Ten Spots to Try Next Time You Forget Your Lunch

by Erin Child

Forgot your lunch? Too busy to cook? Consider grabbing a friend (or five) and trying out one of these ten eateries near campus. Compiled from a quick survey (a big thanks to the fifteen students who responded!), I’ve got recommendations for holes-in-the-wall that you’ve probably walked by already, hidden gems, and local & national chains with healthy lunch options. Though numbered, this list isn’t meant to be a ranking. Walking times are measured from Jaharis. Cheers & happy eating!

  1. My Thai Vegan Café

3 Beach St. (4 min walk)

My Thai Vegan Café is a popular spot with students. With ample food and bubble tea options, it’s a fun place to come with a friend. Their lunch special runs from noon to 3pm, and for $8 you get the soup-of-the-day, plus either one fried spring roll or two fried dumplings, hot Jasmine tea, and your entrée. One Friedman student surveyed recommended the Mango Curry (it has great coconut flavor!).

  1. The Little Kitchen

22 Kneeland St (2 min walk)

I recently experienced The Little Kitchen for the first time, and boy is it delicious and filling! Pretty much everything costs less than $10 and the portions provide more than enough for lunch and then another meal. Students love their steamed lotus leaf options, highly recommending the chicken and mushroom option.  One student likes that they have a selection of food that they “haven’t seen in other restaurants around Chinatown.” As it’s basically across the street from school, it’s a must to check out.

  1. Clover Food Lab

160 Federal St (11 min walk)

Clover is a local chain that has many food trucks and storefront locations throughout the greater Boston area. Clover is a vegetarian/vegan joint that tries to source their ingredients as locally as possible. They’ve also recently started serving the Impossible Burger at the Harvard Square location and hopefully it will come downtown soon. Lunch there generally costs between $8-$11. Personally, I am mildly obsessed with their chickpea fritter platters. Clover is slightly further away than other options, but worth the walk!

  1. Gourmet Dumpling House

52 Beach St (4 min walk)

I have it on good authority that Gourmet Dumpling House is a wonderful place to bring a bunch of friends, order a ton of food and stuff yourself with savory dumplings and other Chinese dishes. The prices are great, and the food is delicious. If you’re looking for a dumpling fix, one student recommends the mini juicy pork dumplings and Szechuan dumplings, which will “run you about $12.”

  1. Irashi

8 Kneeland St (3 min walk)

Irashi is a sushi and teriyaki restaurant with a great lunch deal. From 11am-4pm, you can buy miso soup, salad and two sushi rolls for under $14. They offer many different combinations of rolls, so there are plenty of options to choose from! If you’re a sushi lover, other places to check out include Avana Sushi (42 Beach St) or Whole Foods (348 Harrison Ave)—the Hirsch Library in the Sackler building recently started serving sushi, but reviews are mixed.

  1. sweetgreen

354 Harrison Ave (7 min walk)

sweetgreen is a national salad & grain bowl chain beloved by many Friedman students. Their bowls are always chock full of veggies, so you get a guaranteed healthy lunch. They easily accommodate dietary restrictions and allergies, so it’s a stress-free stop for many. Lunch starts at about $9, and can increase to $15+ depending on the bowl you choose and what toppings you add (for example, avocado is an extra $2). Students recommend the ‘The Shroomami Bowl’, ‘Harvest Salad’, and ‘My special salad’ (not actually on the menu, and sadly that student did not give us their special ingredient combination).

  1. Chinatown Café

262 Harrison Ave (3 min walk)

Next time you’re thinking of walking down to the Ink Block complex (home to sweetgreen and Whole Foods), consider stopping into the Chinatown Café (it’s that restaurant with the kitchen right on Harrison with hanging ducks in the window). Students say that they have great BBQ, and you get a lot of food for the price. They take cash only, but lunch won’t cost much more than $8 when you get one their rice, meat and veggie combo plates.

  1. 163 Vietnamese Sandwich

66 Harrison Ave (3 min walk)

The banh mi at 163 Vietnamese Sandwich are reportedly delicious, come with vegetarian and meat options, and cost less than $5 each (cash only). The restaurant has seats, but it’s almost always crowded, so you’re better off grabbing a sandwich, or a noodle or rice meal (under $10) to go. Like many spots in Chinatown, they also have bubble tea (yum!).

  1. Boston Kitchen Pizza

1 Stuart St (4 min walk)

Have four minutes to spare and four dollars in your pocket? Run over to Boston Kitchen Pizza for a quick slice. One student recommended the Spinach & Roasted Garlic slice, which will run you less than $4 and sounds delicious! (If you’re looking for cheap eats and not interested in Pizza, The Dumping King at 42 Beach St is another great option.)

