Although Allston Village may seem like a strip of stores to pass by on your way to Target, this square is worth a second look. Filled with coffee shops hardly big enough to contain the concentration of ombre-dyed twentysomethings, Allston is a mashup of food you haven’t tried yet and bands you’ve never heard of. This neighborhood is like an I-Spy game—there’s always a vintage guitar or Afghani kebab just around the corner. Next time you leave the bubble, be sure to check out these places:
We all Scream for Dairy-Free Ice Cream
This shop serves up sweet frozen treats with a twist—their ice cream is entirely dairy-free. Instead it’s made with coconut milk and sweetened with agave and cane sugar. Want something a little more conventional? The Samoa and Thin Mint flavors are deliciously accurate takes on your favorite Girl Scout Cookies. If you’re a bit more adventurous, try the Avocado or Pistachio Cardamom flavors, and don’t forget to top your ice cream off with some Agave Gummy Bears.
481 Cambridge St, Allston. Sunday-Thursday, 11a.m.-11p.m., and Friday-Saturday, 11a.m.-12a.m.
The Refuge Cafe endorses a hipster version of the universe: in the replication of the “Creation of Adam” from the Sistine Chapel painted on the ceiling, there is a cup of coffee in God’s outstretched hand. The barista shares this worldview, preparing Raspberry Hott (yes, 2 ‘t’s) Chocolate while chatting with a customer about meeting up at a show later that night. The café serves coffee and espresso drinks, as well as sandwiches (try the “Allstoned Sunrise”), and that graduate student favorite: PBR on tap.
155 Brighton Ave, Monday–Thursday, 7 a.m.–8 p.m., Friday–Saturday, 7 a.m.–11 p.m., and Sunday, 7 a.m.–5 p.m.
Poppin’ Some Tags
A fan of Macklemore? Tired of the Garment District? Only got $20 in your pocket? Then try out this well-stocked thrift shop on Harvard Avenue. Pretend to recognize the bands whose album art decorates the walls while you hunt through selections ranging from hand-me-down numbers from Forever 21 tops and floral 70s nightgowns. Buffalo Exchange is the perfect place to find that $20 BCBG dress you’ve been looking for—or that $15 pair of 50s roller skates.
180 Harvard Avenue, Mon-Thurs 11a.m.-7p.m., Fri-Sat 11a.m.-8p.m., Sun 12p.m.-6p.m.
Just Obscure Enough
A go-to shop for all your must-have items: that handy compilation of Polka records, a much-needed cabinet full of cutlery, and the essential complete Twilight series. This pastiche of a place, stuffed with relics from the distant (VCR players!) and not-so-distant (DVDs!) past is cluttered with things just random enough to make you seem cool without trying too hard. Don a $44 leather jacket and take a stroll down memory lane—at least to the early 2000s.
116 Harvard Ave, Mon-Sat 11a.m.-8p.m.
Moon Cakes and Snow Cookies
Yi Soon Bakery
A tiny, family-owned Chinese pastry shop, Yi Soon Bakery is indeed—like its “bomb raisin cake” indicates—pretty delicious. The old couple who owns the store is as sweet as the items that stock the shelves. With pastries in traditional Chinese flavors like Taro and Green Tea, as well as mundane vanilla and chocolate, there is something for everyone. Feeling aggressive? Try the “Chocolate Tiger Skin Roll” ($2), a fierce, spiral pastry with a striped pattern of rich chocolate cake and crème filling.
112 Brighton Ave, All Week 7a.m.-10p.m.
Now that you’ve drank the vegan Kool Aid, don your vintage roller skates and newfound attitude and stick around after dark to see all that Rock City has to offer. For the 21+ crowd, Allston-Brighton is home to a serious underground indie-punk scene complete with great bars and performance venues. Hit up the Great Scott, Brighton Music Hall, Patrón’s or nearby Paradise Rock Club to satisfy your alternative appetite—that is, if the dairy-free ice cream didn’t do the trick.