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Arts & Entertainment + Campus Life

Getting to Know Your Neighborhood: Coolidge Corner

A guide to eating, shopping, and hanging out in a cool corner

Coolidge Corner, one of Brookline’s two major commercial hubs (Brookline Village is the other), has been attracting shoppers for more than 150 years. Its many restaurants, Jewish delis, coffee shops, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and historical sites attract visitors from Boston and beyond.

The bustling neighborhood is an easy walk from campus and a quick trolley ride up Beacon Street. Hop off when you spot the distinctive clock tower on the S.S. Pierce Building, where Beacon meets Harvard Street. And no, the corner was not named after President Calvin Coolidge, but for 19th-century local businessman David S. Coolidge, whose grocery and general store was on the site of the S.S. Pierce building. At the time, it was the only commercial business in North Brookline. The advent of the electric streetcar in 1887 and 1888 marked the neighborhood’s transition into the shopping district it is today.

BU Today has compiled a list of some of the best places to investigate, nosh, and shop when you visit Coolidge Corner.

Historic

JFK National Historic Site
83 Beals St.

John F. Kennedy was born on tree-lined Beals Street and lived in the three-story home for six years. His mother, Rose Kennedy, later restored the interior to the best of her recollection, donating almost 200 family objects, including the future US president’s bassinet and porringer. The site is operated by the National Park Service, and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:30 am to 5 pm through October. Free tours are offered on the half hour starting at 10 am. A detailed tour schedule is available here. Guided tours are available by appointment only during the off-season by calling 617-566-7937.

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The Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard St.

Culture and entertainment

The Coolidge Corner Theatre
290 Harvard St.

Brookline’s popular art deco movie house has been entertaining film lovers since 1933 with first-run and independent productions. Big shots like Meryl Streep, Martin Scorsese, and the late Robert Altman have made panel appearances. You can feel like a filmmaker too when you sink into one of the plush gold chairs in the cozy 45-seat screening room. The main hall seats 440 and a smaller auditorium 217. Readings and special screenings are held regularly, and there’s even a club for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, with the latest audio technology. Plus, that’s real butter glistening on the popcorn.

Coolidge Corner Clubhouse
307A-309 Harvard St.

One of the few bars in the neighborhood, this one can get crowded, especially when a game’s on. The CCC, as regulars refer to it, is known for its heaping plates of nachos, 30-plus beers on tap, and a whopping 20 LCD hi-def TVs. Test your sports knowledge every Tuesday at Stump Trivia Night.

Knight Moves: Board Game Café
1402 Beacon St.

This café offers fair trade coffee and snacks, but the real appeal is its massive board game library. The first board game café to hit Boston, it offers more than 300 games. The knowledgeable staff (they’ll even teach you how to play a new game) and casual, relaxing setting make it a comfortable gathering place for groups. You’ll find classics like Risk, Battleship, and Clue as well as the tile-based games Tsuro and Chocoly. Players are given a bell to ring in case they need assistance from the staff. Admission is $5 per person Monday to Wednesday, $10 per person Thursday to Sunday.

Brookline Booksmith, Coolidge Corner

Brookline Booksmith, 279 Harvard St.

Shopping

Mint Julep
1302 Beacon St.

Started by two Vermont friends, this women’s boutique carries a number of American and European clothing and accessories lines of all price ranges. Whether you’re looking for something to wear to a ball game or a cocktail party, chances are you’ll find it here.

Topdrawer
275 Harvard St.

The Japanese-American retailer Topdrawer recently opened a second store in the Boston area (there’s one on Newbury Street) here in Coolidge Corner. The store offers a dazzling selection of “tools for nomads.” You’ll find items from bento boxes, pens, and notebooks to scrapbooks and travel bags, all designed for the millennial worker constantly on the go and all with a minimalist, classic Japanese aesthetic.

Brookline Booksmith
279 Harvard St.

One of the Boston area’s best independent bookstores, Brookline Booksmith has been a Coolidge Corner institution since it opened in 1961. The well-stocked shelves, featuring both the latest best sellers and the classics, make it a browser’s delight. The staff is well read and knowledgeable. The lower level offers an ample selection of used books. The store hosts readings and book signings by some of America’s most popular authors, as well as book clubs for kids and adults and children’s story-time events.

Boston General Store
305 Harvard St.

