Hidden Gems: The Back to School Edition, Part 1

Every campus has its cult-favorite eatery. Here, find some worthy alternatives.

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.


La Cascia’s Bakery in South Medford. Photo by Marc Hurwitz

It’s the end of the summer, and college students have arrived in the Boston area once again. One of the first questions many of them will ask is, “Where should we eat?” There are plenty of popular college hangouts for food and drink (Anna’s Taqueria, Eagle’s Deli, and the Sunset Grill and Tap are a few places that come to mind), but what about some restaurants and bars that are undergrad budget-friendly yet not as well known? In this two-part series, a number of such dining and drinking establishments are looked at in and around the city.

134 Smith Street, Boston, 617-566-6651, squealingpigboston.com

Tucked away on a side street near Northeastern University, The Squealing Pig is a cozy little Irish pub that is very easy to miss (though to be fair, more than a few NU students do know about this place). The space is cozy and rather eclectic, with an open kitchen to the left, a bar and a handful of tables in the middle, and a tiny area with a fireplace to the right. A few highlights at The Squealing Pig include toasties (toasted sandwiches that are offered at countless pubs across Ireland), burgers, fish and chips, Guinness stew, and pizza, along with a thoroughly decadent mars bar toastie, which is pretty much a meal unto itself.

418 Main Street, Medford,781-396-5041, lacasciasbakery.com

Unlike some of the other colleges and universities in the Boston area, Tufts is located mainly in a residential area with few dining options in the blocks immediately surrounding it (though Davis Square isn’t too long of a walk). To the east of the university, however, is South Medford, which is a heavily-Italian neighborhood filled with old-fashioned restaurants and markets, and La Cascia’s Bakery is one of the standouts. This Italian bakery and deli—which has been in business for nearly 90 years—features a number of terrific items, but it is their traditional Sicilian pizza slices that keep many coming back again and again. Cheap, freshly-made, and delicious, these portable squares are in some ways the perfect college food.

414 Washington Street, Somerville, 617-354-4996, thekebabfactory.net

Harvard University is a bit different from Tufts in the fact that Harvard Square is basically part of its campus, with countless dining spots within a short walk of the school. On the other side of the university, there is a much quieter area by the Cambridge/Somerville line that is home to several eateries, including an Indian spot called the Kebab Factory that has colorful lights, an industrial-feeling space, and Euro music, making it one of the more funky Indian restaurants in the Boston area. The food here is terrific, with its menu including many familiar dishes (savory naan, hearty samosas, creamy chicken tikka masala) as well as all kinds of kebabs ranging from beef to lamb to trout and more.

19 Pelham Street, Newton, 617-244-5345, blog.innaskitchen.com

While many students who go to Boston College tend to head to Allston or Brookline’s Washington Square and Coolidge Corner (or stay put in Cleveland Circle), heading west will bring BC folks to Newton Centre, where an inexpensive—and utterly hidden—Jewish restaurant called Inna’s Kitchen resides. Inna’s is a bit unusual for a deli in that its influences run the gamut from Central and Eastern European to Russian to Middle Eastern to African, with the menu including such varying items as tabbouleh, roasted sweet potatoes, sweet and sour cabbage soup, pastrami sandwiches, and eggplant caviar. The restaurant is also friendly to folks who are looking for gluten-free food, with options like buckwheat cheese blintzes and banana bread.