Getting to Know Your Neighborhood: Coolidge Corner
A guide to eating, shopping, and just hanging out in one of Brookline’s hubs
Coolidge Corner, one of Brookline’s two major commercial hubs (Brookline Village is the other), has been attracting shoppers and diners for more than 150 years. Its many restaurants, Jewish delis, coffee shops, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and historical sites draw 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, at the corner where Beacon meets Harvard Street. And no, the area 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.
During the height of the COVID pandemic, many shops and restaurants closed. Happily, most have now reopened and the neighborhood has returned to its bustling former life.
BU Today has compiled a list of some of the best places to explore when you’re in Coolidge Corner.
242 Harvard St.
This rustic-chic eatery is run by the creative team behind Steel & Rye in nearby Milton, Mass. Prairie Fire’s inventive menu includes several categories: New England seafood, appetizers, pasta, wood-fired pizza, mains, wood-fired vegetables, and dessert. You’ll find wonderful seasonal dishes, like a squid ink campanelle, basil pesto pizza, and sourdough ice cream, as well as a wonderful craft cocktail menu. Be sure to check out the restaurant’s new beer garden, as well, which serves a limited menu. While the restaurant accepts reservations, the beer garden is first come, first served. Open from 4 to 10 pm, Wednesday to Sunday.
250 Harvard St.
If you stop by Shaking Crab for a meal, be prepared to get messy. You’ll want a bib and plenty of napkins in this California crab boil–inspired eatery. The restaurant chain is famous for its signature jumbo boil trays, large trays of seafood with corn and potatoes meant for sharing. The delicious food and fun, relaxed vibe will have seafood fanatics coming back time after time. Open for lunch and dinner.
256 Harvard St.
Look out for Michael’s small storefront, otherwise you’ll miss the delicious food at this New York–style deli, which, in true New York fashion, cooks all its meats on site daily. A hot spot for sandwiches, Michael’s has top ratings from the Phantom Gourmet and Yelp. The corned beef Rachel, with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, 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. It also has “Dirty” sandwiches, which are topped with Dirty brand potato chips and have names like the “Disheveled” Brisket and the “Slovenly” Italian. Don’t forget about the most important meal of the day—it also offers breakfast sandwiches and bagels with lox. Takeout is available, as is delivery through DoorDash or Uber Eats.
275 Harvard St.
The Japanese American retailer Topdrawer offers a selection of high-quality items, from books and paper to bento boxes, pens and pencils, stylish eyewear, travel bags, and slippers. Its products follow minimalist design principles, emphasize environmentally ethical production, and cater to creative professionals. Even if you aren’t in the market for a premium notebook, the sleek aesthetic of the store warrants some serious window shopping.
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 selection of savory and sweet crepes, as well as coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and smoothies. One of the sweet crepes, the Ruth Bader Cinnsburg, is a cinnamon roll–inspired crepe with house-made vanilla glaze. The menu also has a section for Nutella-based drinks: Nutella frozen hot chocolate is one of the most popular. Made with Nutella, skim milk, and frozen yogurt, this warrants the menu warning: “Paris Creperie is not liable for any addictions created by this smoothie.”
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 the latest best sellers alongside graphic novels and literary classics, make it a reader’s delight. The staff is helpful and will provide recommendations for shoppers looking for a great read. The lower level, the Used Book Cellar, has a generous selection of used, reasonably priced books. It frequently hosts readings and book signings featuring popular authors, as well as monthly book clubs and weekly story-time events for kids.
289 Harvard St.
Across from the Coolidge Corner Theatre, Otto has a reputation for pizzas that combine unorthodox flavors and ingredients, among them spicy pulled pork and scallion; sriracha chicken and avocado; buffalo cauliflower, scallion, and blue cheese; and butternut squash, ricotta, and cranberries. The results are surprisingly delicious pizzas. 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. There’s also a selection of craft beers and wine. A few sidewalk tables are available for dining outdoors.
