Local Gems: Medford

I'm so excited to kick off the Local Gems series this morning and am doing so with ten local gems in Medford. This town is fast on the rise given its strong community, lightning fast access to Boston, and various amenities (including commuter rail access and visions of Green Line expansion). If you have other favorite Medford gems, feel free to share in the comments below!

1. Bestsellers Café. This bookstore/café is a true indie gem. While it looks deceptively small from the storefront, the property opens up into a larger space in the back, including lovely café seating that overlooks the Mystic River.

2. Art in 2 Shades. I signed Laurel up for mini art camps for the first time last summer and she adores this place! The women who run this studio are quirky and friendly and Laurel created some wonderful work through the program.

3. Emiliano’Z. This Mexican restaurant is run by the sweetest family. I pretty much eat here every week. If ordering out, I usually get the primavera or Emiliano'Z favorite burrito. If dining in, the tilapia dinner plate. Also, the sangria.

4. Tenoch. In Medford Center proper, there's another great Mexican offering. If you go to Tenoch, get the chicken sandwich (torta). O.M.G. They're clearly doing well, with a North End location in the works.

5. Mystic Coffee Roaster. Fresh roasted coffee right in town. Doesn’t get better than that.

6. Chung Ki Wa. This is where my mom wants to go when I take her out to lunch (good sign, given that we're Korean!). Order the okdol bi bim bap. Also, the pajon (Korean pancakes) are delicious.

7. Bistro 5. Bistro 5 is a surprisingly fancy find right near the commuter rail stop in West Medford. Their gnocchi is insanely good or it’s a nice stop for a drink at the small bar. They recently installed windows along the front of the restaurant, making this spot even more appealing.

8. Blue Fuji. It's not hard for us to rack up a bill at this organic Asian restaurant. The sushi is great, as are basics such as the lo mein noodles and tofu with vegetables (one of my favorites!). Blue Fuji also has a gluten-free menu.

9. Danish Pastry House. Fine coffee. Killer kringle (and countless other treats). A sunny and bright corner location. You can't go wrong at DPH.

*10. Finally, Medford is remarkable not only for its quick access to the city, but also to nature. Pretty (and sometimes wooded) paths run along the Mystic River, and The Fells is a remarkable 3,400 acre reservation offering a welcome nature escape. Your kids will love exploring Panther's Cave.

*Updated and added 1/22/14

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Image credit: thumbnail via Tenoch; compilation graphic by Christine Koh, including images via featured websites