The dining and drinking scenes in Boston’s close northern neighbors Cambridge and Somerville get a large share of the food news hype in these parts. It makes sense — the cities each boast a number of vibrant main streets and business districts, and there are new bars and restaurants opening all the time. Getting less of the spotlight is another city just a tiny bit further north, Medford.
Medford already had an active dining scene of its own, but it has been experiencing a bit of a dining renaissance lately, and it’s going to continue into the second half of 2019.
After beloved Allston ramen shop Pikaichi shuttered in December 2017, it found a new home on Medford’s Boston Avenue in 2018. Also last year, the folks from East Somerville favorite Taco Loco opened Picante Taqueria, also on Boston Avenue. And when Baity opened near the Fellsway Plaza in 2018, it became one of just a few places to get Egyptian food in the Boston area. (Sadly, Baity has since closed.) The 2018 openings were just a ramp-up to a busy 2019.
Medford’s mayor, Stephanie M. Burke, attributes the boom to a growing business community, along with the “revitalization of Medford Square, and in particular the Chevalier Theatre.” And she has a couple restaurant openings she’s anticipating in 2019.
“I’m looking forward to the Porch opening at Rivers Edge this summer,” Burke wrote in an email to Eater. “Live country music, Southern barbecue, and a beautiful location. Station Landing will also have a new restaurant, Longcross.”
While the Porch, Longcross, and more are still in the works, the first half of 2019 wasn’t without its debuts, including the third act of Medford stalwart Colleen’s Ice Cream & Sandwich Shop.
Colleen’s originally opened as a Brigham’s in 1990. After the local ice cream chain went bankrupt in 2009, Colleen Hallisey reopened the shop under its current name and began selling her own ice cream. Hallisey owned the shop for 30 years, from its early days under the Brigham’s brand until she died in January 2018.
Hallisey’s passing was a blow to the Medford community. When husband-and-wife duo Kolin and Vicki Burgoyne eventually bought the shop earlier this year, they did so with the intent to change as little as possible.
“We want to continue to be a familiar place for the community to gather, whether that’s hosting pop-up events, birthday parties, or serving two old friends a cup of coffee,” said Kolin Burgoyne. “We feel a responsibility to the legacy that Colleen left and hope to build upon it for another 30 years.”
Kolin Burgoyne is no stranger to the shop’s legacy; he grew up in Medford and worked at Colleen’s from age 14 to 21 before venturing off into various other kitchens in the Boston restaurant scene. Vicki Burgoyne has been involved in the local restaurant industry as well; she was part of the opening team at Pagu in Cambridge. The couple has learned a lot from their experiences in the Boston area.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to work in great restaurants with some talented people,” said Kolin Burgoyne. “We try to mimic what made them successful while adding something that is true to us. What’s really important to us is serving a great product and creating a space where our guests and staff feel at home.”
The Burgoynes are excited to be serving eaters in Medford — but they’re also excited to be eaters in Medford.
“There are a lot of great places in Medford Square,” said Vicki Burgoyne. “It depends on what you’re in the mood for: Real Gusto for legit Italian food; G.N.P House of Pizza to satisfy my chicken parmesan and curly fries craving; or a burrito from Tenoch.”
Vicki Burgoyne also noted that she’s looking forward to Goldilox Bagels opening its doors.
“We hosted two pop-ups with them earlier this year and the hype is real. We still talk about those rosemary and salt bagels.”
Speaking of Goldilox Bagels: While they don’t currently have a firm opening date, owner Lindsey Gaudet told Eater the bagel shop anticipates a summer 2019 opening. She and her husband Ed have lived in Medford for more than a decade, and they’re delighted to be part of the growing culinary scene.
“We are big fans of Medford,” Lindsey Gaudet told Eater. “To be able to bring food and drink to our neighbors is kind of the best thing ever. We hope to be the place your kids beg to go to on Saturday mornings, and where you don’t mind the line because you ran into someone you know and can catch up for a few. We are so excited for Goldilox to become a warm little corner spot in our neighborhood.”
El Tacuba is the planned new venture from the team behind Tenoch, and it will open sometime this summer. Unlike Tenoch’s existing restaurants and food trucks, El Tacuba will be a full-service restaurant. The menu will feature some of the same street food diners can get at Tenoch, co-owner Alvaro Sandoval told Eater, but it will also offer diners specific dishes from his home city of Veracruz.
“We’ll have dishes like pescado a la veracruzana, made with white fish, tomatoes, capers and olives. And there are other seafood appetizers, such as shrimp cocktail, that are popular in Veracruz.”
Tenoch, which opened its first location in Medford Square in 2012, has gained a cult following in the area, mostly for its tortas. Sandoval told Eater he’s noticed a change in Medford lately but that he thinks it was always a lively town with lots going for itself.
“We like how the town is attracting more young people and families, which translates to more demand for new places to eat and hang out,” said Sandoval. “It’s a great town with a diverse and friendly population, with lots of great neighborhood and community events. We’re glad more new places are opening in Medford.”
Forthcoming Southern restaurant the Porch is a reincarnation of chef and owner Jonathan Post’s Wakefield barbecue joint of the same name, which shuttered in 2018. Post is still getting his bearings in Medford, he told Eater, but that he’s been finding good meals at Tenoch (he, like everyone else, loves those tortas), Pikaichi (there’s that ramen again), and Sura BBQ (he recommends the spicy pork belly, prime brisket, and beef intestine). Post is eager to join those restaurants in the task of feeding the people of Medford — and bringing them live music — where he saw opportunity among shifting demographics.
“The demographics are changing outside Boston, and especially in Medford,” Post said. “It’s not just a quiet place for families anymore. A lot of young, single adults are moving into the area, and that’s driving a lot of interest in the area.”
“It’s also been our experience that the city planners and leaders are pretty progressive and business-friendly,” he continued. “We have had a truly pleasant experience navigating the red tape and permitting processes involved in opening a new restaurant. The city has worked with us all throughout the process to ensure that things go smoothly not just now, but also in the future. It’s good to be in a city that we really feel has our back. We want to be to Medford what we’ve always wanted to be to everyone: the metaphorical porch. We want to be a gathering place for all people, where differences are set aside and people come together over great food and great music.”
Maximilian Heinegg, a founder of Medford Brewing Company, believes that Medford has always had a strong identity, he told Eater. The city’s recent recent growth, he said, can be attributed to a “Why not us?” mentality. Heinegg and business partner Nick Bolitho began brewing in 2015, and they intend to open a full-scale brewery and taproom in Medford this year.
“We’re excited to bring our beers to Medford and to provide a community gathering place for family, friends, neighbors, and people who are visiting and discovering Medford,” Heinegg told Eater. “As a company that has partnered with the library, the historical society, and the Friends of the Fells, we are excited to continue helping to enrich the cultural life of the city that has supported us since day one.”
When they’re not brewing, the folks at Medford Brewing Company like to eat pizza at Amici’s, Mexican at Tenoch (because of course), Thai at Tom Yum Koong, Indian and Pakistani food at Zam Zam, and dessert at CB Scoops and Colleen’s. And if they’re looking for a sit-down meal, they’ll head to Bistro 5, Carroll’s, Salvatore’s, or Raso’s.
“Medford is awesome,” Gaudet said. “It’s accessible, pretty, filled with history, and growing like crazy in so many different ways. The Chevalier is getting some A+ acts lately. People don’t know it, but we have a shell! The Condon Shell — think mini Hatch Shell — is a fun space along our beautiful river that is home to outdoor yoga, our farmers market, concerts, and other local events. All of this adds up to a great place to visit or live.”