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 appeared on panels. You can feel like a star too, when you sink into one of the plush chairs in the cozy 42-seat screening room. The main hall seats 432, and a smaller auditorium seats 207. There’s also a 27-seat screening room called the Gold Screen. And the theater just announced plans for a proposed major expansion that would add two additional screens and more than 200 seats, a bigger lobby, and a community space with a roof deck and catering kitchen. It hosts regular readings and special screenings, including Big Screen Classics and Science on Screen, films from various genres tied to science. Notable figures with experience in science, technology, and/or medicine introduce each film pick. Learn more about this and other programs here.
Maruichi Japanese Food & Deli
299 Harvard St.
This boutique Japanese supermarket sells a wide range of eats, from organic fruit, fish, and meat to delicacies like sweet potato cake and imported bottled teas. In addition to a large selection of foods imported from Japan, they recently launched their own brand, Maruichi Select, focused on local, sustainable products. You can also find Japanese cosmetics and beautiful wooden chopsticks. Follow the Facebook page for updates and images of tasty-looking treats.
Boston General Store
305 Harvard St.
The art of craftsmanship is on display in this eclectic store, with a selection that runs the gamut: wool blankets, chef’s knives, artisan candles, sustainable cleaning supplies, kitchen necessities, writing utensils, and various types of maple syrup. Inside feels like a high-end general store, though many of the products are reasonably priced. It began as an online retailer in 2013, and opened its first brick-and-mortar store two years later. It now has two Massachusetts locations, the other in Dedham.
Village Vinyl & Hi-Fi
307 Harvard St.
Tired of going to record stores and digging through crates only to find nothing, or worse, a scratched version of that album you’ve been looking for everywhere? This should be your next destination. All the records are in good to mint condition and labeled so you know what you’re getting. And with an inventory of 10,000 albums, chances are you’ll find something to take home. The store prides itself on stocking the music that music lovers want to hear, from Soundgarden and The Strokes to Robert Johnson and Miles Davis.There’s reasonably priced stereo equipment for sale too. Hard to visit the store in person? Check out the online store.
Coolidge Corner Clubhouse
307A Harvard St.
One of the few bars and the only sports pub in the neighborhood, it can get crowded, especially when a game is on. It’s known for its heaping plates of nachos, aptly named “Mile High Nachos,” sandwiches, salads, burgers, and BBQ ribs, as well as the 30-plus beers on tap, and numerous LCD hi-def TVs. There’s also a weekend brunch.
308 Harvard St.
This French-inspired small-plate restaurant specializes in locally sourced, no-waste food, with most dishes seasonal and vegetable-based. The menu is small, but features inventive small plates like Spanish octopus, poutine, and sliders. Entrées might include root vegetable noodles or steak. The inviting atmosphere is perfect for a casual night out with friends or a special celebratory dinner with family.
312 Harvard St.
Love shopping thrift? Cleaning out your closet and want to sell some gently used clothes and accessories? Buffalo Exchange is the place for you. The resale boutique started in 1974 in a 400-square-foot space in Tucson, Ariz. It now has nearly 50 US stores, and its success is due to its upscale thrift store niche. If you’re interested in selling items, you need to make an appointment with a store buyer first (don’t just show up with your shopping bags). The store has a great selection of new and recycled fashions for men and women.
313B Harvard St.
This combination restaurant-groceria offers Italian cuisine you can eat on site or take home, as well as ingredients to make your own Italian dishes. You’ll find antipasti, paninis, spinach gnocchi—all reasonably priced. Hams and spicy salamis fill the deli case, and 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). The award-winning Fedora sauce, made with tomatoes, rosemary, garlic, and cream, is outstanding. A daily list of special homemade dishes is available for eating in or takeout. It offers pastas in a mix-and-match format—you can choose the type of pasta and the sauce. Open daily.
New England Comics
316 Harvard St.
Hellboy, Iron Man, and the Dark Knight all began life on the page, not on screen. You can find their comic books, and much more, here. The Coolidge Corner location of the eight-chain store carries the largest inventory of comics and toys, from Archie to Spider-Man and the Avengers to Spider-Gwen, plus supplies for trading card games like Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering. There’s always a large selection of graphic novels on sale: you can buy two for 10 percent off or four for 15 percent off. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable. Keep an eye out for special sales, particularly near the holidays. Note: closed Mondays.
