Getting to Know Your Neighborhood: Brookline Village
Unique shops, great restaurants, and plenty of history
If you build it, they will come. And so they did. Brookline, which was part of the city of Boston until it was independently incorporated in 1705, was first established around the old Town Green. But with the arrival of the Boston and Albany Railroad in 1847, the community’s hub moved to Brookline Village, which has been the town’s civic and commercial center ever since, home to the police and fire stations, public library, and courthouse.
After the Civil War, the commercial area expanded up Washington and Harvard Streets—now considered the heart of the village—where, today, shops abut homes, recycling is the norm, higher-than-average property taxes produce excellent schools, overnight street parking is illegal, and family-owned businesses far outnumber chains.
There are exceptions. Starbucks and Dunkin’ have made their way into the neighborhood, but those in the know often walk a few blocks to one of the many local independent cafés in the neighborhood.
Daniel F. Ford Park and Playground at Emerson Garden
Fronted by Davis Avenue and Emerson Street
This two-acre playground is nestled in a residential area of Brookline Village. Trees shade the perimeter of a large grassy field lined with benches, providing a spot for reading, relaxing, and people-watching. Along with slides, a climbing structure, and a toy ship, the playground has Brookline’s first spray pool, where children can cool down on a hot summer’s day. The nearby park, with walking paths, is dog-friendly, and offers off-leash hours, for a fee, between dawn and 9 am, as part of the town’s Green Dog Program.
Between Linden Place and Linden Street
Established in 1843, this quiet park sports just a single play feature: a circular sandbox, about 20 feet in diameter. The park offers passersby a reprieve from Harvard Street’s traffic and a peaceful place to eat takeout from numerous neighboring cafés. A single table sits at the front entrance, and benches are scattered throughout. Near the back entrance is one dedicated to “Alan J. Gagne (1952–2006), Linden Street’s beloved mailman.” Linden Park is listed on both the National and State Registers of Historic Places.
Between Linden Place and Toxteth Street
This tranquil park doesn’t have slides or sandboxes, but does feature shady benches, ideal for reading a good book or enjoying a relaxing lunch. Established in 1843, the park is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Brothers & Sisters Co. Coffeehouse + Café
7 Station St.
Brothers & Sisters Co. Coffeehouse + Café serves passersby who’ve just gotten off the MBTA D Line with a wide variety of pastries and beverages. The dining area is decorated with colorful pastel drawings, decorative lamps, and an assortment of cozy leather booths, with speakers playing a constant flow of indie tracks. It’s the ideal spot for anyone in search of a quiet break. The café is well known for its seasonal drinks, which currently include a gingerbread chai latte, a peppermint mocha and a crème brulée latte. During the warm-weather months, check out the café’s offshoot, Jamie’s Ice Cream Co., located next door, which serves up delicious scoops, sundaes, milkshakes, floats, and a classic banana split.
Puppet Showplace Theater
32 Station St.
Since 1974, this 95-seat theater has attracted artists from around the world performing marionette, hand, rod, and shadow puppetry. The audience is mainly children (some 20,000 every year), and, for many, it’s the first time they’ve seen live theater. Many performances are familiar, such as adaptations of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Although mainly for families, school groups, and campers, the theater also hosts programming for adults, like the Puppet Showplace Slam, Boston’s only puppet cabaret. The theater offers a variety of classes and workshops for children, teenagers, and adults, as well as summer camps for youth and children. Be sure to check out the theater’s puppet store, which sells a wonderful variety of puppets and marionettes for all ages.
Boca Grande Taqueria
3 Harvard Square
This taqueria specializes in fresh, healthy Mexican cuisine. With a menu featuring tamales, burrito and salad bowls, enchiladas, and street tacos, Boca Grande prides itself on not using hydrogenated oils, trans fats, preservatives, artificial flavorings, or MSG in their food. Their house rice and beans are vegetarian-based and the menu includes several vegan options, such as tofu chile adobo.
