Local Gems: Arlington Center

I'm thrilled to share another Local Gems post today (be sure to check out the Back BayBeacon Hill, Lexington, Medford, and Watertown features)! Today's Arlington Center recommendations (East Arlington + Arlington Heights are forthcoming separately) come from reader Justine Uhlenbrock, a birth doula, minimalist mom of two girls, and writer who shares about motherhood, building a family legacy, and the intersection of food and family. Thanks for sharing these 11 local gems, Justine!

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Arlington is a delightfully walkable, bike-friendly town, home to lovely parks and thriving shops. Its central location, bordering no less than six towns, means you're always a quick ride to anywhere (on the roads or via the Minuteman Bike Path)! Here are my favorites in Arlington Center:

1. Blue Ribbon BBQ. As a southern girl, I can attest to the authentic taste of Blue Ribbon's delicious barbecue. Their trio platter is huge, enough for two adults to share. Our favorite meats are the pulled pork, beef brisket, and jerk chicken. All the sides are good, but I'd go for the collard greens to get the genuine Dixie experience. The restaurant also caters, and they encourage you to take free homemade pickles on your way out, y’all. Don’t mind if I do!

2. Toraya. What Toraya lacks in ambience, it makes up for with simple, well-crafted, top-notch sushi; it's some of the best north of the river.

3. Kickstand Cafe. This café spot has changed hands several times over the years and the new ownership has made great improvements to this coffee shop on the bike path. They offer a few lunch items, and I love that they use quality local ingredients when available. Their Aztec hot chocolate knocks my socks off; I mix it with coffee to tone it down and pair my concoction with a ginger-lemon or chocolate-coconut scone.

4. Derby Farm Flower & Garden. This eclectic shop creates beautiful flower arrangements and also offers a gorgeously curated collection of gifts and gardening accoutrements. When the winter doldrums strike, I pop in to imagine what could be in the spring.

5. Arlington Centered. AC is little sister to D2 in neighboring Somerville. I could wander lazily around this funky Etsy-like boutique all day, provided my kids aren't with me. It’s full of perfect, well-priced gifts for anyone on my list from babies to men.

6. Pink Dolly. This resale boutique offers clothes for kids and adults (including maternity!). They make excellent use of their limited space.

7. Wild Child. Offering an impressive and adorable range of gears, gifts, and clothing in a relatively small footprint, I love that Wild Child carries one of my much-loved brands, Tea Collection.

8. The Book Rack. Reviewed earlier on this site, The Book Rack is simply the best used bookstore around. New titles also are available, and the friendly, knowledgeable staff always can put a finger on what you’re looking for.

9. Playtime. Need craft supplies for a school project or a last minute birthday present for your kid’s friend? In operation for an astounding 70+ years, Playtime is stuffed to the gills with craft and art supplies, toys, and more.

10. Helena’s. Flummoxed about what to wear? Helena's prides itself on offering versatile separates and accessories that make it easy (and fun) to get dressed. Cheers to that!

11. Robbins Library. A brilliant historical gem, Robbins Library is the country's oldest free children's library. The reading room is also a great place to catch up on your favorite magazines!

Do you have other Arlington Center gems you love? Feel free to share in the comments below! And if you want to pen a Local Gems guest post, contact Christine at editor@bostonmamas.com to check on availability.

Image credits: all images via linked websites or associated Facebook pages