The art of craftsmanship is on full display in this eclectic store, which sells items from wool blankets to vintage and new apparel to cleaning supplies, bar tools, gardening tools, writing utensils, and Vermont-made maple syrup. The place has the feel of a high-end general store. It began as a small online retailer in 2013, before opening as a brick-and-mortar store. Products that are functional and made to last are available, from kitchenware to cleaning products to vintage clothing.

 

Mint Jupel

Mint Julep, 1302 Beacon St. Photo by Chynna Benson (CGS’18, COM’20)

New England Comics
316 Harvard St.

Hell Boy, Iron Man, and the Dark Knight all began life on the page before they appeared in blockbuster movies. You can find their comic books and much more here. A chain of eight stores, the Coolidge Corner spot carries the largest inventory of comics and toys, from Archie to Spider-Man. There’s also a wall of graphic novels and trade paperbacks and a large array of independent and small press books to complement the superhero trades from Marvel, DC, Image, and Vertigo. You’ll find sports cards and collectible card games and trading card games like Pokémon, Magic: The Gathering, and Yu-Gi-Oh! The staff is friendly and knowledgeable.

Food

Brookline Farmers Market
Centre Street West parking lot, off Beacon Street

From early June through mid-November, this nonprofit farmers market is open every Thursday between 1:30 and 6:30 pm. A neighborhood mainstay for more than 30 years, it has nearly three dozen vendors selling a huge selection of local produce (much of it organic), eggs, ice cream, baked goods—even fresh seafood. Also for sale: flowers, preserves, honey, turkey, grass-fed beef and lamb, and handicrafts.

Los Amigos Taqueria
1294 Beacon St.

This fast-casual restaurant serves authentic Mexican cuisine with a contemporary twist. On the menu are fish tacos and specialty burritos like Surf & Turf, with grilled steak, grilled shrimp, Spanish rice, black beans, jack cheese, pico de gallo, and romaine lettuce, drizzled with smoky chipotle crema. Diners can also create their own burritos, quesadillas, bowls, and salads.

Hops N Scotch
1306 Beacon St.

Despite the name, owners Darren Tow and David Ng have graduated from playground games to adult beverages—and plenty of them. On offer is a wide variety of craft beers and more than 120 different types of Scotch and bourbon. The eclectic menu offers dishes from fish tacos to lemongrass chicken bao and paella. Even the walls and décor, all shades of brown and caramel, pick up on the restaurant’s warm, whiskey-focused feel. On weekends, the place offers a popular brunch and a late-night menu (until 1 am on Fridays and Saturdays), making it a popular destination for night owls.

Lee’s Burgers
1331 Beacon St.

This Newton Centre mainstay chose Coolidge Corner for its second location in 2014. Open for lunch and dinner, it has classic hamburgers and cheeseburgers as well as veggie burgers, subs, salads, hot dogs, and sandwiches. You’ll find generous servings of French fries, as well as fruit and ice cream shakes and fruit and veggie smoothies. Among the side dishes are mozzarella sticks, onion rings, chicken wings, and chicken fingers.

Prairie Fire
242 Harvard St.

This rustic-chic eatery is run by the creative team behind Steel & Rye in nearby Milton, Mass. The inventive menu has five categories: appetizers, vegetables, pizza, mains, and sweets. You’ll find wonderful seasonal dishes like a squid ink campanelle and a chocolate mousse bar with smoked maple granola and mushroom (that’s right, mushroom) ice cream. There’s a full dinner menu daily until 10 pm, but wood-fired pizzas are available until 11 pm on Friday and Saturday. Lunch/brunch is available on weekends. The restaurant also sports a delicious craft cocktail menu.

PRariPrairie Fire, 242 Harvard St.

Michael’s Deli
256 Harvard St.

Look out for Michael’s small storefront, otherwise you’ll miss the delicious food at this New York–style deli (all of the meats are imported from the Bronx). A hot spot for sandwiches, Michael’s has top ratings from the Phantom Gourmet and “Best of Boston.” The corned beef Rachel, with Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and coleslaw on toasted pumpernickel, is a favorite. With a menu full of pastrami, roast beef, and salami sandwiches, it’s a prime lunch spot for deli lovers. Don’t forget about the most important meal of the day—it also serves breakfast sandwiches and bagels with lox. Takeout is available.

Paris Creperie
278 Harvard St.

