BY KERRY J. BYRNE
Stretched-thin residents of Boston’s trendiest but most overpriced neighborhoods are waking up to a rather obvious fact: They’re getting raped by greedy landlords, paying oversized prices on undersized homes and apartments that deliver a hip zip code but little bang for the buck.
Those same people are finding Boston’s next great residential alternative in long-overlooked Quincy, a bustling city of nearly 100,000 right next to Boston that seemingly has it all, except the high prices and the trendy rep—though its hip factor is changing fast, too.
“Quincy has less congestion, great waterfront views, and all the urban amenities, and it’s just a short subway ride or $10 Uber ride from downtown Boston,” said Jeff Sullivan, who left a job on Wall Street to return to his native Quincy.
He launched the “reward hub” Urposse.com from his Quincy home and has championed “The Mighty Q” through his “Quincy is Everything” page on Facebook, chronicling the rise of this old historic city in the midst of a boom of construction, new residences, and a rapidly exploding restaurant scene.
Indeed, the city appears to have it all: a vast public transportation network that includes four stops on the MBTA Red Line, three commuter rail lines and dozens of MBTA bus routes, 27 miles of waterfront offering thousands of seaside homes with incredible views of the Boston Harbor Islands and city skyline, a convenient location just minutes outside downtown Boston, a relatively low crime rate compared to cities of similar size, and a large and attractive stock of mixed-income homes and rentals at a fraction of the price people are overpaying in nearby communities.
The median rent in Somerville, for example, is $2,700, according to Zillow.com. In Quincy, it’s just $1795.
“There’s huge momentum in the Quincy market, but it’s so underpriced compared to communities with fewer amenities,” said John Heaney, a real estate broker for Century 21 Annex. “When I show people property here and the proximity to the subway, to Boston, to the airport and beaches, they literally can’t believe the price.
Quincy newcomers like Tabatha Stephens are finding you get a lot more without sacrificing anything.
The pretty, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, tattooed, 32-year-old saleswoman for Peak Organic Brewing Co. just traded in her crowded, overpriced Somerville digs for a new apartment in Quincy’s leafy Wollaston neighborhood, steps from both the Red Line and sun-splashed Wollaston Beach.
“I wanted a place in my territory right near downtown Boston where I could watch the sunrise over the water every morning, too,” said Stephens.
More importantly, “I need to sell beer to cool people in a cool, up-and-coming community with restaurants that care about where their ingredients come from,” she added, citing the long list of hip new restaurants that call Quincy home and are devoted to local sourcing.
Indeed, one of the city’s growing attractions is downtown Quincy’s booming “Hancock District” restaurant scene, providing local residents with hip new flavors while attracting top culinary talent from around Greater Boston—those up-and-coming restaurateurs who simply can’t afford to live in the South End, but want to be at forefront of the next hot scene.
The Townshend, a small but hip cocktail bar directly across from Quincy Center T station, was opened in 2015 by former Drink bartender Devin Adams and a team of veterans of Barbara Lynch and Garett Harker restaurants.
It’s been such a success that Adams and his crew already have plans to open a second Quincy Center location right across the street: Belfry Hall will be an “urban beer hall” with fresh oysters, updated pub fare, craft beer, and a menu designed by chef and Barbara Lynch Gruppo alum Garner Blume. It’s slated to open later this year.
The Townshend shocked the Boston culinary community this summer when star pastry chef Kate Holowchik left red-hot Yvonne’s in Downtown Crossing to join the Quincy restaurant’s all-star team of culinary talent.
“I wanted to return to Quincy to help foster the growing culinary community,” said Holowchik, who helped launch the Townshend’s pastry program when it opened in the spring of 2015. “There’s a wealth of culinary talent moving to the area.”
Just weeks later, the Townshend hired chef Aaron Eakin away from Ken Oringer’s critically acclaimed Back Bay sashimi bar Uni.
Alba Restaurant, a Mediterranean-inspired steakhouse just a block away from the Townshend, held down the fort of fine dining in Quincy Center for the past 15 years, as the neighborhood went through its transition. Owner Leo Keka—a veteran of top Boston eateries such as Grill 23—has doubled down on the neighborhood.
He just announced plans to open Zef Cicchetti & Raw Bar, a progressive Venetian-style tapas bar that will feature craft cocktails, Italian salumi, a raw bar that features local cold-water oysters, pastas made in-house each day from freshly milled flour and traditional cicchetti, and small plates served in the famed bacari of Venice.
Keka hired former Legal Harborside executive chef Keith Andersen to run the kitchen at steakhouse stalwart Alba, while planning a modern menu that will fuel a lively bar scene at Zef.
Rising-star restaurateurs Jimmy Liang and Peter Tse of Quincy-based J.P. Fuji Group have opened eateries in many of Boston’s hottest neighborhoods, including Kendall Square, Assembly Row, and Ink Block. Their flagship new restaurant, Fuji at West of Chestnut, will anchor one of several new retail-and-residential developments under construction right now in Quincy Center. The new Fuji will feature not only a private dining room, but a private dining room with its very own private kitchen.
“We are 100 percent sold on Quincy,” said Liang.
There’s still room for new additions. Quincy, as of yet, is one of the largest communities in New England without its own local craft brewery (New England brewing legend Tod Mott brewed here years ago at the short-lived Quincy Ships Brewing Co.).