  1. Pho Pasteur

682 Washington St (4 min walk)

Pho Pastuer, a Vietnamese restaurant, is but one pho spot in a neighborhood of many (Pho Hoa at 17 Beach St. was also recommended by another student), but it’s been a favorite of mine since I moved to Boston five years ago. Their pho portions are GIANT, cost from $8-$9.50, and is simply the best food on a rainy and cold November day. They have a large menu that offers more than just pho (if that’s not your thing), and offer both take out and sit-down service.

*Bonus Reminder*

Sackler

145 Harrison Ave (30 second walk)

You forgot your lunch, you literally have no time and you’re looking for a cheap, healthy fix? Seriously consider the salad bar on the 4th floor of the Sackler Library. A small salad will run you $5 and they cram the container full of veggies. Sometimes the best option is right in front of you.

Erin Child is a second year NICBC student in the dual MS-DPD program. Up until now, if she ran out of time to pack a lunch she would stubbornly & hangrily wait until she was home to eat. After writing this list she’s been inspired to try new things. Erin is thrilled to be joining the Sprout team as the social media editor this year, and is looking forward to your great articles!

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A Slice of Spain: My Night at Barcelona Wine Bar

by Shannon Evins

Longing for warm nights when the sun sets at 9:00pm? Wishing summer break would hurry up already? Tapas may be the answer you need. Step into Barcelona Wine Bar in the South End to have a taste of vibrant Spanish culture. Your time there will surely give you a slice of Spain.

As I opened the door, wafts of truffles tingled my nostrils. An eclectically clad bookcase strewn with candlelight greeted me. I admired the warmly-lit surroundings and felt like I had stepped into a movie set. The restaurant was split into three sections, with a large square bar in the center and the kitchen visible from the doorway. A hostess greeted me and asked for my reservation name as the maître d’ returned to his post. He took over, found my name, and offered to store my backpack for me (the woes of having class until 5:00pm on a Friday), then politely suggested that I wait until more of my guests arrived. I was ten minutes early and had to stand awkwardly waiting in the entryway. There was no seating for waiting guests, which was surprising for a place that was chiming out 45-minute wait times for several parties of two. As I waited for my friends, I imagined the delightful meal we would share together. I had eaten here once before, but this time was different. Tonight was for celebration.

Once two others arrived, the maître d’ seated us at a table I had spotted early on. We waited to order drinks until the remaining two of our party of five arrived and then ordered the least expensive/most student-friendly bottle of cava (Spanish sparkling wine). “Are we celebrating something?” asked the waiter. We all murmured various versions of “Yes, actually.” There was a pregnant pause as he awaited an explanation of what we were celebrating. Carly explained that we all passed our exams to become registered dietitians. The waiter uttered his congratulations, and we playfully asked him to not judge us for whatever we would end up eating. A different waiter came and poured our glasses as we chattered excitedly and thanked him.

Shortly afterwards, the manager came over to congratulate and help us with the menu since “She was just in Spain last week.” She then asked about any dietary restrictions — a common inquiry I’m thankful for, so that those with restrictions can eat out with ease. We began to order a charcuterie plate, but the manager interrupted to say that she already had a plate in production for us and would ensure that our selections were included. Two large wooden boards of three vegetable appetizers, anchovies, three meats, and four cheeses arrived. We were overwhelmed with this wonderful surprise in honor of our accomplishments. Gouda, manchego, goat, and one I’ve plumb forgotten — we were in cheese heaven. The spicy chorizo, melt-in-your-mouth jamón serrano, and peppery speck were delightful, too. I didn’t try the anchovies, but the smoked eggplant, piquillo peppers, and pickled veggies were a perfect pairing for the heavier meats and cheeses.

Our waiter was attentive and patient with us as we took incredibly long to decide what to eat. The entire menu looked amazing. We finally decided to go with one of the “get-your-hands-dirty, authentic” finger foods the manager recommended as well as the wagyu beef tartare with truffles (that initial smell was too enticing), and not-your-average (nor French) gratin potatoes because we hadn’t had enough cheese (and more truffles, please!). The food arrived in no time, and every mouthful combined a different texture with a piece of happiness. When all the plates were practically licked clean, we looked at the dessert menu. Out came another wooden board with two desserts and a chocolate “congrats!” written along the bottom. Cool-to-the-touch dulce de leche crepes and a rich, dense chocolate cake balanced each other out nicely. We left no crumbs and asked for the check.

