When we casually speak of "Boston dining," we're often broadly referring to Boston-area dining. Neighboring cities like Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline may be distinct, but plenty of us traipse back and forth among towns all week long. (And besides, depending on where you start, it can be faster for a Bostonian to get to Davis Square than Southie.) In fact, as we document the newest and coolest restaurants around, it's clear that some of the most interesting stuff is happening on the other side of the Charles River.
We thought it time to offer a salute to Somerville, which has lately churned out some exciting newcomers to match the solid standbys. If you don't make it over often, here's a way to sample 60+ eateries in one visit: on Wednesday, June 3 at 5:30 PM, the Taste of Somerville goes down at 50 Holland Street. It's an outdoor food fest that will see dozens of restaurants showing off their culinary skills, and tickets ($50 general admission; $75 for VIP tent access, both available right here) score you access to an endless array of food and craft beverages created by local restaurants and breweries. Once you've grazed all the gourmet goods, you'll have a better idea of which Somerville restaurants are to your taste — and warrant a return visit.
Need more convincing? Here's a look at 10 must-try Somerville spots that offer a reason to visit right now. They're all participating in Taste of Somerville, but if you can't make the food fest, just use this as your guide to a city-wide food crawl.
In November, the team behind Somerville's Slumbrew opened this open-air (there's a heated tent top for winter) destination for craft beer and quirky noshes at the Assembly Row retail and restaurant complex. Constructed with repurposed shipping crates, it's a place to sample all their suds while chowing down cheddar ale soup, a Fluffernutter sandwich with almond butter, and (compostable!) charcuterie plates with locally sourced meats, cheeses and jams.
Why you want to visit now: Because it's one of the newest patios for the season — and you'll want to check this place out before making time for their even newer venture. At the end of April Slumbrew opened a brewery and taproom in Somerville's industrial Boynton Yards (15 Ward Street), a 1,500-sq.-ft. facility filled with communal tables, a big bar and plenty of overhead TVs. Bonus points: free parking, production space for experimenting with small test batches and retail of take-home starter kits for budding brewers.
301 Canal St., Somerville; 800-428-1150
Last summer the Union Square space that formerly housed Precinct transformed into Brass Union. Elevated spins on American comfort food and creative cocktails are accompanied by a lounge area that houses vintage board games, Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, '80s arcade games, shuffleboard and other diversions for adults.
Why you want to visit now: Because the weather finally allows you to take advantage of those games that spill out on to the ample patio — like corn hole and "life-size" games of Jenga.
Our area isn't exactly overflowing with options for German and Central European cuisine. So if you want to soak up some bier with bretzels and hearty hunks of meat, you're in luck with this still-newish option from top-notch chef Tim Wiechmann (T.W. Food).
Why you want to visit now: Besides the awesome beer garden? We love Weichmann's weekly "Prototype Nights." During dinner service every Tuesday, the chef rolls out a different thematic "experiment" (each accompanied by a beer, wine or cocktail special). Upcoming prototypes include a lamb rotisserie on May 19, a trio of creative donuts (bacon and rose-petal jam are involved) on May 26 and Balkan sausages on June 2.
255 Washington St., Somerville; 617-776-9900
You can make a night of it at this Davis Square hot spot. First: American brasserie fare in a buzzy dining room. Then: descend downstairs to sibling spot Saloon (also participating in Taste of Somerville), where it's all about classic cocktails and a deep list of brown liquors in speakeasy-style surroundings.
Why you want to visit now: Because starting tonight Foundry debuts a "Beer Dinner Series" every Thursday. Each week the $20 special will pair a "hops-friendly" two-course prix fixe with two beers from a different brewery. For tonight's kickoff, a starter of "BLT Wellfleet Oysters" (they're accompanied with bacon, lettuce and tomato with a cider vinaigrette) is followed by a BBQ chicken pizzetta and a couple pints from Oskar Blues Brewery. On May 21, the attention turns to Harpoon Brewery. And May 28 will be a double feature, with sips from both Smuttynose Brewing Company and Allagash Brewing Company.
255 Elm St., Somerville; 617-628-9999
Southern comfort never tasted so good. Somerville's hipster haven has not only a buzzing bar scene, but some of the best fried chicken, jambalaya and blackened catfish po' boys that you're likely to find north of the Mason-Dixon border.
Why you want to visit now: Because this perennially popular spot was just voted one of the 10 Best Brunches around by Zagat readers. You can check out the full list (and plot your weekend takeover) here.
150 Highland Ave., Somerville; 617-625-1131
Chef Tony Maws' Cambridge restaurant Craigie on Main is a local legend — with an iconic burger to boot. (The top-rated around, says you.) But his more recent eatery, Kirkland, is slowly turning into a new classic — with the help of a popular gourmet hot dog.
Why you want to visit now: Hot dogs will be in even greater abundance at Kirkland over this summer. Starting in June, Maws will invite a four different chefs to create their own takes on a dog, which Kirkland will add to its Monday menus at $16 apiece — with proceeds benefiting the Share Our Strength "No Kid Hungry" initiative. You'll find unique dogs from Ken Oringer (Clio, Coppa, Toro) from June 1-22; Matt Jennings (Townsman) from June 29-July 27; Karen Akunowicz (Myers + Chang) from August 3-24; and Jody Adams (Trade, Rialto) from August 31-September 28.
425 Washington St., Somerville; 857-259-6585
Allston Korean restaurant Bibim spawned this Davis Square sibling, importing some of the same traditional dishes, like stone pots of beef bibimbop, while adding more modern plates like meat-filled steamed buns with gochujang aïoli and dukbokki, spicy rice cakes made with mozzarella.
Why you want to visit now: Because it's one of 25 New Restaurants to try, and you better get chowing through this bucket list before we add another update.
243 Elm St., Somerville; 617-764-3053
It may not look like much, but this Magoun Square pub is a neighborhood staple for a reason: a deep list of craft beers and spirits, and solid gastropub eats featured in ongoing theme nights. (Okay, that's a couple of reasons.)
Why you want to visit now: Because May is "Burgers Gone Wild" month. Every Wednesday you'll find a special menu featuring internationally inspired burgers. Among them is the Vindaloo, a lamb burger rubbed with Indian spices and topped with paneer cheese; the Big Kahuna, a tuna burger with kimchi and pickled ginger mayo; and the Chimichanga, a flash-fried tortilla filled with beef, Monterey Jack cheese, roasted poblano peppers and a spicy sauce.
518 Medford St., Somerville; 617-776-2600
A standout among the newcomers moving into Assembly Row, River Bar hums with regulars seeking cool cocktails and interesting eats prepared by chef Patrick Gilmartin, a Rialto vet, who here focuses on "elevated street food" with some frequent Eastern flourishes.
Why you want to visit now: The just-refreshed menu now includes tempting-sounding plates like a one-pound fried lobster with rice cake and grilled sirloin with cucumber kimchi and fried ramen noodles. Also, two words: fire pits.
661 Assembly Row, Somerville; 617-616-5561
The Somerville pub is always a popular spot to kick back with pub grub and draft beers, and continues to be a reliable, moderately priced standby even as trendy newcomers come and go.
Why you want to visit now: River Bar's Gilmartin has just upgraded the menu at The Independent too, giving the touched-up restaurant a more ambitious but still accessible array of eats like mortadella deviled eggs, crab and pancetta chowder topped with crispy speck, and fried chicken doused in a Nashville-style hot sauce with pickled jalapeño.
75 Union Sq., Somerville; 617-440-6022