Neighborhood Guide: Porter Square

As mentioned in my previous post, I might as well admit that one of my very favorite activities – random neighborhood exploration – will surely be curtailed as it just gets colder.  I love a brisk walk, but probably just in short bursts, if I’m really honest.  So, the next couple of quick neighborhood guides will focus on spots that are super conveniently right next to the T.  And that offer plenty of appealing pitstops in them, winter or not!

So, today’s highlighted spot is none other than Porter Square… a mere 0.7 miles from my home.  This review is probably most useful for folks moving to the area, but it’s a place worth getting to know otherwise too.  Read on…

Quick take-away?  My dear neighbor Porter Square is more handy than charming… but it grows on you.

To elaborate, when I first asked friends which neighborhoods in and around Boston I should set up shop in, Porter came up a number of times – mostly in the same breath as Harvard, Central, and Davis.  Attempting to do this housing/’hood research from SF, I did the best I could on the Internet, and otherwise kept Porter on the list of places to check out when finally doing the sprint of looking-for-and-magically-getting-a-place-while-visiting-for-a-week.

(Again, with the disclaimer that this is my complete and utter bias…)

I stepped off the Porter Square T and I was less than charmed.  Given that I’d heard all about how it’s just one stop past Harvard, between the school and Davis, and so on, I figured it would have a lot of the character of those two, and just be a bit of a quieter version.  Instead, it felt a little more like stepping into a handy-but-not-enough-to-move-me-across-the-country neighborhood that you swing by for groceries on the way home.

What’s so handy about it, then, if that’s Porter’s main offering?  Once again, right on the red line T, one stop past Harvard and one stop before Davis.  It has a gigantor Shaw’s, and not one but three gyms (one – Planet Fitness – that’s an excellent $10 a month while still being new and clean.  They pull off some magic at that place).  A City SportsCVS, Dunkin’, Pier 1 Imports, and fabulous hardware store.  So, yes, great place if you’re just moving in, or are ravenous on the way home from work.

So, yes, I landed in Davis, not in Porter.  But I will concede that Porter has grown on me a bit, and not just for the discovery of the two organic aisles in Shaw’s.  Nope, nestled between Shaw’s and Dunkin’, you’ll find a few quality local businesses that are pretty standout. Some favorites are Porter Square Books (as described in my last post), where you’ll find, um, books, but also a café that’s a great spot for working (free Wi-Fi), reading, and people-watching, and that seems to attract people who are interested in all three – it’s not just 97% laptops. Next door, Tags Hardware welcomes you with lollipops or popcorn, and has funky kitchen items and housewares, not just bolts and screws.  Poorly-named Liquor World actually has a great little selection of microbrews in the back.  And Cambridge Naturals just smells great. Interesting restaurants and my occasional indulgence – little Tibetan shops – are steps away on Mass Ave.

So I say move here if it’s really helpful for you to be near just about anything you might need, and if you like having equally-easy access to the likes of Davis and Harvard.  It’s also cheaper than both, and the houses on the west side of Mass Ave are beautiful, and on flowery, well-kept, dare I say charming streets.

If this still isn’t your cup of tea, then you will still be plenty close to Porter Books, Planet Fitness, or another favorite Porter find if you instead opt for Davis or Harvard.  Porter’s a handy neighbor or afternoon jaunt, indeed.

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