Where to Shop and Eat in Cambridge’s Observatory Hill

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Illustration by Liz Noftle

The intersection of Huron and Concord avenues in Cambridge may be near Harvard Square and Huron Village, but the area has a character all its own. Just ask Jonathan Henke, who owns Didriks and Local Root there. Eight years ago he began looking into the enclave’s history, and found that it had once been called Observatory Hill, after the Harvard College Observatory. Local business owners have since banded together to reclaim the name. “It’s become a hidden little garden of housewares,” says America Dural’s Phillip Miller. Here are a few top-notch spots to shop, eat, and pamper yourself when you’re in the neighborhood.

1. Touch Art & Craft Gallery

The former Circle Furniture outlet is now home to a colorful exhibit space celebrating multicultural artists from near and far—the local painter Nedret Andre recently showed her dreamy landscapes in the front gallery. Check the calendar for poetry readings, author talks, and wine events.

281 Concord Ave., 617-547-0017, touchag.com.

Local Root

Cookbooks at Local Root. (Photos by Alee Gleiberman.)

2. Local Root

Jonathan Henke’s kitchen boutique stocks gadgets galore—asparagus tongs, melon ballers, twirl whisks, and more. You’ll also find a rainbow of Le Creuset pots, as well as a selection of F. Dick and Berti knives (which Henke will sharpen for free when they get dull).

221 Concord Ave., 617-354-2400, localroot.com

Wet Paint Nail Spa

A manicure at Wet Paint Nail Spa.

3. Wet Paint Nail Spa

Michelle Phoenix takes the environment seriously. All of her polishes are DBP-, formaldehyde-, and toluene-free, and when she found out that sanitizing the foot baths at her nail and skin spot wasted 10,000 gallons of water a year, Phoenix opted for steamy towels instead. “They are luxe and delicious, but also guilt-free,” she says. By the way, Wet Paint offers kid-friendly hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

143 Huron Ave., 617-868-0620, wetpaintnailspa.com.

America Dural

An eclectic display at America Dural.

4. America Dural

This design firm’s space includes a showroom, a store, and even a fine-art framer. Room vignettes showcase antique chests, modern art, and coveted Milo Baughman furniture. Our favorite find? Porcelain vases emblazoned with rabbits and dogs, from Middle Kingdom.

143 Huron Ave., 617-661-4100, americadural.com.

European Country Antiques

Treasures abound at European Country Antiques.

5. European Country Antiques

Nesters hankering for sideboards and farm tables from the late 19th century should make their way to Ed Stuart’s 4,000-square-foot antiques trove. Among the treasures that he’s brought back from recent trips overseas: fruit-picking ladders, a giant clock face, and a wine rack with space for 170 bottles. Bonus: There’s a parking lot.

146 Huron Ave., 617-876-7485, ecountryantiques.com.

6. Harvard College Observatory

The neighborhood’s namesake is open to the public on the third Thursday of every month (except in June, July, and August) for free lectures and guided stargazing. This month’s talk is on nature’s telescopes: clusters of galaxies that bend light, allowing us to see more-distant objects in high definition. And although visitors can no longer look through the “Great Refractor” telescope, installed there in 1847, they can still see the night sky through a 100-year-old Clark telescope.

60 Garden St., 617-495-9059, cfa.harvard.edu/hco.

WHERE TO EAT:

1. T.W. Food

The five-course “Kitchen Improv” menu, served after 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, showcases seasonal flavors. At $49 per person, it’s one of the best deals in town.

377 Walden St., 617-864-4745, twfoodrestaurant.com.

2. Hi-Rise Bread Company

There’s a reason weekend lines stretch out the door at this bakery. Everything—from the buttery cheddar “snails” to the signature sandwiches—is simply delicious.

208 Concord Ave., 617-876-8766, hi-risebread.com.

Armando's

Tossing the dough at Armando’s.

3. Armando’s

The Sicilian slices at this old-school pizza joint have star chefs Jamie Bissonnette and Tony Maws waxing poetic.

163 Huron Ave., 617-354-8275.