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A white bowl on a white table is full of chunks of cooked beef, tossed with slices of red pepper and tomatoes. The dish is topped with green herbs.
Lomo saltado at Celeste in Somerville’s Union Square.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Where to Eat and Drink in Somerville’s Union Square

This is one of Greater Boston’s greatest neighborhoods for dining and drinking

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Lomo saltado at Celeste in Somerville’s Union Square.
| Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

If you’re making the case for the best Boston-area dining neighborhood, Somerville’s Union Square would like a word. Arguments in its favor include some of the hottest restaurants around as well as tried-and-true gems, serving everything from high-brow Niçoise-influenced tasting menus and Peruvian ceviche to casual homemade momos and iconic cream of wheat — complemented by renowned bars and breweries featuring natural wine, craft beer, and cocktails with rare Mexican spirits. Many of these charming places even have outdoor space, and they’re all within short walking distance. (If you can’t get enough of Somerville, check out Davis Square, too.)

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Aeronaut Brewing Company

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Aeronaut is a warehouse-like brewery that has long picnic tables, board games and arcade games, Venezuelan food like arepas from Carolicious, and tons of events, including trivia nights and live local bands. If you have a big party, Aeronaut has the space to accommodate, including kids. It’s no surprise that Aeronaut is IPA-oriented, but for your friend who’s not into hops, there are plenty of sours, lagers, wheat beers, and stouts on tap.

Himalayan Kitchen

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Recently renovated Nepalese and Indian restaurant Himalayan Kitchen serves house-made momos, goat biryani, and even freshly made pizzas with South Asian twists like palak paneer and chicken tikka toppings. The vibe is casual and lowkey, great for a small party of friends, and the new bar adds beer, wine, and cocktails to the mix — mango lassi with a float, anyone?

The Neighborhood Restaurant

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At the Neighborhood Restaurant, the Borges family has been cooking Portuguese classics like cod cake and linguica for breakfast and lunch since 1983, long before the area became trendy. Another menu stalwart that has created generations of diehard brunch fans? Cream of wheat. Forget what the stodgy name evokes — unless it’s something simultaneously decadent and homey, with a rich, velvety texture and a fragrant finish of cinnamon. Weather-permitting, be sure to sit in the restaurant’s quaint courtyard shadowed by Concord grape vines.

Pitchers of margaritas and palomas are just the tip of the iceberg at Barra, a hip bar channeling Mexico City. The sipping menu showcases an extensive selection of agave spirits like mezcal and sotol, as well as rarities such as Abasolo whiskey made with nixtamalized heirloom corn. The food menu goes deep, too, from tetelas stuffed with beans, cheese, and grasshoppers to tamales featuring oyster mushrooms and chicatanas (flying ants). The indoor space is narrow and boisterous, while the outdoor space, including a hidden back patio open year-round, is a bit roomier for small parties and sit-down dinners.

Celeste

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For a romantic date night, you can never go wrong with Celeste, simultaneously cozy and celebratory. The menu features hits from acidic ceviches to lomo saltado, a well-known and perfectly executed example of the Peruvian-Chinese fusion cuisine called Chifa. Don’t miss out on the elaborate cocktail list, where you can take a deep-dive into pisco starting with Peru’s national cocktail, the pisco sour, as well as modern spins like the Pisco Martini. Consider making reservations as this Peruvian restaurant is small, though the nicely decorated outdoor patio adds lots of lovely seats in the warmer months.

Bow Market

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Cool food hall Bow Market is a one-stop shop for a weekend hangout, even if you have a large crowd with wildly disparate interests, as you can secure a spot in the buzzy courtyard — possibly a table with a fire pit — and sample from a smorgasbord of primo vendors. Pair a snack from Saus (vegetarian sandwiches and poutine), Hot Box (South Shore-style pizza), Bluefin (oysters, ceviche, and poke bowls), Buenas (empanadas), Tanám (Filipinx food), or small-business incubator Nibble Kitchen (rotating cuisines like Salvadoran or Mediterranean) with natural wine from Rebel Rebel or craft beer from Remnant Brewing, browse boutique retail stores, and maybe even catch some live music.

Field & Vine

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Field & Vine is the epitome of urban escapism: Gnarly grapevines and branches descend from the ceiling and dangle above the bar; lush plants create canopy-like room dividers. The ambiance sets the scene for an exquisite wine list and shareable small plates of a seasonal nature, so a fall meal might include grilled squash blossoms with shrimp mousseline and grilled Berkshire pork with basil applesauce.