We were astonished by the total. The whole charcuterie plate and vegetable appetizers were free as well as one of the desserts. After doing the math, I realized the charcuterie plate alone should’ve cost $40 to $50! The waiter split the check five ways with ease, and we each made sure to tip well for the wonderful service and plethora of surprises. Both the manager and the waiter bid us farewell with smiles. I’ve never been so spoiled nor felt so congratulated at a restaurant before. Despite this fact and the delicious food, the prices are quite reasonable at an average of about $7.50 per tapa. Barcelona Wine Bar in the South End – GO!*

 

*Readers’ note: The location of my wonderful experience was 525 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116. Barcelona Wine Bar is a chain restaurant with locations in Brookline as well as Connecticut, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. I don’t usually promote chain restaurants (if I’m going to pay money to eat out, it better be a delicious and unique experience), so that alone speaks to the awesomeness of Barcelona Wine Bar. I hear their weekend brunch is to die for. You know where to find me next Saturday morning.

Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Shannon Evins braved the New England cold to achieve her nutrition dreams. After attaining a B.S. in Nutrition/Dietetics (along with minors in both Spanish and Human Development & Family Life Education) at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, she moved to Boston to complete her dietetic internship at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her thirst for knowledge didn’t stop there, and she started her Master’s degree in Nutrition Interventions, Communication & Behavior Change just a week and a half after finishing the MGH program. Now a registered and licensed dietitian, Shannon enjoys any opportunity to help people achieve their health and wellness goals (as well as any chance to try out a restaurant).

We Found East Asian-Inspired Soul Food in a Hopeless Place

by Julia Sementelli

Little Big Diner is bringing innovative yet comforting and delicious East-Asian food to Newton Centre, an often overlooked culinary spot, and helping to put the suburb on the foodie radar.

I step into a hole-in-the-wall restaurant to see two chefs, one tossing ramen noodles and the other seasoning and tasting his giant pot of steaming something, and a slew of happy patrons slurping bowls of broth. This is a no reservations place with a line out the door. As I wait for my name to be called I suddenly remember that I am in Newton. Not hip Cambridge, not the trendy South End. Newton, Massachusetts. A suburb known for its wonderful school system and the hometown of Friends star, Matt LeBlanc. As a native, I know that Newton isn’t necessarily known for its culinary scene. While Newton is speckled with some delicious, homey spots, it isn’t my first choice when I want new and exciting food. Or even second. But this suburb has begun to step up its culinary game. Sycamore, a new American restaurant known for its use of seasonal and local ingredients, put Newton Centre on the map in 2013. But now, owners, Sycamore chef David Punch and his business partner at Sycamore, Shane Smyth, along with Little Big Diner head chef, Daniel Scott are breaking the mold of Newton dining by introducing another restaurant to the community. And given the line out the door on a rainy Sunday night, it appears their endeavor has been successful.

Having opened only recently, in February 2016, Little Big Diner offers East Asian soul food with organized and efficient yet friendly service. Both times that I dined, there was a wait. That hardly ever happens in Newton, unless it’s 11am on a Sunday morning at a local brunch spot. The host provided an estimated wait time (which ended up being very accurate) and offered to take my cell phone number and call me when a table was ready. Or another option, much to my surprise, was to enjoy a drink while waiting for our table. While the lack of a waiting area does not allow for a very comfortable waiting experience (some patrons were clutching their beers towards the back of the restaurant near the restrooms while I was pressed up against the front door) the fact that we were invited to stay despite the tight fit was a welcome hint of hospitality that is often absent in restaurants. A spiked beverage also makes waiting for a table a bit more enjoyable.

Once seated, our server promptly brought us menus and explained the layout of the menu. The service was memorable, in a good way, because it seemed to be backed by well-trained staff. Tricia Meegan, previously of Sycamore, manages the front-of-the-house. She kept the hectic 19-seat spot running smoothly. Talented chefs are often recruited for restaurants but front-of-the-house can frequently seem like an afterthought. An experienced manager maintained an enjoyable dining experience separate from the food. Waiters were well versed in the menu items and offered to answer menu-related questions since many dishes included a number of not-so-common ingredients, such as shoyu chicken, mayu, and ajitama eggs. They did not flinch at my substitution request to try both of the rice bowl sauces on the side since I couldn’t decide between the two. Water glasses were refilled frequently despite staff having to push their way through the tables to get to our glasses.

