Establishment neighborhood
249 Pearl St., Somerville
The Turkish word "sarma" has many meanings. It translates to: something wrapped, rolled, enveloped, a bite-sized morsel…you get the idea. Chef Cassie Piuma has modeled her dishes (many of which are, well, enveloped in flaky pastry or wrapped in grape leaves) on meyhane, the bar bites you would eat in a tavern if you were in Istanbul. Sarma’s parsnip fritters with crushed nuts are perfect—and even more perfect with a cold beer. The beef jerky in a sticky, syrupy date molasses pairs well with wine. And every bite of the mezze (Middle Eastern tapas) brings a different flavor and texture—some hot, some cold, some just wildly and excitingly foreign. Bright Turkish plates adorn the walls, while seats are upholstered in multihued traditional fabrics imbuing the space with a casual, celebratory atmosphere. Even the drinks—full of flavors like orange blossom, rose water, and oh so much mint—are a nod to the Arabian Peninsula.
Diesel Café
257 Elm St., Somerville
Two college kids met while working at a now-closed ice cream shop in Harvard square. They quickly became best friends and decided to trade scoops for beans. That’s the creation story of Diesel, which has been caffeinating Somerville locals since 1999. All the pastries come in hot and fresh from the duo’s own baking company a few doors down. The coffee is sublime, as is the seasonal apple cider and house-made lemonade. Diesel is as much a place you come for a coffee and cinnamon roll as it is a place for community. The long wood tables are perfect for coworking or splitting a few pastries and chatting, while the pool tables in the back encourage locals to strike up conversation and get to know each other—making it all too easy to stay for a second and third cup.
Spoke Wine Bar
89 Holland St., Somerville
Sometimes we patronize a bar just as much for the owner as we do for the drinks. Felisha “Flea” Foster was one of those beloved neighborhood figures, synonymous with her bar, Spoke, which had to close last year. But a former bartender has stepped in and rescued the place, staying true to Spoke’s down-to-earth Bostonian vibe and stringently curated biodynamic and small-producer-led wine list. The room is long and narrow, with a bar countertop that resembles speckled duck eggs, the odd geometric print brightening up the bricks, and specials scrawled in marker on the mirror-paneled walls. It’s a space to linger in, to decide that actually, you do need a bowl of smoked butter bean dip and fried oysters with parsnip mayo to soak up all the wine.
21 Union Sq., Somerville
There are a couple of ways to approach a meal at Juliet: You could make a reservation for the prix-fixe menu, or you could chance it, stroll in, and the à la carte menu is all yours. This level of what can only be described as pageantry is entirely worth it for the French-tinged food—runny omelettes flecked with breadcrumbs, or a Bostonian salade Niçoise (marinated mussels instead of tuna), which, when made with premium ingredients, is one of the most satisfyingly healthy meals to eat. For the planners who booked tables, the set menus change all the time and are based around regional cuisines—the Juliet interpretation of the dishes of the Basque coast, for example—keeping it fresh for the regulars.