Experience the Flavors of East Somerville at the 2016 Foodie Crawl

Gauchao Brazilian (102 Broadway) dished out delicious spicy sausage at the 2015 Foodie Crawl—and they're back this year. Photo by Emily Cassel.

On Tuesday, September 13, East Somerville Main Streets will hold its biggest fundraiser of the year: the Foodie Crawl.

This annual festival of flavor invites the community to stroll down Broadway and taste all the flavors of the neighborhood—Mexican from Maya Sol, Italian at Vinny’s, Fasika’s Ethiopian dishes. It’s an opportunity for local restaurants to showcase who they are and what they can offer.

“Part of our mission is to create ways to celebrate the community that we have, to celebrate the businesses that we have, and bring people to the businesses,” says Teresa Vazquez-Dodero, executive director of East Somerville Main Streets, which hosts the annual event.

The 2016 Foodie Crawl is one of firsts. It’s the biggest yet, with 21 participating local restaurants. A popup beer garden from Aeronaut will make its debut. And it’s also a great chance to check out the just-completed East Somerville Guide, an online home for information about everything from dining to dentistry to the arts in East Somerville. There’s even a section of the guide specific to the Foodie Crawl for those who want to strategize their snacking rather than just wandering from restaurant to restaurant. “Foodies can actually take a look at the menu and plan—’Oh, I’m going to go to this stuff first, and then I’m going to go there,'” Vasquez-Dodero explains.

Over the coming months, she and the ESMS team will add even more restaurants and businesses to the guide. The hope is that this can be a great tool to introduce people who are new to the city—all of those 4,500 people who will soon work out of the Partners HealthCare building at Assembly, for example—to East Somerville. But Vasquez-Dodero also sees the guide as a way to show off the diversity of this proud community to those who might live here already.

Because there’s just much more than just food to enjoy in East Somerville (though, yeah, the food is a highlight). The Foodie Crawl is a great opportunity to see firsthand the results of a recent two-year grant from the National Endowment for the Arts which allowed ESMS to create complex public art projects, including a mural at the library where each individual piece was done by a different person in the community—members of the East Somerville Community School, seniors from the senior center, library volunteers. “You name it; any layer of the community is represented there,” Vasquez-Dodero notes.

chuckie harris park

A vibrant, newly completed mural now adorns a wall near Chuckie Harris Park.

There’s also a brand new mural across the street from Chuckie Harris Park, and, if you’re coming from Sullivan Square, another on the first side of the first building on Broadway as you enter Somerville from Sullivan. “The idea was to create a corridor that’s beautiful and a little more livable than it was before,” Vasquez-Dodero says. Anyone could drop in to paint the murals, and local couples, families—even just people walking their dogs—stopped by to help.

The resulting works are both visually beautiful and a beautiful testament to community involvement. “You get this beautiful, massive, welcoming painting with lots of sunflowers,” Vasquez-Dodero says of the Sullivan Square mural. “It’s just totally spectacular compared to what it was before. “That’s an area we’re hoping to continue to pursue … to create more engaging and more beautiful [spaces].”

To her, that’s the best thing about East Somerville. Whether it’s the Foodie Crawl or an afternoon spent painting, people of every age and cultural background have come forward to grab brushes and rollers or just say hello, responding to invitations to connect with others in their neighborhood.

“If the community is not involved and is not part of it, then it just doesn’t really—there’s so much lost, there’s no belonging,” Vasquez-Dodero says. “If you make it happen, then it feels like it’s your community.”