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A passerby poses in Cambridge's Graffiti Alley.
NEIGHBORHOOD GUIDE

A guide to local favorites in Central Square

A passerby poses in Cambridge's Graffiti Alley.
  • By Peggy Hernandez
  • Photos by Iaritza Menjivar
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Central Square
Boston
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Central Square used to be the gritty, orphaned neighborhood between Harvard University and MIT in Cambridge, across the Charles River from Boston. It’s still a bit gritty, despite new development. Yet, a number of longtime businesses have thrived, and some excellent new restaurants have opened. More commercial than residential — we see you, Target and CVS — the area is culturally and economically diverse. Some balance will be restored when Toscanini’s, a revered ice cream shop, reopens after the landlord completes a boutique hotel project.

Meet Peggy Hernandez

Peggy is a California transplant who intended to stay only two years. Then: good job + marriage + multiple moves (including to London and Tokyo). The family returned to Boston in 2005. She really does like the weather.

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Central Square

Cheapo Records
A lot has changed on Mass Ave., but this jam-packed “home for vinyl” since 1954 remains a throwback to the era when everyone had a record player. Also available: CDs and concert tees.
Cheapo Records, 538 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Mass. 02139
The Middle East Nightclub
Tucked under its namesake restaurant, this independent and unadorned basement club features rising artists of rock, ska, hip-hop and more. Past acts include Mumford & Sons and Eminem. Standing only.
The Middle East Nightclub, 472-480 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Mass. 02139
Temporarily closed
Graffiti Alley
Stop to gaze at the eye-catching 80-foot graffiti display in a walkway leading to a parking lot. The art on one side changes at artists’ whims; the other is a photo panel of residents posted by the city.
565-567 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Mass. 02139
Pandemonium Books & Games
Drop in the game room any day of the week at this sci-fi and fantasy shop. Operating for 30 years, the store sells new games and classics, and it boasts an impressive book selection and game library.
Pandemonium Books & Games, 4 Pleasant St., Cambridge, Mass. 02139
Pammy’s
It’s not just the dual-sided fireplace exuding warmth in this new, Italian-ish trattoria. The antique bar features craft cocktails, and the menu offers surprisingly clever flavors. A magical neighborhood spot.
Pammy’s, 928 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Mass. 02139
There's more to see
Peggy Hernandez
Peggy is a California transplant who intended to stay only two years. Then: good job + marriage + multiple moves (including to London and Tokyo). The family returned to Boston in 2005. She really does like the weather.
Iaritza Menjivar
Iaritza is a contributing photographer to The Washington Post who is based in Boston.

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