Looking for open-air dining and shopping near Boston in a fabulous food, retail, and culture courtyard? Check out Bow Market in Union Square of Somerville, MA! Join me now for a cyber-tour of its wonders — just be warned that it will make you hungry.
Union Square in Somerville, MA
I lived in Somerville, MA for years: from 2003 when I graduated college, to 2009 when I left the country for my around-the-world journey that launched this blog. I have so many happy memories from that part of town!
Thus, it was with a glow of nostalgia that I reentered the streets of Union Square (home of the Fluff Festival) to scope out this new “Bow Market” situation I’d been seeing so much buzz about on Instagram. Bow Market’s open-air market opened in 2018, and thus it was a new-to-me spot in a familiar square.
Finding Bow Market
It took a while for me to find the entrance to Bow Market; it’s located at the address 1 Bow Market Way, which is basically an alley off Somerville Avenue. A helpful clue of its whereabouts was this hip rainbow sculpture (pictured below) outside — an indication of the hipness to be found upon entering the actual market courtyard…
Outdoor Dining and Socializing Paradise
I challenge you to enter Bow Market’s courtyard without smiling. I was breathless upon beholding the happy sight before my eyes! The market is a revitalized two-story pentagonal building (yes, five sides to the structure) that used to be a vacant storage shed.
I was reminded of other instances around the world I’d seen art and small businesses give a crumbling space new life — like in the Pietermaai District of Curaçao, or Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. What a boost to the structure and community! See from my photo of Bow Market below, the bustling outdoor dining and socializing tables, and the sun umbrellas and fairy lights…
Lots of Little, Local Shops
Nestled in each nook of Bow Market is a different small business — some permanent and some pop-up — spanning food and drink, clothing, art, records, event spaces, and other retail. Imagine Boston Public Market, but in a building as cool as the Copley Library. Long live local, unique shops!
Filipino Food Near Boston!
I had two missions that finally brought me to Bow Market that evening. The first was to track down Filipino food at the restaurant, Tanám. Specifically, a dear friend from the Philippines wanted us to experience the traditional Kamayan meal: a giant shared platter of epic food. Here is actual footage of our communal dinner plate. WOW!
What is Kamayan?
“Kamayan” means “by hand” in Tagalog, and some of the Filipino foods pictured above on the banana leaf which we devoured by hand include: lumpia (Filipino egg roll), pork and chicken, fish, tamarind, green beans rolled into coils (upper left), eggs, mussels, and lobster. Ready for the footage of the “After” version of our dinner?
Thanks, Tanám Restaurant!
Yeah, that Kamayan was delicious. Much appreciated, Tanám! (Sad January, 2023 update: Tanám has now closed.) After dinner we staggered out to browse the shops in the courtyard, bellies joyfully full. At that point in the evening, fire pits were dancing cozy little flames, and laughter and conversation bubbled all around us.
As I mentioned earlier, a second mission had brought me to Bow Market. There was a certain store which I’d been following on Instagram for years, now, lusting after its steamy offerings. But where was the store? We wandered from window to window, peeking in.
At last we tracked down the store that had so seduced me by its lively daily posts: Buenas! The famed hand-made empanada shop! The reason I missed it at first was it was closed during dinner time, but opened up right after for the ‘nada noshing late night crowd. For those not in the know, empanadas are a bread crust around a filling (usually savory, but sometimes sweet). Drool…
Hot or Frozen Empanadas
At Buenas, you can order hot, fresh empanadas, and/or frozen packs to luxuriate in at home. Because I was so stuffed from dinner, I opted for the latter route — then was barely able to sleep, I was so excited to finally try the snacks I’d been longing for from their photos and videos on my screen…
Different Empanada Shapes
Morning came and it was time to try the empanadas! I was astounded at how well they heated up. (This is good news for those who want access to lots of at-home empanadas, Boston!) Here’s an outer view of the different shapes they come in. Ready to see what they look like on the inside?
Unique Empanada Flavors…
So first, a confession: I got the beloved Cream Cheese and Guava empanada flavor, but unfortunately, you won’t see it pictured here because… I ate it too fast. It’s popular for a reason, and I highly recommend it! Moving on to other good flavors that I did manage to photograph. Here’s spinach and cheese…
Below is my photo of the hot ham and cheese empanada. As you can see from the photos, three or four empanadas make an excellent breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack — one I hope to have again soon!
Thanks, Bow Market!
I hope you enjoyed this mini tour of Bow Market in Somerville, MA’s Union Square. Even if we got kind of derailed by heaps of Filipino food and steaming empanadas, I think you get the gist: Bow Market abounds with cute and tasty places to eat, shop, and attend events, so check it out if you’re in the area! If you’ve been to Bow Market already, do share in the comments section, below, what are your favorite stores and activities there.
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!