5 Harvard Square
The chocolatiers here create handmade artisan chocolates, filling molds and operating a tempering machine in an open kitchen behind the counter. Only natural ingredients—pure butter, cream, fresh-roasted nuts, fruits, and premium European chocolate—are used. A specialty is the Viennese hazelnut, a chocolate cube comprising a single layer of milk and white chocolates wedged between two layers of dark chocolate and infused with hazelnut butter. Novelty items include the chocolate piñata cake, a hollow shell of dark or milk chocolate filled with a variety of artisan chocolates. Each cake comes with a wooden mallet, so it can be smashed and the chocolate treasures released. The store also blends several dark chocolates to make a 72 percent cocoa-rich, dairy-free vegan chocolate. Follow Serenade Chocolatier on Facebook or Twitter for news of special events and free samples.
6 Harvard St.
Poke Garden has brought a fusion of Hawaiian and Japanese cuisine to Brookline. With its selection of signature bowls—try the spicy salmon with sriracha aioli or the Poke City Special with pineapple salsa—and a build-your-own option, diners will find plenty of different combinations to suit their sushi cravings. Bowls can also be ordered online and are available for delivery.
Henry Bear’s Park
19 Harvard St.
This store offers toys and games arranged by age and interest. But it’s not just for kids. Adults will find gems in the “Big Kids” section, with classic board games, such as Scrabble, Monopoly, Battleship, and Checkers. The store hosts free events that include educational games and music sessions, popular with local families. The store’s name comes from a children’s book by David McPhail, published in 1976—the year the first store opened on Huron Avenue in Cambridge. It now has nine locations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
22 Harvard St.
Orinoco’s fare is rooted in traditional Venezuelan cuisine. Executive chef Carlos Rodríguez, who has taught classes in BU’s Certificate Program in the Culinary Arts, applies nuevo Latino techniques to bring out exotic flavors, an approach exemplified by the restaurant’s asado negro—slow-cooked beef roast served au jus with rice and sweet plantains. The restaurant also has a full bar offering authentic South American wines, beers, and tropical fruit drinks and Caribbean-inspired specialty cocktails. Owner Andres Brangér (CAS’84) carefully chose décor and placement to ensure that customers feel at home. One wall is festooned with a pyramid he constructed of pre-1950 black-and-white family photos, topped with a portrait of his mother. The eatery has two other locations, in the South End and Harvard Square.
Martin’s Coffee Shop
35 Harvard St.
This Brookline Village mainstay (it’s been in business since 1918) is a favorite with locals for breakfast and lunch. Grab a seat at the counter and enjoy a hearty meal of pancakes, French toast, or create-your-own eggs Benedict. It opens at 7 am (8 am on Sundays) and closes at 3 pm. The lunch menu offers an extensive list of grilled sandwiches, burgers, and classic homestyle favorites. Previously cash only, the coffee shop now accepts credit cards, debit cards, and Apple Pay; online ordering is also available.
Bottega di Capri Italian Deli
41 Harvard St.
This cozy delicatessen gives Italian eateries in the North End a run for their money. Featuring fresh, affordable homemade pastas and more than a dozen sauces for eat-in or takeout, it’s the place to grab a sandwich for lunch or a prepared meal when you don’t feel like making dinner. The homemade meatballs with pasta and the lobster ravioli are a must, as are the numerous panini and sandwich selections.
43 Harvard St.
Often described as a “miracle worker,” Boonsom “Bonnie” Pasooktham is a trusted and talented seamstress, known for her pleasant demeanor and exceptional customer service. Bring in a dress or suit jacket needing alterations and you’ll get it back on time and on point. Bonnie is also known for designing beautiful custom-made wedding and special-occasion gowns and other articles of clothing.
60-62 Harvard St.
Gateway Arts, a service of the nonprofit Vinfen, is a studio art center dedicated to creating careers in art for people with disabilities. For more than 50 years, the studio spaces, gallery, and storefront have supported artists with developmental and psychiatric disabilities, providing them studio mentorship to help them grow professionally and a neighboring store where they can sell their artwork, which includes paintings, silk scarves, fine jewelry, wooden furniture, cards, hand-woven textiles, and pottery. Gateway also hosts exhibitions throughout the year in its second-floor gallery space. Half of all profits go directly to the artists. The store is open Tuesday to Friday from 11 am to 5 pm, Saturday from noon to 4 pm, and online.
195 Washington St.
Izakayas, for those who don’t know, are informal Japanese bars that serve alcoholic drinks and snacks. True to that spirit, this Japanese pub offers a wide menu of Japanese street food items and starter entrées like sashimi, yakitori, and donburi, as well as full course omakases (chef’s choice) that pair well with the restaurant’s beer, sake, and wine program. Omori is open daily and reservations are available for private events. Be sure to check out the daily lunch specials and check online for discounts and promotions. Outdoor dining is available during warm-weather months on the patio.
