INMAN SQUARE, WHICH IS MADE UP OF SMALLER SUB-SQUARES (SUCH AS David I. Calnin Square and Roger Reddick Square) spreading out from a fire station, is really just a stretch of Cambridge St. where Hampshire St. crosses. Not as busy as many other squares in Cambridge, this spot on the edge of Cambridge near the Somerville city line prides itself on being a `neighborhood square.' In fact, Inman is as far from cosmopolitan Boston as Tewksbury. The only thing that draws one back into the city is the view of the Prudential Center looming in the background. Here, the surreal possibilities of dining in some fabulous restaurants are enough of a reason to bring any xenosquarophobe out to a new place just minutes from a more familiar world.
Reaching Inman Square is easiest by bus route #69, a bumpy ride to say the least. Traveling along in a big T-bus, the rider can immediately sense the proximity of the quasi-industrial-suburban climate of Somerville. The bus might be easy, but a taxi is generally recommended, since the usual reason to come here is for a date. On a nice summer afternoon, it's not too far for a walk. Of course, how many Harvard students have seen a nice summer afternoon in Cambridge?
The only really good shopping here is for basic drugstore and neighborhood market supplies. Anyone seeking medicine from an old-time pharmacy? Come to Inman. The apothecaries here bring visitors back. To where? A place many have never been, but don't have to force the imagination to believe existed 40 years ago. Inman does offer one clothing alternative: Dragonfly. With vintage clothing and costume accessories (Dresses $10 to 30, Hats $7 to 30), the staff was running wild for the Halloween rush, as at any reputable second-hand store. The hats at this clothing boutique really take top honors--and they're affordable too.
Inman Square shines in its restaurant selection. Many an FM reader has visited such fabled restaurants as Jae's, Cafe China, Magnolia, East Coast Grill and a local outlet of Christina's Homemade Ice Cream. Inman Square has perhaps the best variety per square foot in the Boston area. A progressive dinner offers the easiest immersion in Inman's culinary culture. Starting with oysters on the half-shell ($8 to 12) at East Coast Grill, a great next step is to move on to a noodle dish ($9 to 13) at Cafe China. An entree ($12 to 20) at Magnolia, dessert (scoops $2 to 3) at Christina's and after dinner drinks at Jae's round out the dinner. All within a block of each other, eating at these restaurants is a romantic date guaranteed. A noted restaurant in Inman Square, though not necessarily hip, is S&S Restaurant, a fixture since 1919.
1369. Is there any more to say? Well, no. Because this is just about all that Inman has to offer in the way of coffee shops. Yes, this is the home base of 1369 Coffee House. Many have wondered why the address of the Central Square location was 757 Mass. Ave. when the name of the place was 1369. Here in Inman lie the answers. 1369 is the quintessential coffee shop: small round tables, offerings of muffins, coffee made every way possible and funky waitstaff insure it. The Square prides itself on being free of national chains such as Starbucks. The truth is 1369 isn't much different form your local Starbucks, except that the prices are a bit cheaper (coffee $1, pot of tea $1.40). An "alternative" to 1369 is City Girl Cafe, which offers light meals for reasonable prices (entrees $10 to 16).
This pseudo-square offers two entertainment options. The first is Improv Boston, which has performances Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 and 10:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. The other is Ryle's Jazz Bar, which is billed as a neighborhood jazz bar, although top acts occasionally appear to secure its reputation as a top jazz venue in the city. A jazz brunch is offered on Sundays form 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Another night spot is the requisite Irish pub: the Druid. Its decor pleases the eye as much as the Guinness slakes the thirst.
Inman Square isn't really a place to visit when seeking a wild time, not that a stop here along the way to somewhere else isn't part of a perfect evening. One bonus is the deja vu that so easily comes with a visit to Inman Square; imagine a night of multiple drinks and multiple parties at friends' apartments east of Harvard Square. Suddenly, a soft drink or snack becomes a necessity. It was found somewhere, but the memory fails. Inman is that Brigadoon.