Friday, April 20, 2018

The Medford Renaissance

I moved to Medford many years ago after discovering what a hidden gem it really is.  Quiet neighborhoods and literally a five minute drive to downtown Boston, served exceedingly well by public transportation (no less than seven bus routes through Medford Square will whisk you to the Red or Orange line in minutes and soon the Green line, too) and affordable rents.  When the opportunity came to buy it was a no-brainer even if the Square was a bit of a dead zone, commercially speaking.

Now that has changed.  The "townie" image has all but completely dissipated and the area steeped in colonial history is making a comeback.  Once the home of rum distilleries and the heart of colonial shipbuilding, a stop that Paul Revere made on his famous ride, where, I might add, many historians agree he sampled some of that Medford Rum (the first use of merchandise branding in the USA) and was, shall we say, feeling no pain when he finally arrived in Lexington.  When people make lame jokes about "Meffa" now the residents don't even know what they are talking about.  Diversity has arrived.

The stately, original Medford High School was converted to luxury condominiums years ago and today sits like a castle on Forest Street with huge, well-kept Victorians all around.  It is not your modern definition of "luxury" which includes everything from swamp views to a backyard commuter rail guaranteed to wake you up.  Here we have fourteen foot ceilings, eight foot windows, lofts and a swimming pool that's indoors and year round, perfect for blizzard parties.  And fine dining you can walk to.

Yet it is this, the Chevalier Theatre, that is drawing thousands of people to Medford each week and causing a major surge in popularity.  Back in the day John F. Kennedy spoke here and Frank Sinatra sang for thousands of bobbysocked fans in the venue attached to the High School.  It was an Art Deco gem for decades but after the sale of the High School it sat empty and covered in dust.  Then federal money became available for a preservation and the interior was restored to it's former glory.

The place plugged along, home to community theater productions, dance recitals and those non-denominational Sunday fellowship meetings.  Then, a few months back, the same management company that runs The Wilbur in Boston stepped in and took over the box office and show bookings.  Joe Biden packed them in for a speech and book tour event.  Frankie Valli last week.  Wanda Sykes tonight.  Gladys Knight up next.  The lines to get in are down the street and around the block.

And when you are bringing thousands of new people into town every week they all have to eat, or have a cocktail, somewhere, right?  Those lucky enough to have secured a lease a few years back are in restaurant heaven right now, a tenfold increase in business.  "It's phenomenal," says a source at Salvatore's on High Street, just a block away and adjacent to a large public parking lot.

You want sushi?  You have your choice.  Mexican?  No problem.  Italian?  Family style or sophisticated high end, it's there.  With more on the way.  Fresh, on-site roasted coffee beans at the café?  Pakistani cuisine? The winner of top donuts in Boston?  ALL within one hundred feet of each other.

I have often heard it said that when restaurants begin to move into a neighborhood is the time to buy.  I have often said myself that I would never live in a place where I cannot walk to an ice cream shop within five minutes.  It seems like Medford has arrived.



  1. Great blog! I just moved to Medford Square last year and am loving it. I wish I could buy something here though, great place to be.

  2. And don't miss Bistro 5 and Snappy Patties in West Medford, or Bocelli's in South Medford.

  3. Thank you, Dan. BOTH great places. Bistro 5 is truly an unsung dining hero. Btw, a big fan of Beat The Press here! Where were you this week? We missed you!