An escape to Paris is right around the corner—Coolidge Corner, that is. This no-frills café serves up crepes that will transport you to a bench along the Seine. It offers a mouthwatering selection of savory and sweet crepes, as well as coffee, tea, soups, and salads. It’s also known to whip up a spectacular smoothie and is noted for its irresistible Nutella frozen hot chocolate, the menu’s true star. Containing only Nutella, skim milk, and frozen yogurt, this heavenly treat warrants a warning on the menu: “Paris Creperie is not liable for any addictions created by this smoothie.”

Otto Pizza
289 Harvard St.

Directly across from the Coolidge Corner Theatre, Otto’s has earned a reputation for creating pizzas that combine unorthodox flavors and ingredients, among them spicy pulled pork and scallion; sriracha chicken and avocado; roasted chicken, caramelized pears, and fontina cheese; and butternut squash, ricotta, and cranberries. The result: surprisingly delicious pizza. The Portland, Maine–based chain is best known for its mashed potato, bacon, and scallion pizza, named one of Food Network’s 50 best pizzas in the country. Otto’s also offers a selection of craft beers and wine.

Gen Sou En Tea House
299 Harvard St.

When it opened in January 2018, Gen Sou En Tea House proclaimed itself Brookline’s only Japanese tea house. Now temporarily closed, when it reopens in November, it will offer a full-service menu, including tea-infused entrées and desserts. The bar will serve sake cocktails, local craft beer, and wine, and customers will now be able to make reservations. The tea house will still offer some café-style seating, where you can order Japanese green tea (umami, kokumi, and shibumi), black tea, coffee, and Japanese-inspired sweet and savory foods for breakfast and lunch.

Gen Sou En interior

Gen Sou En, 299 Harvard St.

Bottega Fiorentina
313B Harvard St.

This combination restaurant-groceria offers authentic Italian cuisine. You’ll find antipasto, paninis, spinach gnocchi—all reasonably priced. Hams and spicy salamis fill the deli case, and a delicious array of Italian pastas and sauces, olive oil, biscuits, and bottles of San Pellegrino line the shelves. Try the arugula and pear salad (with walnuts, Parmigiano cheese, and lemon olive oil) or the bresaola panini (lean dry-cured beef with roasted peppers, capers, lemon juice, and olive oil). For sauces, the award-winning Fedora (tomatoes, garlic, rosemary, and cream) is outstanding. A daily list of special homemade dishes is available for eating in or taking home. Open seven days a week.

Ganko Ittetsu Ramen
318 Harvard St.

Ganko Ittetsu Ramen, inside the Coolidge Corner Arcade, specializes in Sapporo-style ramen, which, unlike most ramen, is prepared in a wok. Usually ramen is made by mixing tare (sauce) and the base broth in a bowl, then adding noodles and other ingredients, but with Sapporo ramen soup, the tare is caramelized with vegetables before the base broth is added. This makes it deeper and more flavorful. Some of the six options include tan tan, with a spicy sesame broth, shoyu, with a soy sauce broth, and miso, with a broth made from the fermented soybean paste essential to Japanese cuisine. Ganko Ittetsu Ramen is open daily.

The exterior of Ganko Ittetsu Ramen

Ganko Ittetsu Ramen, 318 Harvard St. Photo by Chloe Grinberg (COM’19)

Rami’s
324 Harvard St.

With house-made hummus, tangy baba ganoush, and crispy falafel, Rami’s will make you feel as though you’ve been transported to Jerusalem. Authentic Israeli and Middle Eastern food at reasonable prices make this a Coolidge Corner gem. The restaurant is kosher and in observance of the Jewish Sabbath, closes Fridays at 2 pm and doesn’t reopen until Sunday at 10 am.

Pure Cold Press
326 Harvard St.

This sleek juice and salad bar, next door to Rami’s, opened in 2015. It is owned by Haim Cohen, the son of Rami’s owner. The 35-seat eatery is kosher and vegetarian, offering vegan and gluten-free items as well. Select from more than a dozen fresh juices and smoothies, with ingredients such as kale, beet, celery, dandelion, apple, ginger, and cucumber. Salads here aren’t your run-of-the-mill lettuce-and-tomato combination: you’ll find more exotic fare like the Samurai Salad with teriyaki tempeh and carrot ginger dressing. Pure Cold Press also offers a selection of breakfast fare, including omelets, pancakes, and oatmeal. Closed Saturdays.

Zaftigs Delicatessen
335 Harvard St.

