very well stocked,and really helpful staff willing and eager to lead you to items.

                                    (I think some of these are repeats of Green Zebra's; i didn't realize it til just now.Just consider the repeats a double endorsement!)

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                                      You forgot the best, clownish thing about Tags Hardware - free popcorn!

                                      1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                        Doggone auto-correct - that was supposed to be chowish!

                                      2. re: opinionatedchef

                                        Yeah, anyone who goes into Aguacate Verde expecting it to be like Lupita is going to be disappointed.

                                        Also - Highland Kitchen is closer to Porter than to Davis, but probably closer to Union than either. I believe that it is technically in the spring hill neighborhood although it might be just over the line.

                                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                                          Don't forget Renee's between Davis & Teele. Recently "discovered" this and have been a fan for a nice, solid breakfast. (Cash only, however.)

                                          1. re: chevrelove

                                            Wish I could like Renee's -- we have suffered atrocious service there so many times that we refuse to go back! It is a cute place, I agree. Oh well.

                                            Swank Family Faves, many of which have been mentioned here:
                                            Amsterdam Falafel for yummy falafel-n-toppings
                                            Boston Burger for, well, burgers
                                            Dave's for sandies and pastas
                                            Capone's for ravioli to go
                                            Guru for cheap, friendly takeout Indian
                                            Rudy's for margaritas (I find their food beyond vile, however)
                                            Painted Burro for Mexican (again, shoddy service but food is solid)
                                            MacKinnon's market for meat!
                                            Qingdao Garden for amazing Chinese, especially dumplings

                                        2. I don't have too much to add that isn't already covered here, but I love the Petsi Pies outpost on Beacon St. We lived nearby for a few weeks earlier this summer, and I am embarrassed to admit that I stopped by nearly every day. Every single breakfast pastry I had was great, and the prices were pretty good, too. I've never tried their actual pies, so maybe someone else can comment on that.

                                          1. I am surprised no one has mentioned Magoun's Saloon, in Magoun Square (intersection of Broadway and Medford Street). It's walkable from Davis or Porter, and has excellent food, as well as a great beer selection. Also family friendly, if that matters - it's one of our favorites.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Weiszguy

                                              I'd asterisk in "has excellent food *when the particular chef is working there." Which sometimes he doesn't. But yay for the post.