The Evolution of Davis Square

Green Line extensions won’t inspire mini-cities overnight — it took Davis Square more than 20 years to get where it is.

davis square map

Map by L-Dopa

With all the talk of how the Green Line extension would spur development in Somerville and Medford, it’s easy to imagine the mini metropolises that might sprout up. But don’t expect an instant miracle: Davis Square got its T stop in 1984, but it took a couple of decades for it to grow into the hip ’hood it is now. Here’s a look at how that scene came to be.

THE OLD GUARD: 1914–1984
1 Somerville Theatre
2 Sacco’s Bowl Haven
3 Rosebud Diner
4 McKinnon’s Meat Market
5 Johnny D’s Uptown
6 Mike’s Food & Spirits

THE PIONEERS: 1985–1999
After the Red Line was extended to Davis Square in 1984, restaurateur Robert Gregory saw an opportunity in all the new foot traffic and opened the barbecue joint Redbones in 1987. In 1990, Harvard Vanguard unveiled a medical center, which drew a host of new visitors.
7 Redbones
8 Nellie’s Wildflowers
9 Harvard Vanguard
10 The Burren
11 Joshua Tree
12 Diesel Café

THE SETTLERS: 2000–2009
In the aughts, fine- dining restaurants like Diva (2000) and Orleans (2001) opened, as did specialty market Dave’s Fresh Pasta (2000) and hip T-shirt and arts shops Davis Squared and Magpie (both 2007). Tufts students rejoiced.
13 Diva Indian Bistro
14 Dave’s Fresh Pasta
15 Anna’s Taqueria
16 Orleans
17 J.P. Licks
18 Davis Squared
19 Kickass Cupcakes
20 When Pigs Fly
21 Magpie
22 Snappy Sushi
23 Artifaktori
24 Boston Burger Co.

THE NEWBIES: 2010–today
The openings of Posto (2010) and Foundry on Elm (2010) signaled the introduction of high-end (despite the economy). Best before-and-after shot: Last year, Found, a consignment shop loaded with designer digs, opened a block from Goodwill.
25 Posto
26 Foundry on Elm
27 The Boston Shaker
28 Found
29 Five Horses Tavern
30 Bike Boom



  • teele square

    diesel cafe was not around in the 90’s. I believe it opened in the early to mid aughts

  • Tom

    I am sorry to say that this article missed the arrival of “high-end” cuisine in Davis Square by about 15 years. Unless affordability precludes inclusion in this category, “Gargoyles”, one of the Founders was glaringly omitted from your roster. The Conforti family had been serving haute cuisine in a classy-but-comfy environment for 16 years, until recently. They attracted exceptional bartenders, attentive wait-staff, loyal regulars, and patrons of all ages. The place was quiet enough to enjoy intelligent conversations with the sort of folk you’d expect to find in the Tufts/Harvard/MIT triangle, but lively enough for the younger set, and inviting for the single walk-ins. Next time you venture north of the Charles, please, do your homework.

  • Alex

    I’ve never found Gargoyles to be affordable. My experience at this restaurant has been that “high-end” means “bad food at high prices”.

    Perhaps it was omitted because the author just wishes it would go away. I know I do.

  • Scratch

    Although it’s still a work in progress, The Davis Square Theater (underneath The Foundry) looks to bring some more excitement to Davis Square — and another badly needed medium-sized venue to greater Boston.

    Located in the old Jimmy Tingle Theater, the space has been updated and beautified, and promises a wide variety of entertainment. Actor’s Shakespeare Project just closed “Merry Wives of Windsor” there. Next up? The Boston Babydolls Burlesque troupe present “Unlucky in Love”

  • Holly

    Not mentioning Gargoyles on the Square, even though it is closed, is a truly ignorant oversight. Gargoyles introduced “high end” before anyone in Davis Square! For 15 years it was a “Cheers” for the adults of Davis Square, a place to sip a well crafted cocktail, enjoy some truly delicious food, and enjoy great conversations with the professionals of the area. We even have a support group for it on Facebook (Gargoyles Afterlife).

    To call Foundry “high end” is not only hilarious, its borderline insulting to the Davis Square residents. Its a pub with lipstick, and the food is mediocre at best. Posto is all well and good, but it didn’t introduce “high end” either.

    Gargoyles may be closed (and not due to financial troubles, and certainly NOT due to Jason Santos’ leaving, so let’s just put those rumors to bed right now) but not even acknowledging the influence it had in Davis Square’s evolution is rude.

  • C

    Diesel celebrated its 12 year anniversary last year. It opened in the spring of ’99.