Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Destination Downtown Dining District in 2014?

Is downtown Framingham poised to become a destination dining district of its own in 2014? Some might debate that it already is. To add to the existing diversity of eateries, the owners of Pho Dakao, a Vietnamese restaurant in Worcester, will be opening a Framingham location at the location of the former Limey's pub and Sampan restaurant at 101 Concord Street this month. And the splendid, historical train station on Waverly Street also has a new future as a restaurant. The Deluxe Station Diner, with existing locations in Newton and Watertown, plans to renovate and open the building as its third location this year.
While some may say that the downtown Framingham dining scene is a sea of Brazilian establishments, on closer inspection it is much more. Pupusas Y Tacos Dona Sophia at 40 Concord Street offers authentic Central American/Salvadoran cuisine and has over forty reviews on Yelp, one of the premier restaurant review sites, from diners not only from Framingham and Metrowest but from Boston and beyond, including one visitor from Chicago. And a few minutes walk away at 66 Hollis Street, Pueblito Paisa Colombia gets high marks as well for its take on traditional Colombian cuisine.
And while the profusion of Brazilian food may seem like no big deal to those of us who live locally, it's an interesting and exotic alternative to people from outside of eastern Massachusetts. My wife and I took her parents, who live in Pennsylvania, to The Tropical Café at 85 Hollis Street for dinner and they loved both the food and the atmosphere, which really makes you feel like you're in a faraway locale, with Brazilian music playing in the background and the chatter of people speaking in Portuguese.  And unlike some of the other more spartan Brazilian storefront eateries, The Tropical Café has a full liquor license.
For more traditional American food, downtown stalwarts like The Chicken Bone at 358 Waverly Street and Eagles All-American Grill at 55 Park Street have a loyal and steady clientele, and newcomer Frescafe at 82 Concord Street is earning fans for its eclectic take on typical breakfast and lunch offerings.  
Framingham has, arguably, with the exception of Waltham's fabulous Moody and Main Street restaurant district - another area that has made ethnic variety its selling point, which we should also aspire to do - the most diverse downtown dining scene between Worcester and Boston. Here's hoping with the new additions to downtown's restaurant offerings we'll move a bit closer to that goal in 2014.