From November 2014 – November 2015 we are the proud renters of a third floor one bedroom apartment in one of the two new residential buildings at Assembly Row in Somerville. We have a stunning back-of-the-building view of the Orange line, T parking lot, construction of the new Partner’s Health headquarters and a side silver of the Zakim Bridge. For this one year foray into big city living (no NYC jokes here please) I compiled a ridiculously long list of restaurants, bakeries, cafes and bars to try. Particularly ridiculous considering we are now paying a mortgage AND rent while I’m in school and only working an average of 20 hours a week. However -> Snow x No T + No Parking + No Sidewalks = No Going Out. Hence the financial implications have been minimal so far.
Wanting to support small businesses (and eat things that aren’t pizza, subs or fried seafood, our Gloucester options) we braved the snow & ice every so often. This is where we went:
Ball Square Cafe – This is what a breakfast place should be. We arrived early enough that we only needed to wait a few minutes outside (under a HEATED awning) before getting a nice table for two inside. Specials are featured on flat screen tv’s on the wall and coffee is self-service. I like it when places make it easy for you to get information and enjoy yourself. Our waiter was friendly and chatty, yet not in an annoying overly familiar kind of way. The Nutella & Banana Stuffed French Toast was as good as it sounds. Sam got some sort of egg dish that came with a side of grilled mashed potatoes. Yes, grilled mashed potatoes. Coffee was hot & fresh. The owner came out to say hi and could not have been more welcoming upon hearing it was our first (and certainly) not last visit. We plan to stop for breakfast soon, once waiting-on-the-sidewalk weather has arrived.
3 Little Figs – I have been following 3 Little Figs on Twitter for some time. It’s my dream place, breakfast sandwiches, baked goods, lunch options and really great coffee. Did I mention vegetarian options and amazing baked goods? We tried the Egg & Feta sandwiches along with an apple cider donut muffin and a dirty chai muffin. I was very impressed with the food, the service was super friendly and the space was really cute and clean. I envision this as a regular spot this spring and summer.
Highland Kitchen – We decided a few weeks ago that the time had come to try a “real” restaurant in the ‘hood for dinner. A proper meal. We chose wisely. Right on Highland Avenue, Highland Kitchen very much has the feel of a neighborhood favorite as well as a destination for hipsters and old foodies, like us. Nice mix of fish, meat, chicken and a solid vegetarian selection. We started with a delicious trio of dips with grilled pita and moved onto the half roast boneless chicken with broccolini and sweet potato mash and the vegetable pot pie. Portions were generous, especially given the excellent quality of the food. Fun beer and cocktail lists, and I got a drink with my favorite Triple 8 blueberry vodka. We finished with a magnificent warm banana bread pudding with vanilla ice cream. No wonder this place is in the finals for Munch Madness 2015. It’s that good. HUGE bonus points for having a dessert menu on the website. Pastry support always welcome!
Forge Baking Co. – Another of my must-try places, the newly opened Forge Baking Company is an amazing space in a nondescript strip mall on Somerville Avenue. I hope that when it comes time for me to open my own food business that I have the half the vision for location and renovations that many of these fabulous Somerville places have shown. We stopped by early on a quiet, rainy and cold Saturday morning. We left with two egg sandwiches on homemade english muffins (TO DIE FOR, take that old man Thomas), a maple oatmeal scone and a croissant. Now, good croissants outside of Paris are rare, very rare. I like Flour’s (duh) and Cafe Madeleine. The one from Forge is definitely a contender. Of all the places we tried I only have one picture (below). I should have taken a shot of the flaky, tender interior crumb of the croissant, which I thought of after it was devoured within seconds.
Gracie’s Ice Cream – As the newest addition to Union Square, Gracie’s Ice Cream opened in November at the beginning of the one of the snowiest winters in recorded history. Not deterred in the slightest, Gracie’s had a ton of fun, put in a lot of work and turned out some really cool, really good ice cream and ice cream treats along with chocolate covered marshmallows and cocoa. I have tried the Chocolate Fluff and it was perfect, deep chocolate taste, creamy texture and just the right swirl of Fluff. Excited to be a regular (stalker?) this summer.
Union Square Donuts – Last, but certainly not least is Union Square Donuts. We didn’t wait to get to Somerville to try these yummy, yummy doughnuts. Oh no, we had sampled them at the Boston Market (Haymarket) this past spring as well as at the South End Holiday Market. The Union Square shop is small, but very well done with a view of the good-sized and obviously well-run production kitchen. What they have displayed at the counter when you arrive is what you get. The earlier the better, although if you wait a bit after opening the vegan and savory options are more likely to be available. The savory pretzel square with butter and mustard is now on my current Top 20 things I’ve ever eaten. Soft, salty, butter, savory. Oh yeah. The toasted coconut and sea salted bourbon caramel are my other two favorites. Yes, fried food is bad for you. Yes, doughnuts are bad for you. So is too much tv, too much time on the iPad/iPhone/laptop, letting your kids run around restaurants, turning without using your blinker and not flossing, but that doesn’t stop you. So go, and get a doughnut or two.