Cadeau Boutique & Gallery
214 Washington St.
Searching for the perfect special birthday or holiday gift? This intimate shop houses a collection of candles, housewares, a carefully curated selection of clothing, bags, and fine jewelry, and is staffed by friendly sales clerks who help guide you through every step of the gift-buying process. The boutique is the brainchild of Sara Petras, former manager of the former women’s clothing store, Portobello Road, in Chestnut Hill. She earned an MFA in painting from MassArt and has a passion for early 20th-century French painting. The boutique is open Tuesdays through Saturdays
The Shared Tea
229 Washington St.
The Shared Tea is the perfect place to wind up after a long day of exploring Brookline Village. The menu offers classic boba and milk teas, matchas, cheese foam teas, fruit smoothies, and more. Try the tea-based peach smoothie with homemade cheese foam. The sharable mochi bites are delicious, the perfect accompaniment to any tea drink.
236 Washington St.
This no-frills Thai restaurant has a small dinner menu, but each item has been thoughtfully conceptualized and executed. Co-owners Smuch Saikamthorn and Chompon Boonnak (MET’13) were childhood friends who grew up together in Thailand’s Phetchabun province, and they’ve designed their restaurant to resemble the unassuming bars and grab-and-go street food eateries they knew as kids. Straightforward and simple, the dishes are set in stone, the food being prepared the way the chefs intended. The handcrafted cocktails include creative options like the Mahaniyom Sazerac, made with Thai tea infused rye, house bitters, and absinthe. Diners can also order online. One visit and you’ll see why the Boston Globe recently awarded Mahaniyom a five-star ranking.
238 Washington St.
At this Japanese restaurant, specializing in noodles and soups, diners can take their pick of ramen, udon, and champon bowls with tender chashu pork, soft noodles, and sesame flavored soup. Standout bowls include the “Sukiyaki Champon,” a champon noodle soup with sukiyaki beef, seafood, mixed vegetables, and an onsen egg. Rice bowls are also available, with a standout being the “Kyu-Shu Don,” topped with seasoned ground pork, takana (Japanese pickles), and an onsen egg. The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner and serves wine, beer, and sake.
278 Washington St.
Since 1976, Framers’ Workshop has been a mainstay in Brookline Village. Once Boston’s only do-it-yourself frame shop, the store has now shifted to mostly custom framing, but they do offer take-home orders that allow you to assemble your art at home. Those kits run between $50 and $60 for smaller pieces to $150 to $400 for larger pieces, subject to the materials. In the coming months, the workshop hopes to bring back a rejuvenated DIY workshop. The staff is extremely knowledgeable and helpful. The shop can also build custom-framed mirrors.
284 Washington St.
“Nobody knows how great our ingredients are,” says co-owner Charles Kelsey, who invests in food rather than advertising for his gourmet breakfast and lunch sandwich shop. Kelsey and his wife, Rachel, seek out local, organic ingredients like all-natural, antibiotic-free meats, fresh bread from Iggy’s in Cambridge, and fresh produce from Brookline’s Allandale Farm. Former America’s Test Kitchen editors with degrees from the Culinary Institute of America, the couple prepares food on-site. Their BBQ ranch fried chicken sandwich—which takes days to prepare and is one of the shop’s most popular items—is one of two sandwiches only available on their Super Cluckin’ Sundays, along with the honey mustard fried chicken sandwich. Limited quantities of these sandwiches are available on Sundays and can be ordered ahead of time online. Make sure to place your orders and show up for pickup early, as the line is usually out the door with hungry customers.
Anatolia Buffet & Kebab House
305 Washington St.
Anatolia Buffet & Kebab House serves traditional Turkish cuisine. The restaurant is run by co-owners Ahmet Ozseferoglu and his cousin, Ali, who serve up specialties from their homeland, including an Adana kebab (named after the fifth-largest city in Turkey, where it originated), consisting of spicy ground lamb on skewers. Although the halal-certified menu is heavy on meat, vegetarians will enjoy feta cheese pizza and a variety of cold appetizers and salads. Many dishes are served with pide, a homemade sesame-seeded bread that’s soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside—it’s delicious. With many items premade and showcased at the counter, service is quick.
