When I was a freshman, I truly believed Central Square was the “bad” part of town. My memories of the area centered on a misplaced Gap (now out-of-business) and a very “colorful” Wendy’s. Back then, I never would’ve imagined that I would eventually move off campus to live in this neighborhood. Out of all the Boston neighborhoods, it’s one of my favorites. For the time being, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
Central Square is the perfect neighborhood for MIT students, as many of its apartments are about a twenty-five minute walk to campus (or ten-minute bike ride.) The best part of the commute is how simple the walk is designed to be: Central Square is cited as a national model for traffic calming techniques. Traffic calming is altering the street and street design to foster pedestrian and bicycle safety. As a result, it’s not really the best place for driving.
For those less inclined to walk, it’s one T stop away, meaning a two-minute train ride to Kendall Square, or a 10-minute bus ride to 77 Mass Ave. Another transportation option is Saferide — the Cambridge West route stops nearby at River and Franklin.
It’s wonderful to get away from the MIT bubble, especially in a neighborhood so close. It’s generally much better than Kenmore Square in terms of rent prices, and you’re not living as close to MIT frat guys. There are places to eat on about every other block, and there are four grocery store options: two Whole Foods (115 Prospect Street; 340 River Street), Star Market/Shaw’s (20 Sidney Street), and a Trader Joe’s (727 Memorial Drive).
Massachusetts was founded by Puritans. Their harsh liquor policies reflect this; only three stores in the state bearing the same name can sell booze. Luckily, though, the Whole Foods on River Street and the Trader Joe’s (famous for two-buck-chucks) on Memorial Drive have their licenses.
Many people seemed surprised when I tell them I live in Central Square. My friends seem to remember attractions like Hubba Hubba (534 Mass Ave), which has one of the best selections of BDSM products in the Boston area, or the gay bar, Paradise Café (180 Mass Ave). Others point out the bums who hang around Supreme Liquor (600 Mass Ave) and the bus stop.
They do remember some “positive” attributes like Wing Night at Asgard’s (350 Mass Ave) or Bluegrass Tuesdays at Cantab’s Lounge (738 Mass Ave). Some even like to go clubbing at Phoenix Landing (512 Mass Ave).
These areas my friends remember represent such a small portion of Central Square, though. They’re just places seen while riding the No. 1 bus, or walked past on the way to the Thai restaurant, Pepper Sky (20 Pearl Street). There’s a shop on almost every block, so there’s way more to Central Square than just these attractions. For starters, there’s a great lobster sandwich place, Alive and Kicking Lobsters (269 Putnam Ave), which is almost as good as going to Maine. Lovers of soul food, Coast Café (233 River Street) makes some of the best friend chicken I’ve ever had. The best cupcake I ever had came from Andala’s Café (286 Franklin Street). There are dive bars not overpopulated by MIT students: River Gods (125 River Street) and People’s Republik (876-878 Mass Ave).
I love living in Central Square. It’s close enough to campus where I’ll go to class, but it’s far enough away to where I feel like I’m getting away from the MIT bubble. These days, I consider Central Square to be energetic, and its vivaciousness appeals to me: Think the South End with sass.