Eat, Drink, Shop, Laugh: Somerville's Bow Market Ties it All Together


Photo by Malcolm Higgins

Come for the pierogi. Stay for the natural wine. Or come for a roast beef sandwich. Enjoy it with an oat pale ale. Tuna poke more your speed? Try it with a glass of funky Italian orange. And don’t forget dessert: pastel-hued macarons in flavors you didn’t know you craved or magnificent handmade chocolates made with local, seasonal ingredients. There really is something for everyone at Bow Market in Somerville, an eclectic retail, cultural and culinary hub in Somerville’s Union Square.

Bow Market is the brainchild of Union Square residents Matthew Boyes-Watson and Zachary Baum, who developed it with Boyes-Watson’s father, Mark. Inspired by markets he had visited abroad, the younger Boyes-Watson wanted to re-create that feeling in his hometown. When a former storage building with 20 garage bays, built around a roughly pentagonal courtyard, came on the market, he and his partners saw Somerville’s newest hot spot. The developers’ guiding principle, says Baum, was “to work with unique, owner-operated businesses.” Also important, he says, was “being willing and able to collaborate. We have 30 independent business people. They’re all awesome at working together.”

Bow Market is the first brick-and-mortar location for the majority of the food businesses here. Most spent their early years doing pop-ups, farmers markets, catering or a combination. A couple opened second locations of existing restaurants. For a few, opening at Bow Market is a whole new beginning.

Open since June 2018, Buenas was one of the first food businesses at Bow Market. Owned by Melissa Stefanini and Sebastian Galvez, the business has changed since we profiled it in our Winter 2018 issue. Still operating out of CommonWealth Kitchen when they opened, the couple moved to their own kitchen in Everett in October. They produce and freeze empanadas there, and transport them to the market. Currently they make roughly 1,000 empanadas per week, selling some in the shop and some frozen in markets. They sell their sauces and frozen pastry dough in the shop too. Opening a brick-and-mortar location “definitely helped us grow,” says Stefanini. They did not know the other business owners before opening. “We’re best friends now,” she grins.

gâté comme des filles
Since opening gâté comme des filles in a bright, airy (if compact) space in late January, Alexandra Whisnant finally has the shop she has always wanted. Within the first two weeks, the new mother (daughter Klara was born in July) says she was already selling more chocolate than she had been in her previous location, inside the Aeronaut Foods Hub (see our profile from Summer 2016). Comparable in size to her Aeronaut workspace, the shop, which Whisnant describes as “functional and beautiful,” is designed “so every inch would be utilized.” With the luxury of her own shop, Whisnant can now offer special items like chocolate drinks, mousse and brownies every day, in addition to her high-end bonbons. As always, flavors change every week, highlighting whatever is in season.

Running a storefront at Bow Market selling fresh fish from Red’s Best, smoked fish from Boston Smoked Fish Co. and prepared and ready-to-eat foods—primarily raw and smoked fish–focused—“creates efficiencies for everything we do,” according to Jimmy Rider, who owns Hooked with Jason Tucker. And they do a lot. Together the pair operates the farmers market program for Red’s Best; Somerville resident Rider operates EverGreen Delivery; and Tucker is a commercial longline fisherman (he sells through Red’s Best) and former restaurant chef. The pair does all food prep in the 167-square-foot Hooked space. Customers who buy, say, a dozen oysters or ceviche tend to bring them across the courtyard to Remnant Brewing or Rebel Rebel wine bar. “We’re not interested in being like every other fish shack,” says Rider. “[Our focus is] super-high-quality fresh local fish.”

The team behind Bay Village favorite Mike & Patty’s opened Hot Box in early September 2018. Mike Gurevich, who owns the restaurants with his wife, Ania Zaroda, says the couple and their chef, Jesse Rosen, considered a few concepts before settling on roast beef sandwiches and South Shore bar pizza. “We’re from the North Shore. He’s from the South Shore. It seemed pretty obvious,” says Gurevich. He describes the roast beef portion of the menu as “pretty simple: roast a nice piece of beef.” Developing pizza recipes took more effort, starting from the dough and working up. But the team is confident they hit it and so far crowds in the double space (330 square feet) support his assessment. In February the team added a limited Mike & Patty’s menu, available from 9am to 1pm on Saturdays and Sundays, with some items directly from the other location’s menu and some unique to Somerville—like a “Muffin Man Fancy” (their traditional “Fancy” on a house-made English muffin).

“At first we were going to be a local grocery store,” explains In Season co-owner Bobby MacLean. But now, he says, he and partner Shane Clyburn realize, “We’re a storytelling grocery store.” The 400-square-foot shop is filled with products made, grown or raised by small producers, roughly 95% from New England. “We don’t have a lot of room, so it’s very highly curated,” says Clyburn. The Somerville residents, who usually walk to work (MacLean lives with girlfriend Alexandra Whisnant—of gâté comes des filles— and their daughter), met while working at Slumbrew. Later, Clyburn worked on MacLean’s family’s Compliments Food Co. truck. Open since the beginning of the year, the pair has already begun to develop their own items with other Bow Market vendors, like a meal kit with hake from Hooked. They also offer prepared food—breakfast bowls, soups and salads—made with products they sell. Offerings will change seasonally. “We’re trying to preserve a robust, resilient food economy,” says Clyburn.

