When we speak about Boston, we're typically referring to an area beyond the strict boundaries of New England's largest city. After all, some of the most interesting things happen in smaller cities surrounding the Hub, like Somerville and its colorful neighborhoods of Davis and Union Squares. On Wednesday, June 8 (5:30-7:30 PM), guests will have a chance to sample more than 60 Somerville restaurants at Taste of Somerville, an outdoor street fair to benefit Somerville CAN, a collective of 11 different social justice organizations. (Tickets are $50 general admission and $75 for VIP, which includes admittance to beverage tastings and tableside food service; get them here.) But even if you can't make it over, there are plenty of new reasons to check out Somerville's restaurant scene right now. Here are a few of our favorites.
Journeyman just launched "Heat"
Locals briefly panicked when the haute farm-to-table went on hiatus in February, but the restaurant's shuttering was only temporary. It reopened in April with a dual identity: Thursdays–Sundays guests will see the same ticketed tasting menu that earned the spot its esteem. But from Mondays–Wednesdays there's a separate, a la carte menu concept called "Heat." It's a reference, presumably, to the fact that Journeyman has replaced all of its kitchen equipment with a wood-fired grill (pictured). In culinary concept and interior style, Journeyman/Heat feels more casual than its previous incarnation — and more inviting to those who may have balked at the somewhat austere old format.
There are funky hot dogs everywhere
'Tis the season to eat some franks and not just at Fenway. Somerville has some options of interest for more adventurous tastes. On the refined front, chef Tony Maws' has invited guest chefs into his kitchen at Kirkland Tap & Trotter: every month through September, a different toque will design his or her own spin on a hot dog, which will be offered alongside the Maws' standard Kirkland Dog (pictured). Boston's own Top Chef winner Kristen Kish is first to contribute, and from June 6-27 you can find her zesty frank topped with comte cheese sauce, green apples, celery, crème fraiche and whole grain mustard. Coming up: Susan Regis (Shepard) in July, Tim Cushman (O Ya, Hojoko) in August and the dynamic duo of Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley (Portland's Eventide Oyster Co., among others) in September. Half the proceeds from the dog sales go to No Kid Hungry, an anti-hunger nonprofit, and guests will who order all four dogs (as denoted by a punch card) will be entered for a chance to create their own dog for the October menu.
Another tasty idea: every Wednesday in June, Olde Magoun's Saloon is offering a "Dawg Gone Dogs" menu of inventively topped options. There's everything from the "Junkyard Dog," deep fried and topped with pulled pork and coleslaw, to the "Sonora" dog, bacon-wrapped and loaded with melted Oaxaca cheese, poblano pepers and guacamole.
Juliet now builds picnic baskets
The weather's too fine to stay inside, so Juliet chef-owner Josh Lewin launched "Picnic on Prospect." The handy picnic program, named after nearby Prospect Hill, makes blanket and utensil-loaded baskets daily (11 AM–2 PM). Choose between the Jamon de Paris sandwich (pictured), a kale and cabbage salad or a charcuterie spread of country-style terrine, house ham, chicken liver mousse and baguette toast. Your pick comes with a fresh-baked cookie and coffee or soda, and will set you back just $15 per person. A lunch break in the sun? That's priceless.
There's a chic new soba palace
One of the most exciting openings has been Sugidama, a new Japanese izakaya in Davis Square. The rustic-chic space is filled with raw woods, industrial accents and a beautiful blue and white mural — the perfect setting for settling in with yakitori skewers of chicken meatballs or grilled squid, cold and hot sobas of everything, and all the maki and sushi you can handle. Consider that a challenge.
Tasting Counter now serves lunch
We deemed Somerville's Tasting Counter 2015's most important opening based on its dinner service alone. But in March, chef Peter Ungár's multi-course tasting menu debuted lunch. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1-2 PM guests can pre-purchase tickets for a seat at the intimate expo space; three courses run $55, inclusive of beverage pairings, service and tax. As always, it'll be a daily decision what ends up on the menu but you can generally expect a pasta start, meat or fish main, and the sweet finish of dessert. If the pricier dinner menu is out of your budget, this midday meal is a more than adequate taste of what the inventive restaurant has to offer.
There's a new coffeehouse/brewery hybrid on the block
Well, here's one of the best ideas for a business in recent memory: Winter Hill Brewing Company, a just-opened hot spot that brews coffee and beer. This Somerville microbrewery-slash-coffee shop does double duty, putting out premium java during the day, and a half-dozen craft beers, made on site, by afternoon and evening. It's all accompanied by a small menu of sandwiches, salads and other light noshes. One sip to wake you up, another to put you down. Perfect!
You're about to get a sneak peek at Fat Hen
One of the most highly anticipated restaurant openings of the summer? Fat Hen, a partnership between chef-owner Daniel Bojorquez and Michael Bergin (pictured). Fat Hen will be a "soulful Italian" neighboring Bojorquez's existing La Brasa. Inspired by his fine dining experiences, Bergin launched a Fat Hen Italian dinner series late last year. Now in its permanent home, the 30-seat space will boast plenty of homemade pastas and braised meats. Though its exact opening date is still TBD, Fat Hen will make an appearance at Taste of Somerville on Wednesday, June 8. So, you're just a week away from a sneak peek at all there is to crow about.