The pandemic has led to some pretty hard decisions for people, including figuring out the safest ways to dine out, and for many, takeout and delivery seem to be relatively decent options.
If takeout is what you opt to do and you find a decent enough day to sit outside, one of the best communities in the Greater Boston area to do both is Arlington, a town that is full of to-go options, while also having a number of outdoor spaces, many of which have benches and picnic tables — and for those with cars, parking is generally not a big issue at all, even in the busiest sections of the community.
Arlington is a particularly hilly town with several high points around or above 300 feet in elevation, which is quite impressive for a place so close to Boston and the ocean (and also considering that the eastern end of the community is only a few feet above sea level). This fact, along with its many small (and not-so-small) park areas makes it a surprisingly scenic place, with spectacular views of the Boston skyline from more than a few streets and conservation areas.
And because it is such a compact town with only about five square miles of land, it’s pretty easy to get around, so grabbing some takeout near, say, the Cambridge border and finding a park bench on the other side of town near the Lexington line is certainly doable.
A long-running joke about Arlington is that it has two types of businesses — pizza places and banks — and while this is no longer true (and never really was, to be honest!), pizzerias can still be found in nearly every part of town.
One of the best options is Andrina's on Massachusetts Avenue in Brattle Square (between Arlington Center and Arlington Heights), with this friendly counter-service spot offering thin-crust pies that lean more toward Italian-style than Greek, the latter of which has always been a popular style in town. A few blocks east on Prentiss Road near the corner of Mass. Ave. is a true hidden gem that debuted during the pandemic: the people behind the old La Hacienda in Somerville are now making pizzas out of the Sons of Italy, and these are the same legendary pies that the beloved old watering hole used to offer before closing a few years back.
Several dining and food spots reside a short distance west of the two pizzerias in Arlington Heights, including Home Taste, an outstanding little Chinese eatery that offers hand-pulled noodles and does a good takeout business, while across the street is D'Agostino’s, an old-school Italian market and deli that is a longtime local favorite for their subs and pasta dishes.
Arlington Center has seen a lot of restaurants come and go over the years, and these days you’ll find a few great options for takeout, including two that are literally right next to each other.
Housed in a tiny storefront on Medford Street, La Victoria Taqueria is a tremendous Mexican street food place that offers tortas (Mexican sandwiches) that are so good that you may need to order two, while they also serve equally great tacos, burritos, and quesadillas as well as a “plato Mexicano” which includes rice, beans, and meats such as pork, steak and chicken.
Next door to the restaurant is Gail Ann Coffee Shop, a local treasure that sells old-fashioned donuts including crullers, jelly-filled and honey dip, and there’s a good chance that you’ll get a taste of some old-Arlington character (or characters) when you walk in to place your order.
On the western edge of the town center on Mass. Ave. are a couple more restaurants that also share a building, with Thai Moon being a longtime favorite for reasonably-priced pad Thai, basil fried rice, and more, while Pasha is a slightly more upscale spot that is also popular for to-go orders, offering a variety of Turkish dishes such as a bean stew, stuffed eggplant, grilled lamb skewers, and lahmajoun (Turkish pizza).
Continuing west on Mass. Ave. away from the center is a popular takeout option in Blue Ribbon BBQ, which serves everything from pulled pork and chicken to burritos, ribs and brisket and has the funky vibe that one would expect at a barbecue joint.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, most food options in Arlington are along or just off Mass. Ave., but Summer Street has a great option in Fresh Pond Seafood, and this little fish market just north of the center is a must if you like options such as lobster, calamari, haddock, salmon and so much more.
East Arlington has always had a lot of little independent dining spots, and this close-knit section of town continues to have some great options, most of which offer takeout. For those who prefer not to eat meat, Zhu Vegan on Mass. Ave. has some tasty plant-based dishes that tend to lean toward pan-Asian fare, while meat lovers who enjoy authentic Chinese food can go to Little Q Hot Pot a block away for such options as dumplings, pan-fried noodles and of course, hot pot.
Arlington Restaurant & Diner, which is on the same strip of Mass. Ave., is a family-friendly spot that focuses on Greek fare and comfort food, and in that same section of East Arlington are Za and Olympic Pizza, where you’ll find gourmet pizza and Greek pizza, respectively.
Finally, if it’s bread that you want, head a short distance north to Broadway and Breadboard Bakery, which currently does pre-orders for a variety of freshly-made breads, including sourdough, rye, oat, and whole wheat, depending on the week.
So now that you’ve gotten some takeout, where, exactly can you take it? As mentioned earlier, Arlington has a decent number of outdoor options for such a densely-populated community. If you’re looking for hilltop views, Robbins Farm Park off Eastern Avenue could be your best choice, as the sight of the Boston skyline from here will make your knees weak, though grabbing a bench across town at Hattie Symmes Park off Summer Street (at the site of the old Symmes Hospital) may be just as good, giving you a gridlike view below that almost feels like something out of Los Angeles.
For water views, there are several places along Spy Pond that you can go to, including Spy Pond Park by Pond Lane and just below the Minuteman Bikeway, which, by the way, also has plenty of places in which to sit, and which runs from Cambridge to Lexington and beyond.
The Alewife Brook Greenway is a rare riverside path that is hidden away between Alewife T Station and Mass. Ave. and heads all the way up to the Mystic River on the Medford border where you can walk to the Mystic Lakes. Menotomy Rocks Park up in Jason Heights and a bit south of Mass. Ave.is another place to relax by the water (courtesy of Hill’s Pond), and this decent-sized park also has some quiet woods trails for exploring.
You can also get water views at McClennen Park, a former landfill area along Summer Street by the Lexington line, and near that park you’ll find two spots where you can rough it just a bit more, as Turkey Hill Reservation and Mount Gilboa are mostly wooded areas with both having striking views of the town below. It’s worth noting that one of the best open spaces in Arlington is actually in Lexington, as Great Meadows is owned by Arlington but is just over the line north of Mass. Ave. in East Lexington. This space has nearly 200 acres of land and has spectacular views, especially from the east side where you can catch great sunsets over the wetlands.
If you’d rather focus on takeout than dining in and you don’t mind putting on a jacket, Arlington has no shortage of options for to-go food and places to go for a quick break on a late fall/early winter day outside.
Oh, and most of the places mentioned here also have dining in as well if you feel safe doing so, but as always, call ahead to make sure their dining rooms are actually open during these ever-changing times.