Your search for the perfect Reuben may well end here. Lines out the door of this Brookline institution are common, but it’s worth the wait. The friendly staff keeps things moving and the water glasses filled. Try the lupo—brisket layered between potato pancakes with vegetable gravy and horseradish—or the grilled cheese made with thick slices of challah. If you’re in the mood for breakfast, the banana-stuffed French toast with date butter and berries has been known to rock worlds. Breakfast is served all day at Zaftigs (zaftig means “pleasingly plump” in Yiddish). Suggestion: in warm weather (or when facing a long line), order your meal to go and plop down with the other Zaftigs exiles in neighboring Devotion Park. Open seven days a week.

Dorado Taco, Coolidge CorderDorado, 421 Harvard St.

Dorado
401 Harvard St.

Sandwiched between a couple of quaint shops is a tiny slice of Mexican heaven. The eatery specializes in sandwiches—notably, street-style sandwiches called cemitas—that originated in the south-central Mexican state of Puebla. Served on toasted sesame seed egg rolls with black beans, chipotles en adobo, avocado, Oaxaca cheese, and cilantro, they are stuffed with a choice of pork loin Milanesa, steak, chicken, dorado pork chorizo, or the vegetarian option, spicy portabella mushroom or grilled zucchini and red peppers. Drooling yet? Dorado also specializes in Baja California–style fish tacos made with beer-battered Atlantic whitefish, which literally melts in your mouth. The authenticity of the food says otherwise, but the two clocks on the wall, one marked “Brookline” and the other “Ensenada,” remind diners that they are still north of the border. The weekend brunch is worth checking out, as well.

Brother’s Restaurant
404 Harvard St.

This eatery has an eclectic menu. The breakfast menu is extensive (from stuffed challah French toast to smoked Scottish salmon and eggs Benedict); the dinner menu features short rib tacos, chicken and lamb kabobs, and a yummy butternut squash ravioli, with sautéed leeks, Brussels sprouts, cranberries in a Madeira sauce, topped with arugula. Brothers is the brainchild of not one, but three chefs, all bringing considerable experience and talent to the establishment. A fully stocked bar and a small but discerning wine list are available.

Union Square Donuts 
409 Harvard St.

Fresh, handmade donuts are served up every day at Union Square Donuts (you’ll also find them in Somerville and at Boston Public Market). Try one of the premium donuts like the brown butter hazelnut crunch topped with salted, toasted crushed hazelnuts ($3.50), or one of the originals like the apple cider cake donut or the Vietnamese coffee donut, which comes covered in a rich glaze made from espresso and condensed milk ($3). You’ll also find yummy vegan options, donut holes, cream-filled donuts, and breakfast sandwiches. You can wash it all down with an espresso or latte from the coffee bar.

A donut from Union Square Donuts

Union Square Donuts
409 Harvard St. Photo by Chloe Grinberg (COM’19)

Kupel’s Bake & Bagel
421 Harvard St.

While an intense debate has swirled for years over the pronunciation of the bakery’s name (long or short “u” in Kupel’s?), many swear the kosher shop offers the most flavorful bagels in Boston. Others rave about the egg salad, the pastries, and the homemade cream cheese. Expect lines during prime chow times, and if you’re a student, bring your ID for a sweet 10 percent discount. In observance of the Jewish Sabbath, Kupel’s closes one hour before sundown Friday and doesn’t reopen until Sunday morning, so stocking up for the weekend is advised. P.S. It’s pronounced “couples.”

The Butcherie
428 Harvard St.

The Butcherie is famous for having the largest selection of kosher groceries in New England. With a wide variety of deli meats, wines, snack foods imported from Israel, traditional Jewish delicacies (like noodle kugel, beef brisket, and knishes), prepared food (like American chop suey, beef pot pie, and Chinese-style egg rolls), and desserts (cappuccino tortes, éclairs, and chocolate babka, to name just a few), it’s the place to find specialty items not available at other Boston stores. Closed Saturdays.

Getting there: By foot, head down St. Mary’s Street or St. Paul’s Street from Commonwealth Avenue to Beacon Street, and turn right. The walk takes 15 to 25 minutes. By MBTA, walk to the St. Mary’s trolley stop on Beacon Street and take the outbound Green Line C trolley four stops to Coolidge Corner.


Click on the points in the map above for more information on the places listed in our guide to the Coolidge Corner area.

This story was originally published on July 16, 2008; it has been updated to include new locations and current information.