Hidden Gems: Back to School Edition, Part 2

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.


Photo by Marc Hurwitz

A few weeks ago, we wrote about four lesser-known restaurants near colleges and universities in the Boston area, and today, we present another four—this time, near Boston University, MIT, Suffolk and Emerson, and UMass Boston.

411 Harvard Street, Brookline, 617-232-2955, dokbua-thai.com

Not too far from Boston University is this gem of a Thai restaurant, located on Harvard Ave. between the B and C lines.  The interior looks a bit like a convenience store—which makes sense, because that is indeed what it used to be. And thanks to a combination of outstanding food, absurdly low prices, and a friendly and efficient workstaff, it’s a perfect place for college students. Some of the highlights on Dok Bua’s menu include the steamed pork dumplings, golden bags (crisp pastry parcels filled with ground chicken, corn and onions), pad Thai with crispy chicken, and—perhaps not for everyone—a sweet-tasting grass jelly drink.

605 W. Kendall St., Cambridge, 617-252-0707, aceitunacafe.com

For those who attend MIT, Kendall Square has become a hotbed of restaurant activity over the past few years, with a few of the Boston area’s most popular dining spots now in that neighborhood. But there is also a completely under-the-radar spot in the heart of the square, Aceituna Cafe, that is surrounded by biotech buildings and hidden from the main roads. This cafeteria-style place features Lebanese fare as well as other Mediterranean dishes, with a number of familiar items on the menu including excellent stuffed grape leaves as well as good versions of chicken shawarma, hummus, falafel, and baba ghanoush. Prices are reasonable here, with many items being under $10.

101 Arch St., Boston, 617-542-0392, chacarero.com

Suffolk University and Emerson College are two schools mostly located on opposite sides of Boston Common, but both are fairly close to Downtown Crossing, where there is a little eatery on Arch Street called Chacarero. And while this isn’t exactly a place to go to for a romantic date (it is a cheap eats, cash-only spot with limited seating), Chacarero is certainly a place to go for tremendous food, including their signaturepiled-high  Chilean sandwiches that come in beef, chicken, and veggie varieties. If you’re not in the mood for a sandwich, the restaurant also offers salads, empanadas, desserts, and a few breakfast items. (Note: Chacarero now also has a location at the Prudential Center in the Back Bay.)

109 Savin Hill Ave., Dorchester, 617-825-8218, mckennascafe.com

It is certainly true that UMass Boston is off the beaten path—especially compared with other colleges and universities in the city—but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good restaurants nearby. This breakfast and lunch spot is a relatively short and very pleasant walk from the school through some of the nicest parts of Dorchester’s Savin Hill. Seating includes a number of tables in the main dining area as well as some seats by the counter, and favorites here include granola-coated French toast, the “Savin Hill scrambler” (scrambled eggs with ham, homefries, and bacon or sausage), an open-faced turkey sandwich, and snickerdoodle-flavored coffee.