Back to School: 8 Great Spots Near Colleges

By Scott Kearnan  |  September 4, 2013

In case the weekend traffic full of U-Hauls didn't clue you in, Boston's big student population is back in town. Which means there's a whole new crowd of folks wondering: where to eat? Pay attention (you will be tested): we've pulled together a smattering of quality spots near local colleges that stand apart from the predictable greasy spoons associated with college-area dining. These are elevated but still accessible spots that will appeal to grad students, suit visiting family and maybe even lure in some of the more discriminating younger foodies. And since some of the colleges are surrounded by good eats (like Harvard, which sits in a square full of choices), we focused on universities in neighborhoods with less-obvious options. 

  • Simmons College: Sweet Cheeks Q

    Under Top Chef alum Tiffani Faison, you can expect to find seriously strong, chef-driven barbecue. But the Fenway-area environs are still as pretense-free as any neighborhood 'cue joint (albeit more stylish), with tabletops made from bowling lanes, cocktails served in mason jars and a fun beer garden.

    1381 Boylston St.; 617-266-1300

  • Simmons College: Church

    No, it's not a place for prayer, though you may find yourself praising chef John Rush for his dedication to local, sustainable ingredients for elevated comfort food like chorizo-spruced mac 'n' cheese, crème fraîche-topped flatbreads and "lahmi fries" topped with crispy bacon and pickled jalapeño. The creative cocktails (which include a punchy Seven Deadly Sins-themed assortment) on the chic restaurant side of the building are a good preamble for an evening spent in the grittier adjacent rock club space. 

    69 Kilmarnock St.; 617-236-7600

  • Boston College: Devlin's

    BC is a stone's throw from any number of pubs on Comm Ave. and in Cleveland Circle. But this Brighton Center find offers a rare thing: unfussy but well-executed American bistro food that is inexpensive enough for regular dining and tasty enough to make you want to be a regular. The large rear patio, hopping with grad students and neighborhood young professionals, is also a well-kept secret. 

    332 Washington St., Brighton; 617-779-8822

  • Boston College: Tasca Restaurant

    This affordable tapas spot boasts wide variety, rotating sangrias and a cozy atmosphere that makes it a perfect date spot. That's also why it gets so packed on weekends. Right off the Green Line, it's a convenient jaunt from the BU side of Commonwealth Ave too. 

    1612 Commonwealth Ave., 617-730-8002

  • Northeastern University: The Squealing Pig

    You'll find a lively crowd and inexpensive-but-much-better-than-average comfort food at this oft-overlooked gastropub, hidden in a sea of hole-in-the-wall take-out joints. Live music on weekends and the cozy, wood-filled dining room filled with clattering forks and clinking pints make the whole place feel highly home-y.

    134 Smith St.; 617-566-6651

  • Northeastern University: Bravo

    Date with a future art history Ph.D? This unique fine-dining restaurant is nestled inside the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, a subdued and surprising hideaway with seasonal menus that should inspire plenty of conversation. Assuming, that is, you stop talking about the art long enough to chew. 

    465 Huntington Ave.; 617-369-3474

  • Boston University: Elephant Walk

    BU is surrounded by plenty of pizza and Chinese take-out joints. But for something still-affordable but elevated (and interesting), the Cambodian-French Elephant Walk is a local favorite. It also hosts popular cooking classes, if you're looking to supplement your existing education. 

    900 Beacon St.; 617-247-1500

  • Boston University: Audubon Circle

    A sleek, minimalist setting and stronger-than-solid gastropub fare sets apart this neighborhood gem. Devotees pack the place for brews, well-made cocktails and comfort food like pork schnitzel, porcini-rubbed rib-eye and spicy wings. It's more under-the-radar than the fanfare-garnering Fenway restaurants nearby, and in this case that's a good thing.

    838 Beacon St.; 617-421-1910