Backbar

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Backbar has long been the cocktail spot in the heart of Union Square. Tucked away in the alley behind Bronwyn, Backbar is all underground vibes, with a hodgepodge of decor like the head of a golden eagle overlooking the bar and murals paying tribute to pop-culture icons from Hayao Mizayaki to Star Wars. Make sure to sit at the bar, where you can watch the bartenders mixing, shaking, and stirring seasonal cocktails in a seamless commotion. Pro tip: While Backbar almost always has a line, you can skip it by reserving a ticket to an event, from an exploration of Chinese baijiu to a nerdy Halloween party.

Littleburg

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Union Square has many vegan options, but be prepared to have your mind blown by Littleburg, a takeout-only Mediterranean place sandwiched between Backbar and Bronwyn. The all-vegan menu rotates, but may include such crowd-pleasers as a seitan gyro, a pambazo sandwich with shiitake mushrooms, sujuk-roasted cauliflower and delicata squash, and almond tzatziki on a roll grilled in urfa salsa, and pita with yuba shawarma.

Gracie's Ice Cream

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At Gracie’s, only a handful of flavors remain consistently available (like black raspberry chip), but otherwise the sky’s the limit — think cucumber lime mint sorbet, garlic, ube, or, best of all, Gronk Smash (peanut butter ice cream, potato chips, pretzels, Kit Kats, peanuts, and chocolate chips). You’ll also find treats like Pop-Tarts ice cream sandwiches, ice cream pies, and even ice cream flights so you don’t miss out on any of the wild, compelling flavors.

Long-time favorite Juliet recently moved into bigger digs one door down, with high ceilings and hanging lights evoking a seaside restaurant along France’s Mediterranean coast; accordingly, the menu is seafood-heavy with culinary influences from Nice and northern Italy. The aioli garni and a variety of mussels and fries are good choices for sharing among a group; for a date night, try excellent pasta dishes, hake meuniere, or even a three-course tasting menu. The staff are attentive and friendly, so don’t hesitate to ask for wine recommendations.

Bronwyn

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Both cozy and lively, Bronwyn serves German and Eastern European classics like house-made sausages, spätzle, pierogi, and schnitzel with mushroom cream sauce in a rustic setting decked out with iron chandeliers and wooden chairs cushioned by velvet. The restaurant also has a charming biergarten, and a fun list of German beers, wines, and interesting cocktails.

Ebi Sushi

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Beloved Ebi Sushi has been drawing neighborhood fans since 2011, and it came back better than ever after an impressive renovation in 2021. The main menu features grilled fish, chirashi bowls, and other classic Japanese dishes, while a rotating selection of sushi specials may include the likes of uni or an absolutely unbeatable torched tuna belly.

Aeronaut Brewing Company

Aeronaut is a warehouse-like brewery that has long picnic tables, board games and arcade games, Venezuelan food like arepas from Carolicious, and tons of events, including trivia nights and live local bands. If you have a big party, Aeronaut has the space to accommodate, including kids. It’s no surprise that Aeronaut is IPA-oriented, but for your friend who’s not into hops, there are plenty of sours, lagers, wheat beers, and stouts on tap.

Himalayan Kitchen

Recently renovated Nepalese and Indian restaurant Himalayan Kitchen serves house-made momos, goat biryani, and even freshly made pizzas with South Asian twists like palak paneer and chicken tikka toppings. The vibe is casual and lowkey, great for a small party of friends, and the new bar adds beer, wine, and cocktails to the mix — mango lassi with a float, anyone?

The Neighborhood Restaurant

At the Neighborhood Restaurant, the Borges family has been cooking Portuguese classics like cod cake and linguica for breakfast and lunch since 1983, long before the area became trendy. Another menu stalwart that has created generations of diehard brunch fans? Cream of wheat. Forget what the stodgy name evokes — unless it’s something simultaneously decadent and homey, with a rich, velvety texture and a fragrant finish of cinnamon. Weather-permitting, be sure to sit in the restaurant’s quaint courtyard shadowed by Concord grape vines.

Barra

Pitchers of margaritas and palomas are just the tip of the iceberg at Barra, a hip bar channeling Mexico City. The sipping menu showcases an extensive selection of agave spirits like mezcal and sotol, as well as rarities such as Abasolo whiskey made with nixtamalized heirloom corn. The food menu goes deep, too, from tetelas stuffed with beans, cheese, and grasshoppers to tamales featuring oyster mushrooms and chicatanas (flying ants). The indoor space is narrow and boisterous, while the outdoor space, including a hidden back patio open year-round, is a bit roomier for small parties and sit-down dinners.