Green Papaya Salad at Little Big Diner. Photo: Julia Semetelli

Green Papaya Salad at Little Big Diner. Photo: Julia Semetelli

While the menu appears simple at first glance, the food is packed with inspired flavor. It is divided between Starters, Little Big Rice Bowls, and Noodles. Servings were generous (always something that I take note of) and the food arrived swiftly. They also have a notably high-quality drinks menu with draft cocktails, including a refreshing Yuzu Margarita, sake, local beers, wine, and non-alcoholic options, like local soda. To start, the green papaya salad was a large, shallow bowl of papaya ribbons with toasted garlic, salted peanuts, and chili and citrus. The amalgam of textures—crisp papaya, crunchy garlic and peanuts, and a burst of bright citrus and heat—made for the perfect starter to awaken the taste buds. In my experience, the usual Thai restaurant papaya salads are extremely spicy and consequently difficult to enjoy. But this salad had the perfect amount of heat and, even though the portion was substantial, I was left wanting more. (In fact, I ordered it both times I visited Little Big Diner). Next, the Miso Ramen, their signature dish, was a generous bowl filled with chili ground pork, nori, ajitama egg, bean sprouts, sweet corn, mayu, scallions, and homemade noodles that were both delicate and hearty. The broth flavors were deep and concentrated. On a rainy October night, this dish was perfect.

The next dish was the pumpkin ramen. While pumpkin is rampant in coffee shops and grocery store packaged foods, pumpkin is an unfamiliar addition to an East Asian menu. But the pumpkin ramen was delicious and popular as I overheard multiple tables ordering it as well. The earthy yet sweet flavor of the pumpkin coconut broth was intoxicating. Brimming with smoked maitakes, chili onions, crispy kale, noodles, and topped with pepitas and scallions, this ramen was unique but still had that comforting ramen essence we all crave.

Tofu Bowl at Little Big Diner. Photo: Julia Sementelli

Tofu Bowl at Little Big Diner. Photo: Julia Sementelli

While the ramen is the star of Little Big Diner, their rice bowls will keep me coming back when I want something lighter. The bowls are rather straightforward—select white or brown rice, a protein, and a sauce. While burrito bowls at other establishments are a mess of one-note flavors, give other such bowls a bad reputation, the flavors in this dish held their own as each ingredient seemed to have a designated role. A garden of fresh, bright herbs, including Thai basil, mint, and cilantro with house pickled vegetables on a bed of brown rice provided the vibrant base. Next, I selected shoyu chicken and “that sunny side egg,” which was beautifully cooked and provided me with that oozing egg yolk I always pray for. I sampled both of the sauces, a hot and spicy and a sweet katsu sauce and decided upon mixing both. Separately, the spicy one packed too much heat while the sweet did not provide enough of a kick. Together they made the perfect sweet and spicy sauce. The chicken, boneless thighs were cooked well and remained moist despite not being prepared on the bone. During the other meal I selected the charred heiwa tofu that, unlike most restaurant preparations of it, was not cooked to death. It was tender with perfect char marks and a bright seasoning. Both times, I did find myself wishing that the herbs were chopped a bit smaller as I found myself having to cut them myself in order to avoid a bite full of mint. Overall, the dishes were a bright and creative take on the sometimes widely available heavy bowls of ramen while providing modern dishes like the rice bowl that cater to those who like to choose their own adventure.

Although the food at Little Big Diner is not necessarily groundbreaking, it is a breath of fresh air in a place that has great potential to expand past its culinary mainstays and show food lovers that Newton is just as great food-wise as its neighboring cities.

Rating: ★★★

Julia Sementelli is a second-year Nutrition Communication student and registered dietitian. If you ever need to get in touch with her just go to the Whole Foods or sweetgreen near Friedman. There’s a 99.7% chance that she will be there at any given time, probably photographing an aerial shot of her salad or stocking up on kombucha. You can also find her on Instagram as @julia.the.rd.eats

Tasting Counter: A Local, Gourmet Experience

by Julia Sementelli

Located in a warehouse in Somerville and sharing its space with a coffee roaster, chocolate maker, and brewery is an eatery that, at first, seems out of place. Following the signs directing me to 14 Tyler Street, I find myself in room with a flurry of white coats and black dresses as three chefs and three maître d’s bustle around. Service flows beautifully as if choreographed.

Selected by Boston Magazine as one of Boston’s 25 Best New Restaurants 2015, Tasting Counter is a unique experience. An open kitchen allows patrons to watch their meal be prepared and IMG_5839plated. The experience resembles a cooking class, but there is no instruction. The only interaction with the staff is when they present each dish. I appreciate the ease of the experience. There are no menu items to choose from, no requests to make. You simply walk in, sit down, and enjoy the show. Tasting Counter’s mission is “to establish the shortest distance between the production of food and you, our guest, by bringing you closer to the creation of your meal.” This mission is accomplished. Each night offers a multi-course tasting menu. And instead of making a reservation, you purchase a ticket that includes the price of the meal. The thought behind this concept is that you can leave your wallet at home. It’s difficult to argue with that.

