I live in Cambridge but shop in Chestnut Hill. I don’t know when it started. I’m guessing it had something to do with working over at Solomon Schechter Day School and going to the gym at Wellbridge (when it used to be in Newton and when I worked out daily -those were the days!). Even though my work is at home in Cambridge now and my working out…well that’s a whole other blog post…I still shop in Chestnut Hill. The Atrium Mall, where I bought everything from for bridal shower gifts at Tiffany’s to maternity and baby clothes and where I entertained my then infants and toddlers on cold wintry days or blistering hot days at the play space, is long gone.
As they say, when one door closes, another opens. I’m pretty sure that phrase has nothing to do with shopping but in this case it will. Next to the Atrium Mall was an old abandoned grocery store and a giant pockmarked parking lot. If you haven’t been to Chestnut Hill lately, you will be shocked. Where an empty lot once stood, now lives a little town center of sorts with a giant Wegman’s, restaurants, a cycle studio, and shops galore. If you build it… they will shop, eat, workout, and work.
I recently joined the Boston Brunchers for a hosted tour of the shops at Chestnut Hill Square and finished off our tour with a fabulous dinner at the cornerstone of the area, still standing the test of time: The Capital Grill.
Let’s begin with the shops. If you’re a parent, you understand the importance of one stop shopping. The more a parent attempt to insert and extract their child from a carseat the more impossible said child will be for each errand. When you shop Chestnut Hill Square, you can get a gift, pick up some crafts, get your groceries, restock the wine fridge, replace your sad holey sports bra, and order cupcakes for your son’s soccer team among other things.
Paper Source is a great place to go for crafting inspiration. There are so many colourful and fun items in the shop that there really is something for everyone to look at. I have found that even my “not so arty” child will be inspired if surrounded by the right materials. I had forgotten that Paper Source had classes. For our Chestnut Hill Square tour, we got to try out the embossing powder and heat tool to make mother’s day cards. This was the perfect next step for my daughter and I at home, so I bought some of the embossing tools and powders. We have a huge collection of rubber stamps that were just lying dormant and now playing with the the powder and heat gun, they have a new purpose.
I am a fan of cycling and spinning (two very different things). I am a casual cyclist (like the clunky bike, flowers in a basket kind of cyclist), but in the spin studio I am like “Ted King watch out I will crush you!” Obviously there is a lot of imagination going on in my spin class mind, but it is definitely one of the best workouts I ever get. I haven’t tried Soul Cycle yet, but I look forward to checking it out. One of my good friends is a Soul Cycle devotee.
Shopping at Francesca’s is a mother-daughter experience that somehow works. We were introduced to Francesca’s on Project Runway and when my daughter and I walked into our first Francesca’s store she was so excited because of that connection. What’s fun about Francesca’s is that there is a little something for each generation. From gifts and jewelry to hats and clothes, it’s a bit like a fancy, modern. mini, flea market without the fleas.
Sweet Cupcakes shop also makes cakes. Who knew?! Well now we all do. They even have wifi and sometimes you need a little cupcake to help with the creative process right? If you’re a freelancer. You can find a spot at Panera, Sweet or Starbucks and have plenty of wifi to get your work done before picking up the kids from school.
Getting one’s hair done goes beyond grabbing a comb, a brush, and a banana clip these days. You can go to the salon for a cut, color, or wash and dry. You can go onto Pinterest and see 8.000 varieties of braids that look so easy (but you know are impossible). Best of all, you can pamper yourself at a place like Dry Bar. It’s kind of like getting a polish change but for your hair. You’re not committing to a whole new hair cut but you can play with styles and order from the menu. Dry Bar’s hair styles are all named after cocktails and they even have a Shirley Temple for the kids.
In terms of other dining options at Chestnut Hill Square you can stop in at Sweetgreens for an entire menu of fresh, green, foods that must be delicious because it was a very popular spot the day we visited. There is always Starbucks for a quick bite and a refueling on caffeine. Brio is an Italian style restaurant with a kids menu and a very large, serene dining room. If you want variety and speed, you can also shop at Wegman’s where they have a huge lunch selection from soup and salad bars to pizza, sushi, hot bars and more.
Right next to Chestnut Hill Square is a restaurant that has been there for as long as I can remember. The Capitol Grill is a place that steps back to a different time and place. You’ll see children dressed in patent leather shoes and sporting little ties out with family members celebrating a special occasion, but you’ll also see a more casual lunch crowd or dinner group who just want the taste and service that The Capital Grill is known for. They also have a burger menu at lunch. I highly recommend the Kona Crusted Wagyu Burger with Shallot Mayo. I love a great char and the coffee crust made the burger taste extra charred. It was extremely well executed (and I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to expect once I took that leap but the shallot mayo is what drew me in.)