Celeste

For a romantic date night, you can never go wrong with Celeste, simultaneously cozy and celebratory. The menu features hits from acidic ceviches to lomo saltado, a well-known and perfectly executed example of the Peruvian-Chinese fusion cuisine called Chifa. Don’t miss out on the elaborate cocktail list, where you can take a deep-dive into pisco starting with Peru’s national cocktail, the pisco sour, as well as modern spins like the Pisco Martini. Consider making reservations as this Peruvian restaurant is small, though the nicely decorated outdoor patio adds lots of lovely seats in the warmer months.

Bow Market

Cool food hall Bow Market is a one-stop shop for a weekend hangout, even if you have a large crowd with wildly disparate interests, as you can secure a spot in the buzzy courtyard — possibly a table with a fire pit — and sample from a smorgasbord of primo vendors. Pair a snack from Saus (vegetarian sandwiches and poutine), Hot Box (South Shore-style pizza), Bluefin (oysters, ceviche, and poke bowls), Buenas (empanadas), Tanám (Filipinx food), or small-business incubator Nibble Kitchen (rotating cuisines like Salvadoran or Mediterranean) with natural wine from Rebel Rebel or craft beer from Remnant Brewing, browse boutique retail stores, and maybe even catch some live music.

Field & Vine

Field & Vine is the epitome of urban escapism: Gnarly grapevines and branches descend from the ceiling and dangle above the bar; lush plants create canopy-like room dividers. The ambiance sets the scene for an exquisite wine list and shareable small plates of a seasonal nature, so a fall meal might include grilled squash blossoms with shrimp mousseline and grilled Berkshire pork with basil applesauce.

Backbar

Backbar has long been the cocktail spot in the heart of Union Square. Tucked away in the alley behind Bronwyn, Backbar is all underground vibes, with a hodgepodge of decor like the head of a golden eagle overlooking the bar and murals paying tribute to pop-culture icons from Hayao Mizayaki to Star Wars. Make sure to sit at the bar, where you can watch the bartenders mixing, shaking, and stirring seasonal cocktails in a seamless commotion. Pro tip: While Backbar almost always has a line, you can skip it by reserving a ticket to an event, from an exploration of Chinese baijiu to a nerdy Halloween party.

Littleburg

Union Square has many vegan options, but be prepared to have your mind blown by Littleburg, a takeout-only Mediterranean place sandwiched between Backbar and Bronwyn. The all-vegan menu rotates, but may include such crowd-pleasers as a seitan gyro, a pambazo sandwich with shiitake mushrooms, sujuk-roasted cauliflower and delicata squash, and almond tzatziki on a roll grilled in urfa salsa, and pita with yuba shawarma.

Gracie's Ice Cream

At Gracie’s, only a handful of flavors remain consistently available (like black raspberry chip), but otherwise the sky’s the limit — think cucumber lime mint sorbet, garlic, ube, or, best of all, Gronk Smash (peanut butter ice cream, potato chips, pretzels, Kit Kats, peanuts, and chocolate chips). You’ll also find treats like Pop-Tarts ice cream sandwiches, ice cream pies, and even ice cream flights so you don’t miss out on any of the wild, compelling flavors.

Juliet

Long-time favorite Juliet recently moved into bigger digs one door down, with high ceilings and hanging lights evoking a seaside restaurant along France’s Mediterranean coast; accordingly, the menu is seafood-heavy with culinary influences from Nice and northern Italy. The aioli garni and a variety of mussels and fries are good choices for sharing among a group; for a date night, try excellent pasta dishes, hake meuniere, or even a three-course tasting menu. The staff are attentive and friendly, so don’t hesitate to ask for wine recommendations.

Bronwyn

Both cozy and lively, Bronwyn serves German and Eastern European classics like house-made sausages, spätzle, pierogi, and schnitzel with mushroom cream sauce in a rustic setting decked out with iron chandeliers and wooden chairs cushioned by velvet. The restaurant also has a charming biergarten, and a fun list of German beers, wines, and interesting cocktails.

Ebi Sushi

Beloved Ebi Sushi has been drawing neighborhood fans since 2011, and it came back better than ever after an impressive renovation in 2021. The main menu features grilled fish, chirashi bowls, and other classic Japanese dishes, while a rotating selection of sushi specials may include the likes of uni or an absolutely unbeatable torched tuna belly.

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