I grew up in a small town in West Virginia, which is famous for its basketball players and health problems. Due to the hills that surround the area, it’s very difficult to rely on walking as a primary mode of transportation. Unfortunately, I fit the Asian female driving stereotype, and even though I have my driver’s license, for the safety of others, I rarely operate a vehicle. I also have no internal compass, and relying on other people to drive you around results in them trusting you to navigate. As a result, I completely rely on GPS or Google Maps on my iPhone to get my friends from point A to point B. However, for familiar areas, I am a landmark person.
I’ve always relied on the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square: I think of every Kenmore Square MIT fraternity in terms of walking towards or away from the Citgo sign. Interestingly enough, when I worked at WalkBoston, I was informed that the lighted sign came from an effort to make Kenmore Square like Times Square in New York City. They wanted to bring the lights, and even though the Citgo gas station that once occupied the area is long gone, that is one of the only lights remaining.
One summer, I lived in a fraternity house in Kenmore Square. There, I discovered that many houses in this area have a rat infestation problem due to the work on the T station. I also discovered that the bulk of the businesses cater to college students, which are the primary occupants of this location as BU, MIT, and Berklee are very accessible from this location.
An example of a business that caters to the college market is the head shop, Sugar Daddy’s (472 Commonwealth Avenue), which is overpriced but sadly one of the most reasonable places to buy glass in Boston. The bar I’ve most frequently encountered other MIT students is Crossroads (495 Beacon St.), a.k.a. “Roads”, especially on Wednesday night when they do a free pizza with a pitcher of beer. India Quality (484 Commonwealth Avenue), which has great lunch specials and is right next to the Sigma Kappa house, is another place I would consider an MIT hotspot. Campus Convenience (541 Commonwealth Avenue) and Quality Mart (21 Mass Ave) are the two convenience stores that I’ve frequented the most for mixers while in this area.
There are nicer date restaurants in Kenmore. I never understood why Eastern Standard Kitchen (528 Commonwealth Avenue) offers sidewalk seating when the only view is a busy street, but the food is phenomenal. I’ve also heard good things about the French food at Petit Robert Bistro (468 Commonwealth Avenue).
However, when I lived in Kenmore, I liked to spend more time in the closer parts of the Fenway area, which is located to the west. The Victory Gardens (main entrance on the corner of Boylston St. and Park Drive) is one of the best parks in Boston. The Gardens are also part of the Emerald Necklace project. Fred Olmsted hoped to link the parks by parkways and waterways in a U-shape, basically making an Emerald Necklace around the city, but it’s more of an L-shape now.
Another great location in Fenway is BerryLine (1377 Boylston St.), which serves frozen yogurt with your choice of fresh fruit or crunchy sweets. It is located conveniently across the street from a Shaw’s (3 Kilmarnock St.), which unfortunately is very small and doesn’t carry alcohol. Burton’s Grille (1363 Boylston St.) is also close by, which serves American food and has the cutest miniature key lime pies. Boston Beer Works (61 Brookline Ave) is another great place for American food, and their blueberry beer has fresh blueberries in it. Bradley Liquor Store (1252 Boylston St.) has quite possibly the best selection of beer and wine for the Fenway-Kenmore area, and I prefer it to Marlboro Market (45 Mass Ave).
The Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood offers college students many businesses that caters to them and spans much farther than the places I’ve discussed, as I didn’t include any East Fenway businesses. Then again, as someone who currently works at Harvard Medical School, I don’t think there are any businesses worth noting in the East Fenway area; I’ve overeaten Boloco’s and the Chinese food truck due to the lack of options there. It’s wonderful that many of the fraternities, sororities, and living groups are located in the better parts of this neighborhood, which offers so many opportunities to get out of the MIT “bubble.”