The restaurant’s philosophy to describe how the food is sourced and prepared is based on the “0 carbon, 50 local, 100 natural.” Tasting Counter’s main goal is a zero-carbon footprint. Chef Peter Ungar, who owns and operates the restaurant with his wife Ginhee, sources a minimum of 50% of its products from within Massachusetts.

The meal is indeed a lovely balance of high quality and expertly prepared dishes with local and unique ingredients. Over the course of two hours, 12 dishes with wine pairings are presented:

Welcoming Bites: Scallop, roe, sake, bonito rice; Black olive, almond, duck liver; Cured hake, orange sesame, lime

Welcoming Bites: Scallop, roe, sake, bonito rice; Black olive, almond, duck liver; Cured hake, orange sesame, lime

Sea Urchin: Bonito custard, black truffle, wakame

Sea Urchin: Bonito custard, black truffle, wakame

IMG_5764

Sea Bream: Preserved Lemon, black olive, pistachio, avocado oil cream

Tortellini: Lobster, pine mushroom, beef broth

Tortellini: Lobster, pine mushroom, beef broth

Ocean Trout: Shallot, basil , fermented soybean, orange blossom

Ocean Trout: Shallot, basil, fermented soybean, orange blossom

Monkfish: Tomato, fennel, garlic, saffron, salmon roe

Monkfish: Tomato, fennel, garlic, saffron, salmon roe

Schisandra: Pine nut cookie

Schisandra: Pine nut cookie

Miso cured duck: Celery, apple, daikon, soy

Miso Cured Duck: Celery, apple, daikon, soy

Dry Aged Beef Sirloin Cap: Beet, pomegranate, mascarpone, horseradish

Dry Aged Beef Sirloin Cap: Beet, pomegranate, mascarpone, horseradish

Lime Curd: Passion fruit, lime, ginger ice cream

Lime Curd: Passion fruit, lime, ginger ice cream

Bittersweet Chocolate: Guava, macadamia nut, orange

Bittersweet Chocolate: Guava, macadamia nut, orange

Parting Morsels: Strawberry almond cake; Yuzu chocolate truffle; Plum vanilla chew

Parting Morsels: Strawberry almond cake; Yuzu chocolate truffle; Plum vanilla chew

Tasting Counter provides a special experience. While the price certainly deems it appropriate for a special occasion, you receive a great deal of food and drink for the price. It is refreshing to see this restaurant commit to providing locally-sourced ingredients. Many other Boston restaurants provide tasting menus but without the local component. It is important to recognize restaurants like Tasting Counter that go the extra step to provide food that is both environmentally and palate-friendly.The Tasting Counter is currently open from 8 p.m. – 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.  There is an additional dinner service 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. on Saturdays.

Visit https://tastingcounter.com for more information.

Julia Sementelli is a first-year NutComm student. She is also a Boston-based registered dietitian. She is passionate about the Boston restaurant scene and dreams of being a food critic dietitian. You can find her blogging at “Girl Verses Food”

Restaurant Review: Cuisine en Locale

by Micaela Young

Cuisine en Locale was first established in 2005 as a locavore catering and personal chef service. The company moved to 156 Highland Avenue in Somerville and began hosting events in February 2014. Apart from sitting blocks away from my apartment, I was anxious to check out this restaurant because of its mission: to partner with local farmers and bakeries to source all of its ingredients from within Massachusetts. The result? Delicious, fresh food. Drawn by both the eclectic, friendly atmosphere and the great menu, Cuisine en Locale attracts a diverse crowd that makes this lounge and bar a fun place to hang out, get a taco and a locally-brewed cider, and catch up with friends.

As Bill Hader’s infamous Saturday Night Live character Stefon the “City Correspondent” would say, this place has everything: board games, a jukebox, live music, vapers, goths, interpretive dancers, an old TV playing static with the specials written on the screen, and plain families of four.

Cuisine_Entrance

As you walk in the doors, you are greeted by three chandeliers and mirror-written signs guiding you toward the restaurant and lounge. Up the stairs there are two pool tables, a dance floor, tables and chairs, and a bar at the far end of the enormous space Cuisine en Locale calls home. Next to the jukebox you will find ample board games like Sequence and Connect Four to play while you sip your delicious whisky sour! The adjoining music lounge, called ONCE, was deemed 2016’s “Best of the New” by the Boston Globe. The antithesis of mainstream, the music you will hear ranges from brass bands to experimental rock.