Ganko Ittetsu Ramen
318 Harvard St.
Ganko Ittetsu Ramen, inside the Arcade Building, specializes in Sapporo-style ramen, which, unlike most ramen, is prepared in a wok. Typically, ramen is made by mixing tare (sauce) and the base broth in a bowl, then adding noodles and other ingredients. But in Sapporo ramen soup, the tare is caramelized with vegetables before the broth is added, giving the dish a deep flavor. Diners can select from six types of ramen, including 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. The soy sauce and miso are imported from Japan. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
324 Harvard St.
Rami’s has been the go-to for Middle Eastern and Israeli food in Coolidge Corner for more than 30 years. The kosher menu includes house-made hummus, bourekas, tangy baba ganoush, crispy falafel, and pillowy pita bread. Great Israeli and Middle Eastern food at reasonable prices make this a real gem. In observance of the Jewish Sabbath, the restaurant 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 opened in 2015 and is owned by Haim Cohen, whose father owns Rami’s, next door. Designed with local artists in mind, Pure Cold Press dedicates significant space as a gallery. The small eatery is kosher and vegetarian, with 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 romaine lettuce, tempeh, scallions, peppers, cabbage, crispy noodles, and a carrot ginger dressing.There’s a selection of breakfast fare, including omelets, pancakes, and oatmeal. It also closes early on Fridays, at 2:30 pm, and reopens Sundays at 8 am.
335 Harvard St.
Your search for the perfect Reuben may end at Zaftigs (“pleasingly plump” in Yiddish). 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 one of their loaded latkes or the grilled cheese made with thick slices of challah that comes with either Nova lox or bacon. 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. Suggestion: in warm weather, or if lines are particularly long, order your meal to go and plop down with the other Zaftigs exiles in neighboring Devotion Playground. Open seven days a week.
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, at the Boston Public Market, and at Time Out Market in the Fenway). Prices range from $3.50 to $4.75, and flavors include Honey Nut Cheerio, Apple Cider Crisp A La Mode, Almond Joy, and Sea Salt Whiskey Caramel. You’ll also find vegan options, donut holes, and filled donuts. You can wash it all down with a cold brew or a hot chocolate. Online ordering is available.
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, pastries, and homemade cream cheese, with flavors ranging from plain and lox to Miami lox (with scallions) and pineapple. Expect lines during prime chow times. Open daily, it has nearly every type of bagel imaginable, from pumpernickel to plain (they don’t carry asiago because it isn’t kosher). P.S. It’s pronounced with a short “u,” as in “couples.” If you don’t believe us, just check out their logo.
428 Harvard St.
The Butcherie is famous for having one of the largest selections of kosher groceries in the Boston area, with a wide variety of deli meats, wines, snack foods imported from Israel, and traditional Jewish delicacies like noodle kugel, beef brisket, and knishes. You’ll also find kosher wines, a bakery serving up challah, bourekas, and cookies, beautiful cuts of beef and poultry, and prepared savory foods for takeout. Closed Saturdays.
Los Amigos Taqueria
1294 Beacon St.
This fast and casual restaurant serves authentic Mexican cuisine with a contemporary twist. You’ll find 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. You can create your own burritos, quesadillas, bowls, and salads, and there’s an excellent vegetarian selection, including a dessert quesadilla—a grilled tortilla filled with Nutella and sweet fried plantains.
1297 Beacon St.
Coolidge Yoga offers a wide selection of classes, including core-centric classes, vinyasa flow, yoga classes for new and expectant mothers, family yoga, and even yoga for athletes. Prices vary depending on the plan you sign up for. The studio also offers new members 30 days of unlimited online yoga classes and four in-person classes for just $39. Yoga mats are available for rent for just $2.50 per visit or $20 per month, and drop-in classes are $20. Proof of vaccination is required for anyone entering the studio. Virtual classes are also offered, as well as outdoor yoga sessions during the summer months.
1302 Beacon St.
Started by two Vermont friends who now live in Boston, this women’s boutique carries a curated array of American and European clothing, jewelry, 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. Designers include Nanette Lepore, Amanda Uprichard, Citizens of Humanity, and more.