Local pals Ryan Lavery and Colin Foley are hoping to fill this obvious hole in Quincy’s game. The award-winning homebrewers captured the top spot for their saison earlier this year in the Best of Boston Homebrew Competition sponsored by the Homebrew Emporium.
They’re seeking out sites right now to open the city’s first brewery and taproom, Widowmaker Brewing. They hope to satiate the thirst for suds for Quincy Center’s influx of new residents.
The first phase of the new West of Chestnut development is already 100 percent occupied, with future apartments coming under agreement. Nova Suites, a 170-unit residential and retail space just steps from West of Chestnut, will break ground this fall. Cliveden Place, also just steps away, will feature 56 luxury condos plus 10,000 square feet of retail space. It should be completed in the first quarter of 2017.
The Deco Building, meanwhile, features 200 units a short distance down the road across from Quincy Adams T Station on the Red Line.
“All that housing is coming, and a lot of younger people from Boston are moving to Quincy,” said Widowmaker’s Lavery. “They want quality beer and we want to provide it for them.”
13 things to eat and drink in Quincy right now
Quincy’s culinary boom has coincided with a sudden influx of new residents and new culinary talent. Here are some of the tastiest dishes and drinks to savor right now.
Owner Kerri Lynch-Delaney boasts serious Boston food chops, including a stint as pastry chef at Beacon Hill landmark No. 9 Park. Aunt Barbara Lynch is merely one of the nation’s most influential chefs, while Kerri’s dad Paul Lynch—Babs’ older brother—is the former co-owner of late, great Southie dive the Quiet Man above Broadway T, famed for its signature steak tips. Lynch-Delaney recreates the original recipe here. Her creative sheet-pan pizzas are pretty awesome, too.
Sleek and modern 86 Degrees, right in front of Quincy Center T, specializes in Asian-inspired aromatic teas, fruit yogurt drinks, coffees, and espressos, with a small menu of delicious crepes. The house special 86 Degrees crispy-dough crepe features ham, scallion, cilantro, sesame, onion, lettuce, and kimchi.
Angelo’s fuels the hottest trend in pizza with crispy, charred pies cooked in its intensely hot coal-fired ovens. The Michelangelo features mozzarella, ricotta, house tomato sauce, and home-style coal-fired meatballs, garnished with basil and extra virgin olive oil.
This neighborhood craft beer bar placed itself on the Greater Boston food map with its Local 8—a daily rotating selection of New England-only beers—and an impressive menu of creative wing combos. The blueberry Sriracha wings are a truly inspired pairing of seemingly incongruous flavors that work brilliantly together.
These old-school clam shacks are beloved Wollaston Beach landmarks, offering dramatic views of the ocean, the Boston Harbor Islands, and the city skyline. Which one is the best? New England fried clam aficionados are torn. You’ll have to visit both to decide.
A real taste of New Orleans in the heart of Quincy. This Italian-inspired Bayou classic features pressed fresh ciabatta bread packed with Genoa salami, prosciutto, mortadella, capicola, and provolone cheese, plus the traditional olive spread—a delicious signature of the original muffuletta sandwiches of the Big Easy. They’re fantastic.
The original “Dunkies” opened in 1950 just outside Quincy Center. This American culinary landmark boasts nostalgic vibe, old-school coffee counter, and retro post-war decor. It’s also one of Quincy’s most popular selfie spots! The Guardian newspaper of London recently called the original Dunkies Quincy’s “secret weapon.”
The perpetually packed Fat Cat has a winning recipe with its richly satisfying menu of comfort-food classics with upscale accents. The “fat mac” is packed with four kinds of cheese and five kinds of meat. It’s been featured on the Food Network and has attracted an intensely loyal fan base. Wear your stretchy pants!
Hot sauce pioneer Lisa Lamme ran America’s first hot sauce retail store, Le Saucier at Faneuil Hall, before opening Gypsy Kitchen. Her proprietary Gypsy Juice is a fan favorite and adorns the tables at top Boston eateries such as Island Creek Oyster bar.
This spicy, beefy signature burger is flavored with peppery house rub and topped with a tantalizing combo of garlic mayo, jalapeno bacon, Red Dragon mustard and ale cheddar, and garnished with caramelized onion, lettuce, and roasted tomato.
11 – Pint of Guinness and a shot at Paddy Barry’s (1574 Hancock St., 617-770-3620)
The “best little pub in the world” is a popular gathering spot for Quincy’s large Irish community and one of the most authentically Irish watering holes in all of Boston. Watch Gaelic football or European soccer, or enjoy live music, surrounded by plenty of real Irish accents and some great craic.
This dive-ish neighborhood watering hole serves classic South Shore-style individual steel-pan pizza, using a secret recipe dough made in-house each morning by baker and beloved Quincy personality Abby Ash. Tough to beat a frosty brew and a hot pizza baked in in the inimitable local South Shore style.
13 – The June Bug at The Townshend (1250 Hancock St., 617-481-9694) This festive, summery cocktail features vodka, fresh lime, house-made raspberry syrup, and Combier Liqueur de Rose, made with real roses. It’s garnished with dried rose petals. Sip it (or pound it) outdoors on the Presidents Place patio beside the under-construction expansive new Adams Green public park, while admiring the gorgeous bell tower of the historic Church of the Presidents, the final resting place of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.