My favorite part? Pool tables with ample space, no wait time to play, and only $1 per game!

The events of the week start with Taco Monday (because Taco Tuesday is so cliché) and Metal Tuesday (serving pizza), with DJs and regular dinner menus Thursday through Saturday, 5pm to 10pm (bar is open ‘til 1am). With vegetarian, vegan and meat-lover options, depending on availability, the fare is well-suited for its sundry audience at reasonable prices.

Cuisine_Tacos

The fish taco was the favorite of the table on Taco Monday: Hake on a corn tortilla with a sage and cranberry sauce and topped with a few sprigs of cilantro that tasted as if they were just plucked from the garden. We also tried the yellow-eyed pea and corn taco, as well as the lamb. Each $4 taco came with a side of spinach topped with pickled onions (which sounds odd, but it was SO good).

The service overall was laid-back, but attentive. Everyone who worked there was very welcoming and friendly—the bartender even made me a whisky sour without the “sour.” The scribbled-on tables and low-budget chairs did not make for the most appealing eating atmosphere, but continued the chill, relaxed vibe.

The Thursday before, my boyfriend and I moseyed down the street for their once a month special DJ event. The cover was $3, and we enjoyed playing three rounds of pool while listening to anything from the artists’ original mashups with weird vocals to the Beatles. I found the crowd refreshingly different; looking around the room I spotted top hats, rainbow hair, Goths and steam punkers mixed in with us boringly dressed folks. While this may not be appealing to some, I love places that allow people to be and come as they are.

Cuisine_Floor

Overall, the atmosphere was fun and off-beat, and the food tasted great. If you ever find yourself in the Somerville bar void between Porter and Union Square hit up Cuisine en Locale for an interesting time. For you sports fans out there that want to watch the game on 10 different TV screens, this probably isn’t the place for you…

Micaela Young is a first-year student in the Nutrition Communication program with a concentration in Agriculture, Food & Environment. While she is a homebody who LOVES to cook, she does enjoy having a nice stranger serve her a stiff drink and a yummy taco every once in a while.

 

The Best of Vegan and Vegetarian Dining in Boston

by Hannah Packman

Given its relative size, it is unsurprising that Boston isn’t the meat-free mecca that DC and NYC are. But what Boston’s vegetarian dining scene lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. The city is peppered with diverse and delectable veg-friendly spots, sure to delight omnivores and vegans alike. Here’s a rundown of Beantown’s best plant-based menus, illustrated by my poorly-lit, over-edited Instagram pictures.

Editor’s note: Life Alive and Veggie Galaxy were previously part of Grace Goodwin’s write-up of Central Square special diet-friendly eateries—so popular with our writers that they were reviewed twice.

02 Vegan Café

02vegancafe

The Chuna Salad, a “tuna” salad comprised of chickpeas, pickles and onions.

Location: 1001 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138

Hours: Tuesday-Wednesday 8 am-4 pm, Thursday-Friday 8 am-8 pm, Saturday-Sunday 8 am-6 pm

02 Vegan Café offers up an assortment of inexpensive meatless breakfast and lunch items with a hefty dose of crunchy-hippie vibes. In addition to the menu items, they carry vegan pastries, many of which are gluten-free, if you’re into that kind of thing. And since it’s conveniently located in the vestibule of a yoga studio, you can grab a pre- or post-om snack—or if you’re an anti-athlete like I am, you can just go for the food.

Clover Food Lab

Location: Several throughout Cambridge, Brookline, and Burlington, as well as seven food trucks in greater Boston area

Hours: Varies by location

clover

The Mezze Platter, a medley of Mediterranean salads served with house-made hummus and pita.

Clover is the kind of vegetarian restaurant that even a die-hard carnivore could love. The sleek, white décor certainly doesn’t scream “dirty, tree-hugging Pinko,” and neither does the food. The menu is free of the meat and dairy substitutes that generally intimidate the meat-eating public, making it readily accessible to all diners. It doesn’t hurt that everything at Clover is a gustatory delight, from the Mezze Platter (my personal favorite) to the egg and eggplant sandwich. Added bonus for the eco-conscious: most of the ingredients are seasonally and locally sourced, including the produce, eggs, and spices.

FoMu

Location: 481 Cambridge Street, Allson, MA 02134 & 617 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

fomu

(Source) Look at that sexy ice cream. How could you possibly resist a lucious scoop like that?