When the Bow Market developers approached Vanessa and Casey White in the winter of 2017 (see our profile from Winter 2017) about opening a Jaju Pierogi shop, “We were heavy in the pop-up scene in Boston,” recalls Vanessa. But, adds her sister, “We realized quickly that being able to tell people we had a fixed location with set hours would be beneficial.” While the sisters still do two or three events a week, their business has evolved. They moved from a shared kitchen in Gloucester to their own 3,000-square-foot kitchen in Lynn in April of last year and were one of the earliest food vendors to open at the market. “That’s how we’ve been able to expand our reach,” says Casey.

One of the first food shops at Bow Market, Maca opened in June 2018. Owner Tamy Chung had been selling her inventively flavored and creatively decorated macarons at farmers markets, breweries and special events around town for the previous two years. In the food business “since the day I was born,” Chung grew up in New Hampshire, where her parents own a restaurant; she earned degrees in accounting and is self-taught in the pastry arts. She enjoys making macarons because, “I can have fun with colors and flavors. I try to draw people away from pistachio and salted caramel,” she says. Many of Chung’s macarons are decidedly of their place, made with Taza chocolate, Jam Sessions jam and, even closer to her new home, Remnant Brewing beer and Gracie’s ice cream.

“I always wondered why there wasn’t a fast, convenient way to get Korean food,” says James Choi. So he did something about it, launching a bibimbap business in early 2018. With no professional food experience, but a finance and consulting background and a master’s degree in leadership and ethics in the workplace, he spent a year working at a fast-casual restaurant. He launched Perillas, named for a leaf used in Korean cuisine, in early 2018, working out of a shared kitchen space in Somerville and doing pop-ups at breweries. By the time he learned about Bow Market, the only space still available was reserved for pop-ups. “It was a no-cost way to set up and get exposure,” Choi says. He cooks everything from scratch, keeping the recipes “as traditional as we can, with a modern twist.” He must be doing something right because he has extended his initial six-month pop-up for another six months … at least.

Lauren Friel was not looking to open a wine bar when her friend Alexandra Whisnant told her about Bow Market. She met with the developers and, “Everything came together in the right moment,” she says. The Rebel Rebel owner first learned about natural wines while working as wine director at Oleana, but says initially her interest was mostly intellectual. Then an importer introduced her to some offerings that she found “transcendent in a way that was remarkably different for me.” In her pocket-sized wine bar, with 30 seats inside and 30 outside (in the right weather), Friel and her small all-female staff are sharing the passion for natural wine, focusing on “the stuff that’s hardest to find.” Many customers come in specifically seeking natural wine; others are surprised that’s all that’s available. But the vast majority, she says, find something they enjoy.

“Our goal is to be a lynchpin for the market and for Somerville in general,” says Remnant Brewing General Manager Brittany Lajoie. Led by founders David Kushner and Joel Prickett, Remnant was the first food-and-beverage business to open in the market, in May 2018. The largest space, with a beer garden out back, the brewery has been a pop-up site for most of the food vendors as they built out their spaces. Now, customers routinely buy food at one or more of the businesses, then head over to Remnant to enjoy it with one of the four to eight beers on tap made by Head Brewer Charlie Cummings. Remnant uses local ingredients whenever possible, including malts from Valley Malt in Hadley and hops from Four Star Farms in Northfield. Remnant also serves coffee, tea and kombucha, starting in the morning.

Meet the new Saus. Just like the old Saus—“in a slightly older version,” according to co-owner Tanya Walker. And vegetarian. Eight years after opening their first restaurant, near Faneuil Hall, Walker and partners Renee Eliah and Chin Kuo had “incorporated more plant-based eating in our diet,” she explains. With a new location in Somerville, “it made sense to offer a vegetarian menu.” The Bow Market venue offers the same beloved fries, poutine and sauces as the Boston store; sandwiches and burgers made with tofu and meat substitutes; and bowls. Larger than most of the market’s locations, Saus has 25 seats. But carrying food from Saus into the courtyard, or to one of the other Bow businesses, is encouraged. Bow Market is “a lot more neighborhoody” than the other location, Walker notes. “It’s fun to be part of something that’s bigger than your store.”

Open in late January, Tanám began operating out of CommonWealth Kitchen as part of the Olio Cooperative in 2014, offering catering, private events and pop-up dinners featuring food inspired by the Filipino heritage of Chef Ellie Tiglao. Dinners at Tanám are conversational, coursed events for 10 or fewer people, with different themes. They are planned in collaboration with the artists, musicians and others involved. For example, each course of one dinner might be coordinated with a participating musician’s song. “It’s not a show. It’s a participatory experience,” Tiglao explains. Dinners are ticketed, with two seatings per night. Tanám also has a full bar offering craft cocktails and will have a 16-seat bar outside when the weather is warm.

Note: At press time Nibble Kitchen had yet to open but was holding regular pop-ups at Rebel Brewing. Nibble is the culinary arm of the Somerville Arts Council, made up of entrepreneurs reflecting the city’s diverse immigrant community. The new space will allow them to share their cultures through food and test restaurant concepts.

This story appeared in the Spring 2019 issue.