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Davis Square, a hipster haven?

Local hangout makes its way onto the national map

Published: Sunday, May 18, 2003

Updated: Sunday, August 17, 2008 15:08

Perhaps because of its proximity to campus, not to mention the free shuttle, Tufts students have been frequenting Davis Square for years. Our beloved Somerville neighbor, however, has recently climbed the ranks to become one of not just Tufts', but America's "hippest" areas.

Robert Lanham's Hipster Handbook, a book designed to inform the country's coolest of which neighborhoods are worth spending time — and money — in, puts Davis alongside other well-known hotspot areas such as the lower east side of Manhattan and Wicker Park in Chicago.

Additionally, in its May 2003 feature on "The 20 Most Rock & Roll Towns," Blender magazine named Davis "Best Town to Say No to the Man," describing it as a haven for counterculture with a "rootsy, bohemian vibe [that's] much more Berkeley '68 than Animal House."

Many Tufts students, however, don't really believe that Davis deserves its newly heralded "hip" reputation. "I wouldn't go that far," freshman Leslie-Ann Stevens said about Davis Square's new status, "but I like going there."

Other students, like freshman Sarah Samuelson, go into Davis to get away from the campus for a few hours, primarily because it's easy to get there. "The free shuttle is usually the only reason I go into Davis as often as I do," Samuelson said.

For other students here at Tufts, including freshman Heather Tamarkin, Davis Square is simply the place where the T stop is, and is really just an in-between. "I don't really like to hang out in Davis," Tamarkin said. "It's just a stop on the way to going into Boston or Cambridge."

Other Tufts students, however, seem to take advantage of what they enjoy in Davis while simultaneously expressing their astonishment at its published "hipness." "Parts of [Davis Square] are very hip... but it could be hipper," freshman Melissa Marver said. "Parts of it are great, but I usually can't entertain myself for too long there."

Fellow freshman Meredith Dobbs, though taken aback to hear about its rating in The Hipster Handbook, does see the bright side to Davis Square. "It's good because it's not a city, but you can get great food, and there are some really nice shops," Dobbs said. "Plus, the people there are generally a lot more friendly than in Boston."

Apparently, Somerville officials were just as stunned as Tufts students when they learned about Davis's new status. Josh B. Wardrop, a staff writer for Town Online, discovered that, although Davis Square's new trendiness is certainly appreciated, it was hardly expected.

When interviewing Dorothy Kelly Gay, Somerville's Mayor, Wardrop was told that she'd never heard anything about Davis's rating in "The Hipster Handbook." However, Gay went on to say that she was glad Davis seemed to finally be getting the attention she thought it deserved. "Davis Square is a really lively place with an eclectic mix," she said. "There's something for everybody, really."

In accordance with this statement, it seems that each Tufts student has a special affinity for at least one place in Davis. Many of these preferences, in fact, also appear to have been a part of the cause of Davis's new attractiveness in the first place.

The first, is Anna's Taqueria. For inexpensive yet surprisingly tasty quesadillas, burritos, tacos, and more, Anna's is the perfect place. Walking in, it's almost as predictable as clockwork that you'll run into somebody from one of your classes. For less than five dollars, you can get a chicken quesadilla with everything in it, and a bottle of water to supply that always-needed break from the hot sauce. Anna's has frequently been the reason students wait for half an hour for the Joey in the middle of the winter.

After a great meal at Anna's, many Tufts students feel that

little ache for something sweet. They then opt to make a pit stop at Denise's Ice Cream, where the flavors range from the normal, such as cookie dough, to the faintly obscure, like hazelnut. Even though Denise's ice cream is also sold at Tufts' very own Brown 'n' Brew, few students can resist stopping in at Denise's if they're in Davis Square, especially because it is so close to the shuttle stop.

Although students now know that Davis has become a trendy area to hang out in, many are still not fully sure why. Sure, places like Anna's and Denise's bring in a lot of people, and eateries like Diesel, Someday, and Joshua Tree have "cool" clienteles, but is that enough to merit Davis Square's hip status?

After all, in addition to McIntyre's Used Scholarly Books and Goodwill, Davis also has the decidedly unhip Starbucks and McDonalds.

John Bonaccorso, a bartender at Johnny D's, has another theory. He told Wardrop that he believes that Davis has become so popular because of the dynamic between different types of people. He claims that Davis has become such an appealing place partially due to a mix between the old Somerville and the new Somerville.

"The most interesting thing about this area is the interaction between the old townie and the new 'hipster,'" Bonaccorso said. "It all works well, without too much tension."

Regardless of how and why, Davis Square has become a pronounced spot on the hipster map. Its reputation as a fun place to have dinner with a few friends, go for a walk, or even go shopping (all without spending a ridiculous amount of money) have spread far beyond the Tufts campus.

Although some of the students here at Tufts don't fully agree with or comprehend its new status, Davis has been and will likely continue to be highly trafficked by students, tourists, and townies — old and new alike.

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