Sunday, June 28, 2015

Main Street in Hudson: A Model for Downtown Framingham?

Main Street in downtown Hudson has, in a short time, become a very happening place. First came Rail Trail Flatbread, a gourmet pizza and craft beer gastropub, which opened about two and a half years ago at the top of Main Street, just off the Route 85 rotary.

Since then, all within a five minute walk on Main Street, three other key food and drink establishments have opened that have breathed new life into the town's downtown area. The latest, from the same owners as Rail Trail Flatbread, is New City Microcreamery, an upscale ice cream and coffee shop right across the street, which features savory flavored ice cream like olive oil, beet, and popcorn as well as new takes on classics like vanilla and chocolate.

A few blocks down is Medusa Brewing Company, which opened about a year ago, and goes with the West Coast taproom model of offering lots of its own draft beers but only light bar snacks, but encourages patrons to bring their own food or have it delivered from another local restaurant. Anchoring the far end of Main Street is Amaia Martini Bar, which opened early this year and offers a list of signature cocktails as well as an array of inventive tapas to wash down with your drink.

Last Friday night all four establishments were packed and many people were out strolling, in a scene, though much smaller, more reminiscent of Worcester's restaurant row on Shrewsbury Street, Moody Street in Waltham, or Boston's South End rather than a small town like Hudson. There are other older, more established restaurants in downtown Hudson, the Horseshoe Pub on South Street in particular, that have long been popular, but with these new, urban-styled upstarts on Main Street, the town now has a bona-fide dining district and is attracting both locals and people from afar and garnering rave reviews from both professional restaurant critics and social media like Yelp and TripAdvisor.

So what does this have to do with downtown Framingham's emerging dining district? Everything. It shows that you don't need a huge amount of establishments, just a few of the type that will bring people in to try something unique and high quality that are within walking proximity. That success begets success, competition is good, and tends to attract both more businesses and more patrons.

I've posted before about the new bright spots in downtown Framingham, including Jack's Abby Brewing, Pho Dakao, and the Deluxe Depot Diner, as well as the plethora of Latino and Brazilian establishments, including Pueblito Paisa, Mi Cochina, and Tropical Cafe. And did you know that downtown also has an Indian restaurant, Delhi Hut, and that Taqueria Mexico closed their Route 9 location to relocate to Concord Street downtown? When's the last time you heard of that happening?

But what I think is going to be the real game changer is when Jack's Abby Brewing opens its new,  much larger location downtown, with a pub and full service restaurant. If you've visited the tap room at their current location on Morton Street, where they pour beers but don't serve food, you know that they have a loyal and diverse clientele that packs the room, particularly on weekends. I predict that when the new location opens on Clinton Street towards the end of this year, it will coalesce with the existing establishments (and hopefully more new ones) to bring a vitality to downtown that hasn't been seen in many years.

Now all we need downtown is a gourmet ice cream shop.