Hours: Monday-Thursday 11 am-11 pm, Friday 11 am-11:30 pm, Saturday-Sunday 10 am-12 am

FoMu is Boston’s premier vegan ice cream parlor. Not only does it bring some top-notch, creamy, dairy-free scoops, but it also boasts a veritable pupu platter of creative flavors. On a recent visit, the menu included sweet lavender, avocado, cardamom pistachio, and rosewater saffron. Unique flavor combinations not up your proverbial alley? FoMu has your back: they also serve traditional varieties, like cookies and cream and vanilla bean, for the ice cream purist. And if you’re not in the mood for ice cream (or you’re one of those eccentrics who don’t like it), FoMu also sells kick-awesome pastries, baked in-house.

Grasshopper

Location: 1 North Beacon Street, Allston, MA 02134

grasshopper

The infamous No Name, which is basically fried gluten in a sugary, salty, artery-clogging sauce.

Hours: Monday-Saturday 11 am-10 pm, Sunday noon-10 pm

Omnivores often presume—incorrectly—that vegan food is synonymous with quinoa, kale, and chia seeds. Those omnivores haven’t been to Grasshopper, the arbiter of junky, awesome, meat-free Chinese fare. Grasshopper’s food is cloyingly sweet, sodium-laden, and served in absurdly large portions, just the way Americanized Chinese food should be. It’s probably not the kind of thing you should eat every day (unless you have a death wish), but when you’re in a gluttonous state of mind, and you also happen to be craving vegan food, Grasshopper should do the trick.

Life Alive

Location: 765 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139

lifealive

The Warrior Salad: greens and sprouted legumes, topped with hummus and a miso sauce.

Hours: Monday-Saturday 8 am-10 pm, Sunday 11 am-7 pm

Life Alive is a funky, bohemian spot with correspondingly funky, bohemian food. If you’re a first-time diner, don’t be alarmed by the menu, which is full of kooky-named dishes and jam-packed with peculiar ingredients like nutritional yeast, bee pollen, nama shoyu, kelp, and sprouted legumes. Though it all sounds like hippie-dippie nonsense, the food at Life Alive is hearty and flavorful.  And to accompany your meal, you can choose from a full menu of beverage options, including smoothies, juices, kombucha, beer, and coffee.

MyThai Vegan Cafe

Location: 3 Beach Street #2, Boston, MA 021111

Hours: 11 am-10:30 pm

mythai

Pumpkin curry, served meta-style inside a pumpkin.

MyThai Vegan Café looks unassuming, with its dingy, dated interior, but looks can be deceiving. Despite its humble appearance, MyThai offers some of the best vegan food in Boston or anywhere else. There are more than 100 menu items, and you can’t go wrong with any of them. For many dishes, you can choose your own protein—for the more ambitious eaters, there is an array of mock meats: duck, shrimp, squid, and beef, among others—but there are also more familiar options like tofu and seitan. And if you have a sweet tooth, you can finish your meal with dairy-free boba tea and a slice of cake.

True Bistro

Location: 1153 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02144

truebistro

(Source) Death-by-Chocolate flourless cake, a vegan and gluten-free dessert to simultaneously sate your inner hippie and celiac.

Hours: Wednesday-Thursday 5 pm-9 pm, Friday-Saturday 5 pm-10 pm, Sunday 5 pm-9 pm, Weekend Brunch 10 am-3 pm

If you’re in the market for haute cuisine done vegan, True Bistro has you covered. With its candlelit tables and vegan wine selection, it’s a perfect joint for a romantic, albeit meatless, dinner date. True Bistro also boasts the only plant-based brunch in Boston, so you can have your vegan pancakes and eat them too. Incidentally, vegan pancakes pair excellently with a vegan Bloody Mary, which True Bistro so graciously offers during its brunch seating.

Veggie Galaxy

Location: 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139

Hours: Sunday-Thursday 9 am-10 pm, Friday-Saturday 9 am-11 pm

veggiegalaxy

The weekly rotating Blue Plate Special, falafel with hummus

Greasy spoon-gone-vegetarian Veggie Galaxy is a beloved Central Square mainstay, and for good reason: its comforting, homey dishes are a metaphorical hug for you taste buds. The menu prominently features typical diner provisions (burgers, French fries, milkshakes, and all-day breakfast), as well as more innovative dishes, such as the pulled barbequed jackfruit sandwich, or the hearty glazed seitan roast. And if you’re lucky enough to dine at Veggie Galaxy, don’t miss the mind-blowing vegan desserts; the aptly named Mile High Lemon Meringue Pie is truly out of this world, as is the s’mores cheesecake.

