If you’re not a Porter Square local, you may begin viewing its denizens with serious bagel envy after a stop at Bagelsaurus. The tiny shop serves up airy, crackly-skinned bagels born from a decades-old sourdough starter. A wait in line is rewarded with a chance to select a baker’s dozen of varieties such as sea salt and cheddar garlic or go for hearty bagel sandwiches, like the almond butter-banana-honey-bacon T-Rex.
Humbler than Harvard and less trendy than Davis, Porter Square can get lost between its more famous neighbors. But don’t let the shopping mall fool you: This eclectic neighborhood boasts culinary charms (and parking spots!) aplenty.
Homemade pasta dishes—like a decadent Pappardelle with Wild Boar—are Giulia’s claim to fame. But that’s not to say other Italian genres are neglected: The dark, inviting space also serves homemade sausages and boozy affogatos. The word is out—reservations can fill up a month in advance. (If you’ll be dining in a big group, ask to sit at the table where cooks roll out pasta during the day.)
The Japanese food court inside Lesley University’s Porter Exchange building is one of Porter Square’s best-kept secrets. Enter and you’ll find folks queuing up beside a wall near the entrance to the food court—that’s the line for Sapporo Ramen. After putting in your time, you’ll be rewarded with huge ramen bowls that hover around $10 and deliver al dente noodles in a porky, creamy broth that somehow feels lighter than most.
Family-owned Hi-Rise Bread Company, founded by a former Boston magazine restaurant critic, prides itself on making tarts with local fruits and employing extra-rich European butter in its pastries. More than a dozen varieties of bread are baked in-house each day, and you can get your gluten fix by taking a loaf home or ordering a colorfully named sandwich. A full coffee bar and rustic wooden seating make it a pleasant place to while away an afternoon.
Yume Wo Katare’s eternal line, limited hours, and spotty opening days (always check the website calendar first) can make for an daunting first impression. But once you get settled into this eclectic ramen shop, you’ll discover one of the friendliest—if strangest— dining experiences in town. If you order a “free dream,” you’ll be asked to stand and share it with the crowd—presuming you can tear yourself away from a piping hot bowl of fat noodles and a porky, 24-hour broth showered in garlic.