Hidden Gems: Restaurants Located Within Other Businesses

Introducing our new series, Hidden Gems. First up? Spots tucked away within stores.

Welcome to Hidden Gems, where local food blogger Marc Hurwitz (of Hidden Boston and Boston Restaurant Talk) spotlights off-the-beaten-path, under-the-radar restaurants.

When it comes to restaurants, the term “hidden gem” can mean anything from under-the-radar dining spots in busy areas to places literally hidden away on side streets in residential areas. In some ways, however, the ultimate hidden restaurants are those that reside within other businesses. The Boston area has several such spots, including eateries inside of markets, convenience stores, and even gas stations.


All photos by Marc Hurwitz

Perhaps one of the best-known places in this category is an Italian restaurant in East Somerville called Vinny’s at Night. The cozy, romantic spot is located in the back of a little sub shop/convenience store (that just so happens to make some of the best subs in the Boston area, by the way, including eggplant, chicken parm, and meatball), opening up into a comfortable space that would be perfect for a date on a Saturday night. All the familiar Italian favorites can be ordered here, including lasagna, chicken parmigiana, shrimp fra diavolo, veal marsala, and sweet Italian sausage.
Vinny’s at Night, 76 Broadway, Somerville, 617-628-1921, vinnysatnight.com


Also in Somerville, you’ll find a Portuguese restaurant called J and J that’s also tucked into the back of a convenience shop. The front of the place remains a little slice of old-school Somerville in the up-and-coming Union Square area, selling everything from cheesesteaks to soda to cigarettes. Go through the walkway to the right, however, and you’ll enter a rather plain-looking spot with a handful of tables, fully partitioned off from the store so that it is relatively quiet and peaceful. A few of the items on the menu here include kale soup, fried cod fish with onions and peppers, grilled pork in garlic sauce, steak with homemade Portuguese fries, tripe, and flan.
J and J Restaurant, 157 Washington Street, Somerville, 617-625-3978, jandjrestaurant.com


While few people go out of their way for gas station food, the offerings at Grampy’s Gas station in Beacon Hill goes way beyond your average honey buns and Slim Jim. Instead, here you’ll find an excellent Mexican spot in the back called Villa Mexico.  It’s really more of a takeout place, though there are some tables and seats off to the side. The friendly little eatery is known in part for its outstanding salsa, which has a bit of a bite to it, and the freshly-made burritos, which are among the best in the city. Villa Mexico also offers tamales, tacos, and more, with all items reasonably priced. The eatery is due to close at some point because a new building will be built where the gas station currently is, so get to Villa Mexico while you can.
Villa Mexico, 296 Cambridge Street, Boston, 617-229-2919, villamexicocafe.us


Cambridge’s Central Square is a treasure trove of hidden gems, including a cheap eats spot called Dosa Factory, which is located in the back of a cramped Indian grocery store in the heart of the square. This dining spot’s menu focuses on Indian street food that includes a wide variety of dosas, which are crisp stuffed crepes with fillings such as potatoes, chicken, duck, swordfish, and lamb. The space is relatively comfortable, with a number of tables overlooking the market, and rumor has it that the restaurant could be getting outdoor seating out back at some point.
Dosa Factory, 571 Mass. Avenue, Cambridge, 617-868-3672, dosa-factory.com