Village Pizza House
312 Washington St.
This pizzeria has been serving up Greek-style pizza to local residents and Brookline High School teachers and students since 1970. Many customers choose to carry out or order online, but there is ample seating inside. Be sure to try one of the specialty pizzas, like the chicken Alfredo pizza with broccoli, grilled chicken, and Alfredo sauce. You’ll be glad you did. The eatery also serves calzones, subs, burgers, quesadillas, fish and chips, salads, wraps, and a select group of pasta dishes.
320 Washington St.
Wow Barbecue began life as a food truck serving authentic Chinese barbecue (food on a stick) before expanding into two brick-and-mortar restaurants: one in Brookline Village and another in Providence, R.I. The restaurants dish up a comprehensive menu of traditional Chinese street cuisine, with an emphasis on skewers. Featuring meat or vegetables doused in almost 20 different spices, the skewers, traditionally cooked over a charcoal grill, here are cooked over a gas grill with volcano rocks to preserve the signature smoky flavor of the cuisine. Wow offers two dozen specialty skewers, ranging from basics, like chicken or beef served with sides—such as seaweed, rice cake, and fried tofu—to more unique offerings, like lamb kidney, squid, quail egg, and chicken gizzards. The menu also includes soups, Asian fusion, tapas-style small plates, and entrées.
8 Cypress St.
This eclectic vegetarian restaurant (with vegan options) specializes in classic Indian dishes, such as curries and samosas, while also offering Italian specialties like pizza and pasta. Try the paneer tikka masala pizza topped with masala sauce, marinated paneer, red onion, garlic, and ginger, or the white spinach feta pizza with alfredo sauce, feta, mozzarella, spinach, garlic, and caramelized onions. Traditional Indian options include malai kofta, saag paneer, chana masala, and dal makhani. If you’re feeling thirsty, complete your meal with a fresh juice or sweet mango lassi. Veggie Crust’s Brookline location (there is another in Somerville) is also kosher-certified.
The Brookline Pizza Spa
75 Harvard St.
A favorite with locals, the Brookline Pizza Spa serves pizza, salads, wraps, paninis, calzones, wings, and other New England favorites like roast beef sandwiches and raspberry lime rickeys. The shop also serves pizza by the slice—which is almost the size of two slices—for $4 to $5, depending on the variety. Owned by husband and wife team Hugo and Silvana Oliveira since 2018, the Harvard Street building (where the eatery is located) dates from 1910, when it operated as a hotel. The Brookline Spa (no pizza back then) eventually turned into a restaurant and later a convenience-grocery store for several decades. The Battite family managed the store from 1995 to 2018 and introduced new menu items that have now become permanent fixtures.
Newsboys Memorial to Albert Edward Scott
333 Washington St.
Tucked away alongside Brookline Town Hall, this small memorial honors all of those Brookline residents who gave their lives while serving their country. But if you walk to the back of the memorial, you’ll discover that it specifically honors Albert E. “Scotty” Scott, a 15-year-old newsboy who lied about his age and entered World War I while still a Brookline High School freshman. Less than a year after entering the Army, Scott became a folk hero in Brookline, reportedly killing or injuring some 30 German soldiers in France, before being killed by one of them. A plaque commemorating his sacrifice was erected by the Roosevelt Newsboys’ Association of Boston.
Public Library of Brookline
361 Washington St.
For more than 150 years, the Public Library of Brookline has served a variety of local residents, including the Kennedy clan, Emmy- and Tony-winning actress Jane Alexander, TV personalities like Conan O’Brien, and sports luminaries like Patriots’ owner Bob Kraft. Besides books, the library offers all of its card-carrying members access to ESL conversation groups; foreign language books, including large collections of Chinese, Russian, and Hebrew texts; and museum passes for reduced admission to cultural institutions like the New England Aquarium, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Museum of Science. The library hosts storytimes and other programming, and provides resources for people with disabilities, seniors, and students. The Brookline Village branch also has an outdoor children’s garden featuring benches perfect for reading. Digital books and audiobooks are also available for rental. Titles are available electronically for up to three weeks, then they vanish.