Hops N Scotch
1306 Beacon St.
Despite the name, owners Darren Tow and David Ng graduated from playground games to adult beverages—and plenty of them. Hops N Scotch has a wide variety of craft beers, more than 120 different kinds of Scotch and bourbon, and 80 varieties of beer. On the eclectic menu are fish tacos, lemongrass chicken bao, and even Mexican-style street corn. On weekends, there’s a popular weekend brunch with dishes such as chicken and waffles (which can also come in a chili sauce), kimchi crab cake benedict, and caramel cheesecake french toast.
1309 Beacon St.
This cozy restaurant, serving up Chinese dumplings, buns, and noodles, opened for takeout in May 2020, during the height of the pandemic. It’s aptly named: the owner is Nadia Liu Spellman, whose parents owned and ran Sally Ling’s—one of the nation’s first Chinese fine dining restaurants. It was a mainstay of Boston’s dining scene for nearly 20 years, 1984 to 2003. Spellman competed in the Food Network show Guy’s Grocery Games in 2020, and she now makes her favorite childhood food, dumplings, available to all. Also on the menu: bao buns, Taiwanese buns, wraps, salads, noodles and soups, rice bowls, snacks (like chicken wings and wontons), and beverages including bubble tea. Dumplings come in orders of six and cost between $6 and $8, with rice bowls and noodle dishes between $7 and $19. Dumpling Daughter will even ship frozen dumplings to your door.
Allium Market & Cafe
1330 Beacon St.
This market/café is the place to go for fancy foods and ingredients you might not be able to find at a Star Market or Stop & Shop. Opened in 2017, Allium includes a cheese shop and made-to-order kitchen, café, and bakery foods. So, while you’re out picking up some black truffle butter or marinated feta cheese for your kitchen, snack on some yummy vegan avocado toast or a fresh grilled cheese from the café. Note: closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
1331 Beacon St.
This Newton Centre mainstay chose Coolidge Corner as a 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, all reasonably priced. The LEE Burger—two six-ounce beef patties, bacon, fried egg, grilled onions, provolone cheese, jalapeño peppers, spicy aioli, and waffle fries—is $13.95, but most of the other burgers on the menu run between $7.95 and $9.95. The french fries, fruit and veggie smoothies, and milkshakes are excellent, as are the numerous side dishes, including mozzarella sticks, onion rings, chicken wings, and chicken fingers. If you want to get out of your comfort zone, try the avocado milkshake.
Six Po Hot Pot
1353 Beacon St.
Six Po Hot Pot promises a unique dining experience. The dishes are prepared with a simmering pot of soup stock at your table, right in front of you. Diners decide which ingredients to add, selecting from sliced meats and vegetables. The ingredients are placed on bamboo skewers in what they call a “novel way to eat meat and vegetables with various soup bases.” Indoor dining is available by reservation only.
Brookline Farmers’ Market
Centre Street West parking lot, off Beacon Street
From early June through mid-November, the Brookline Farmers’ Market is open every Thursday from 1:30 to 6:30 pm. A neighborhood mainstay for more than 30 years, it has nearly two dozen vendors selling a huge selection of local produce (much of it organic), eggs, ice cream, baked goods, fresh meats, fish, and more. For news and updates on the market, follow it on Instagram or Facebook.
Knight Moves: Board Game Cafe
1402 Beacon St.
The first board game café to hit New England, Knight Moves has hundreds of games, from strategy board games like Settlers of Catan to party games like Cards Against Humanity. The knowledgeable staff will even teach you how to play new games. The café’s casual, relaxed setting is a comfortable gathering place for groups. Admission is $5 per person Monday to Wednesday, $10 per person Thursday to Sunday.
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 usually open from mid-May through the end of October, from 9:30 am to 5 pm. (The site is closed this year, because of renovations to the Visitor Center, but is expected to reopen in spring 2022). Free tours are offered on the hour and the half hour starting at 10 am. The Park Service also offers more extensive tours of the surrounding neighborhood. Find more information on times and tour destinations here.
Public Library of Brookline, Coolidge Corner Branch
31 Pleasant St.
This Brookline Public Library branch is ideal for students looking for a quiet, off-campus spot to study during the day. It offers an array of programs—mostly virtual—including story time for toddlers, Dungeons & Dragons games, and English conversation groups for those learning English.
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.