If Norman Rockwell were a gourmand with a passion for crafting and caffeine, he might have painted East Arlington. The neighborhood’s main strip along Massachusetts Avenue has restaurants ranging from pan-Asian vegan to family-owned pizzerias, boutiques, craft stores, coffee houses, friendly barbershops and beauty parlors, and a historic cinema.
At the center of it all is the DrumConnection, a shop and school. East Arlington’s Alan Tauber and his wife, Fanta, run the store, which opened at this location in 2011. (He’s taught percussion around the corner at Arlington Center for the Arts since 1992.)
The space — packed with drums from West Africa, India, and Pakistan, to name a few — encapsulates East Arlington’s global vibe and hometown rootedness. Tauber has been here long enough to see the area’s growth. In recent years, the tight-knit neighborhood has come alive with shops, restaurants, and young families attracted to the village ambiance and proximity to Cambridge and Somerville.
“East Arlington is the place to be,’’ Tauber said. “It’s changing all the time. Now places don’t close down at 9 p.m. You can get a steak here at 11:30 at night. You can have a beer until midnight. It’s vibrant and getting more so.’’
After an evening drumming class, Tauber said, his students sometimes dine at Menotomy Grill & Tavern down the street or head to Flora for a drink at the bar. He says his customers bring diverse visitors to the area, too.
“We’re a destination shop. People need a certain kind of drum or want to buy drums for their kids, and we have it,’’ he said.
Within a few-block radius, there’s the 1920s-era Capitol Theatre, sister cinema to the Somerville Theatre; Barismo, a destination for serious coffee lovers; and Quebrada, a cozy bakery that looks straight out of Bavaria. The Edith M. Fox Branch Library anchors one corner, within easy sauntering distance for the young families who live on the narrow side streets off Massachusetts Avenue, many of which lead to Spy Pond.
Mass. Ave. is undergoing a redesign, complete with dedicated bike lanes.
“Families love it here. We see strollers going by like crazy,’’ Tauber said.
As if on cue, a City Mini stroller jangled past.
Number of pizzerias in East Arlington
Approximate number of seats at the original Capitol Theatre, founded in 1925
Starting amount of a “Moxie’’ scholarship given at Arlington High School, donated by resident Francis Thompson, early-20th-century president of the Moxie Co. East Arlington’s Thompson Elementary School is named in his honor.
The Minuteman Commuter Bikeway runs directly through the neighborhood, offering an easy ride or walk to the Alewife T stop.
The town lacks subway and rail service.
East Arlington is kid-friendly. There are seven playgrounds in the area.
Kara Baskin can be reached at [email protected]