Hannah Packman is a second-year student in the Agriculture, Food and Environment masters program. When she isn’t busy filling her head with food-related facts, she enjoys filling her stomach with food-related objects.

Central Square: A Destination for Special Diet Dining in Cambridge

by Grace Goodwin

One of my favorite parts of Friedman is that when I tell people about my special diet, they are not quite as stymied as the rest of the world. Normally, when I tell others about my gluten, egg, and dairy intolerances, the response is “How do you LIVE?!” But from Friedmanites, I get an understanding nod. This is because in addition to being more knowledgeable about food in general, there are a number of Friedman students that follow special diets themselves.

Randomly yet conveniently, I ended up living in one of the best Boston locations for special diets: Central Square, the Cambridge neighborhood midway between MIT and Harvard. There are myriad spots for special-diet diners around the Boston area, but this particular stretch of Mass Ave is particular dense with them. If you are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, vegan, or just curious, read on for some restaurant suggestions in Central Square that cater to your needs.

Life Alive

(765 Mass Ave, www.lifealive.com)

In the bleak midwinter, Life Alive is a humid green oasis, literally. The two-story restaurant next to Cambridge City Hall is packed with plants – and usually people, given the restaurant’s booming fan-base. Life Alive is extremely friendly to special diets and specializes in bowls of grains topped with steaming vegetables and addictive vegan sauces. Almost everything at Life Alive can be made gluten-free, and the staff are well aware of the distinction between Celiac customers and those that are gluten-free by preference. With the exception of a couple dishes with cheese, everything is dairy-free; most importantly the creamy almond- or coconut-based shakes that satisfy your craving for the ice cream you might miss.

Veggie Galaxy

(450 Mass Ave, www.veggiegalaxy.com)

This spot is the gluten-free and vegan version of a diner, right out of Grease. Just like a traditional diner, dishes range from breakfast all day to meatloaf and burgers. Gluten-free customers get to enjoy favorites that they may not have had in decades, like pancakes with caramelized bananas or savory breakfast sandwiches, all from a separate yet ample gluten-free menu. If you haven’t tasted eggs or dairy in a while, you can get a similar experience from the tofu scrambles and omelettes with either Daiya or house-made dairy-free cheese, none of which disappoints. Like Life Alive, Veggie Galaxy has thick coconut-based milkshakes in awesome flavors and served in old-fashioned tall glasses. If you want a warmer dessert, check out the gluten-free and vegan cakes and pies.

Tavern in the Square

(730 Mass Ave, www.taverninthesquare.com/location/central-square-0)

When you’re dining with pickier friends or those that just want a traditional cheeseburger, Tavern in the Square is a go-to. This chain restaurant is a traditional sports bar yet works well for those with food intolerances—particularly to gluten—because its menu is enormous and very well labeled. Gluten-free dishes are clearly marked with “GF,” making the menu scanning process much easier than it usually is for Celiacs. Thanks to Tavern in the Square, a fellow gluten-free Friedmanite and I had tater tots (so crispy and golden) for the first time in ages. You can also get all of the normal burgers and sandwiches with gluten-free buns or breads, so you can get the full experience again.

Four Burgers

(704 Mass Ave, www.fourburgers.com)

This burger joint is similar (and coincidentally, right next door) to Tavern in the Square: a great place to go with your gluten-loving, cheese-craving friends, where you can both enjoy your favorite foods in parallel. Four Burgers’ burgers can be made gluten-free in two ways: they offer gluten-free buns, or you can opt to have your burger atop a lofty pile of fresh greens with a tasty vinaigrette dressing. Additionally, both their white and sweet potato fries are gluten-free. Unfortunately, as of now there is no dairy-free cheese here.

Dado Tea & Coffee

(955 Mass Ave, www.dadotea.com)

Dado is a bit of a walk away from Central, towards Harvard, but it’s worth it if you are looking for a cute and quiet spot for lunch. The specialty here is the huge variety of teas, and of course the fact that it is yet another spot where those of us with restrictions can find options. The dairy-intolerant can enjoy 16 different flavors of bubble tea with soymilk. For both the gluten-free and the vegan, there are multigrain bowls that are similar to Life Alive’s but with a Korean twist, like Bibimbap. The rice here is not boring and white – it is a mix of organic brown rice, sticky brown rice, black soybean, yellow soybean, adzuki bean, and green peas that will fill you up.

Grace Goodwin is a second-year FPAN student from Alexandria, Virginia. Despite her food intolerances, she has worked at both Ben & Jerry’s and Georgetown Cupcake, making her either the best or the worst employee ever.