Off the beaten path
48 Boylston St.
Enter La Morra’s exposed upstairs yellow-walled dining room for traditional Northern Italian cuisine featuring an authentic Tuscan-style wood burning grill. Husband and wife duo Jennifer and Josh Ziskin advertise “simple ingredients” and “time-honored techniques.” Inspired by the Italian village of La Morra, guests can choose from an array of flavorful roast meats and fish, homemade pasta and cicchetti (Venetian tapas). The restaurant has a bar displaying dozens of Italian wines and liquors and offers seasonal cocktails. La Morra offers take-out and delivery.
Stops along the Underground Railroad
9 Toxteth St. and 182 Walnut St.
Brookline Village is home to two houses that were stops on the Underground Railroad during the 19th century. A wooden cottage at 9 Toxteth St. was owned from 1845 to 1867 by abolitionist William Ingersoll Bowditch, a Brookline selectman and town moderator. He sheltered fugitive slaves, including Henry “Box” Brown, who shipped himself in a box to gain freedom. The Samuel Philbrick House, at 182 Walnut St., concealed escaped slaves William and Ellen Craft, who stayed in a back room for days while a US marshal searched for them. Today, the two homes are privately owned and can be viewed only from the street. Discreet plaques identify the Brookline residences as part of the Underground Railroad.
147 Cypress St.
Owner and chef Colleen Marnell-Suhanosky, a James Beard award–winning cookbook author, wants customers to feel at home in her restaurant, and the menu does just that. There are breakfast offerings, such as a variety of egg dishes, cinnamon custard French toast with maple sea salt butter and seasonal fruit, and other innovative dishes geared toward health-conscious diners. Lunch items include fresh salads and homestyle favorites like grilled cheese. Try the Cypress with kale pesto on warm brioche bread, vegetarian Greek gyro, or a salmon burger. The baked goods are delicious, as well. You can grab a seat at the counter or on the hot pink leatherette couch, an heirloom from the owner’s grandparents’ Italian restaurant in Minneapolis.
Shambhala Meditation Center
646 Brookline Ave.
Discovering your own kindness, goodness, strength, and wisdom as a means to moving toward a more harmonious society is the goal of the Shambhala community. To that end, it offers weekend workshops, dharma talks, and meditation in two shrine rooms with comfortable mats and scented with incense. The center welcomes people of all faiths and traditions, with monthly theme nights, such as the Heart of Recovery, which brings together Buddhist meditation practice and the 12-step model of recovery for people on the path to sobriety, a monthly LGBTQ+ meditation group, and another for those who self-identify as people of color. No membership is required for drop-in groups, but a donation of $25 is suggested for beginners if they can afford it. General memberships are $60 to $75 a month and $100 for families.
Brookline Reservoir Park
Route 9 between Lee and Warren Streets
Both runners and walkers make use of the one-mile circumference of the Brookline Reservoir Park. The reservoir is also a popular destination for anglers: the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife stocks the man-made body of water annually. Recent renovations to the reservoir have also allowed for much-needed upgrades to the park and gatehouse. The $3.2 million project was completed in spring 2020. With the reservoir filled, those wishing to fish need only bring a permit from the Office of the Town Clerk, along with their fishing gear. The Brookline Reservoir Gatehouse, which was built in 1848, was designed to keep Boston’s water supply flowing if the main supply was disrupted. In 2015, the National Park Service declared the Brookline Reservoir and Gatehouse a National Historic Landmark.
Evelyn Kirrane Aquatic Center
60 Tappan St.
Named for the town’s Recreation Department superintendent from 1972 to 1989, the aquatics center on the Brookline High School campus was the nation’s first indoor public swimming facility. The center has three pools: a shallow one for children and beginners, a lap pool, and a diving area. The last two connect through a sealed tunnel, and swimmers wearing goggles can peer through the lap pool’s underwater window to watch divers on the other side. A major attraction for swimmers with sensitive skin is the pools’ copper ionization filtration system, which lowers the levels of chlorine required. The pools cost $8 a visit for Brookline residents, $10 for nonresidents, but a reduced rate of $6 and $8 is available for students. Yearly adult and family passes are also available for purchase. Private and group swimming lessons are available for Brookline residents (prices vary).
Getting there: By foot, head down Harvard Street from Comm Ave until you cross Washington Street. The 1.5-mile walk takes about 30 minutes. By T, walk to the Fenway stop on Park Drive and take the outbound D Line trolley two stops to Brookline Village. By bus, hop on the #66 headed down Harvard Street.