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So a Panera is coming to the Fresh Pond plaza (Whole Foods side)...

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I have seen reports of many new residential developments going up in the neighborhood. Do you guys think the Panera is just a popular chain that took an empty spot or will that 'hood begin to get some new blood (not a huge fan of Panera per se, but it could be an early indicator of population growth therefore more stuff coming..). I live near Armando's, so I frequently use that plaza as well as the Traders/CVS one. Sometimes the suburban like parking lots there are easier then say Central, Harvard or Davis if I have to drive. In 5 years will we have a chance of a decent meal in that area?

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  1. You can already get a "decent meal" there. Good sushi at Genki Ya. Seafood at Summer Shack certainly qualifies as decent. Of course it would be wonderful to see an influx of Chow-worthy joints, but I wouldn't count on it. Been waiting for years to see somebody take over the Toyko Japanese restaurant space and for the something to be built in the wasteland where Fresh Pond Seafood used to be.
    As for Panera, one in Harvard Sq. and another in Porter is already enough (maybe too much; not a big fan).

    1 Reply
    1. re: katzzz

      I am so Panera'd out. They are everywhere and I admit to eating at the one adjacent to my office at least weekly. Hey, it's cold and icy out there! Besides the overpricing, crowded and dirty tables, I am tired of trying to find a soup that has less than half of the USDA recommended level for daily sodium and the lackluster salads and sandwiches. Perhaps because we are in a student area, we have to go to the counter, and there is always a line, to get a cup for the free tap water or a pat of butter for the free bread that accompany the soup. The staff is probably the saving grace, not especially knowledgeable, but pleasant.

    2. panera is not a good sign; these kinds of chains are not going to bring in serious dinners.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cambridgedoctpr

        This was my initial feeling as well. I have lived in the 'bridge for almost 2 decades, and until I finally got a car a few years ago I barely was in that area. I just have read a great deal about the residential development coming that way and hoped. It is an unusual area being so car dependent for cambridge. I technically agree with Newhounds response except I dont consider TW, gusto etc to be in that hood. I think from the decrepit crumbling Japanese place through the rotaries to all that new stuff on the way to rte 2. In the personal map in my mind the area around Iggys is already the beginning of a new area. And in response to Katzzz, I'll give you Genki Ya, but Summer Shack is debatable. Though the kind of place that would thrive with a bunch of new condos and transplants.

      2. Golden Garden, TW Foods, Gran Gusto, Village Kitchen...there are definitely good options in the neighborhood already.

        1 Reply
        1. re: newhound

          Gen Sushi and Cheddars as well.

        2. Another aspect to think about demographics wise, is a large well funded chain accurately predicting growth neighborhoods? I assume they study this stuff.

          5 Replies
          1. re: coolaugustmoon

            The city is certainly viewing it as a growth neighborhood. My nearby workplace got a presentation from the people developing Fawcett St. Cambridge wants another Kendall but getting it "right." Chipotle is already there. I'd rather have Newbury Comics but such is progress. Lots of people get a meal at Whole Foods which is sort of in that category as well.

            1. re: Aromatherapy

              I am an amateur demographics nerd, so I like this kind of discussion. Also a bit of a Camberville snob, so...

              Interesting that the city is "promoting" it. I realize that in reality it is part of cambridge. But it feels more like a transition space. If it weren't for the whole foods and cvs I would only drive through on my way to either Belmont or rt. 2 and not actually use it. But on the other hand it is really just right there and has room to grow. Did the city discuss density levels? Are we getting office towers? Condos? It feels like it could turn into a Wellington like area - mixed use taller buildings with chain stores and restaurants on the ground floor. Tending to be populated by people who move from out of town and see that it is on the t plus only 5 miles from downtown so it must be convenient. But being a lifelong New Englander with most of my adult years being in cambridge it feels like the area near airports in newer southern and western cities. I know, I am a Camberville snob.

              1. re: coolaugustmoon

                The presentation was by a developer, not the city. City plan is described here: http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/Projec...
                Lots of old low-rise industrial space back there.

                1. re: Aromatherapy

                  Very interesting. Thank you. I assume it will be ten plus years in the making.

              2. re: Aromatherapy

                Come to think of it, there is a catering company -- Basil Tree -- at 10 Fawcett that has a restaurant open from 10-2 on weekdays. I've never been. Anyone tried it?

            2. That "neighborhood" is really about capturing commuters before they drive out Rt. 2. Therefore, Panera is right in that demographic, as is Chiptole across the street.

              1. Anybody tried the Middle Eastern place across from the woodstove store? I tried the previous place (Basha-definitely meh) but haven't been to the latest place there.

                1 Reply
                1. re: newhound

                  The Casbah closed near the end of last summer. I am a member of the health club adjacent to it, and never saw a soul eating there on my trips back and forth. It was a venture by the owner of the recently-closed Casablanca, as I understand it. Terrible location - not terribly surprised it failed.

                2. What about Ma Magoo's? Is that place any good for what it does? It's been there forever it seems.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                    Nope, just your standard pizza joint (Greek style crust if I'm remembering right). Not that it's especially bad, but nothing special.

                    1. re: Bob Dobalina

                      Some hounds swear by Ma Magoo's cheese steaks. Personally, I love the Cheddar's cheese steaks on the other side of FP rotary.

                      1. re: Bob Dobalina

                        Their subs are worthwhile and very substantial. I've had the meatless sub and have heard raves from friends about their Chicken Stir Fry sub, but I'm told that the chicken finger sub with honey mustard is basically what keeps them open -- it's their top seller.

                        1. re: Boston_Otter

                          What came on the cold meatless? Typical sub stuff? Freshness was good?

                          1. re: Bob Dobalina

                            Standard sub stuff, plus artichoke hearts, surprisingly. Freshness was good. Nothing spectacular. Next time I'll try a hot sub.

                            A Somerville old timer told me once that the place originally opened as "Mr. Magoo's", but when they got in trouble for using the name and the character, they just changed one letter to make it "MaMagoo's"

                        2. re: Bob Dobalina

                          I find them solid if uninspired. They do offer a keilbasa option for pizza topping. Certainly quick and convenient.

                          1. re: coolaugustmoon

                            Thanks for the feedback!

                          2. re: Bob Dobalina

                            I haven't eaten at Ma Magoo's in probably 15 years? Back when The Hideaway was still open (right behind Ma Magoo's), they to let you bring Ma Magoo's food in to eat there are you got drunk and played pool. The Hideaway was a fun diving kind of spot, those are good memories. I remember the steak and cheese and other subs is being very good, but tastes were a lot different back then. Maybe that's why I never stopped back in the Ma Magoo's, it just wouldn't be the same without eating at The Hideaway.

                          3. I give Panera points for having options that you can combine carefully for a reasonable (in terms of calories etc) meal without too much hassle. I definitely appreciate folks' concerns about sodium levels but since that is not something I worry about (yet!) I am always grateful to encounter a Panera vs. say a Subway or FreshCity. I just like the options better. Plus the wifi and ability to refill coffee at your pleasure are a plus if you are looking for somewhere to camp out while waiting on someone or having an informal out-of-the-office meeting. I have always found the counter staff to be friendly and well-meaning if not consistently speedy or all-knowledgeable and they accommodate multiple special requests (dressing on the side etc etc ) without eye-rolling or sighs!

                            1. Today I learned that they are closing the Arlington Heights Panera on March 31 and supposedly moving on that date to Fresh Pond. The seniors of Arlington are in mourning.