Mexican feasts, BBQ to die for, and family-style Tibetan fare in one of the Boston area’s best food districts.
Vintage stores, an independent movie theater and plenty of bars: Davis Square is the classic definition of a magnet for liberal arts students. With that in mind, while you’ll encounter plenty of Tufts University sweatshirts and well-dressed young professionals strolling through this trendy neighborhood, you’ll also find one of the most eclectic and vibrant food scenes in the area. Boston. That’s largely thanks to the variety of cuisines gathered in this bustling plaza, which includes Mexican feasts, barbecues to die for, and family-style Tibetan dishes, to name a few.
Essentially a Bangkok street cart turned into a brick-and-mortar restaurant, Dakzen brings super-slurpable Thai noodles to the roadside in Davis Square. Chefs here have perfected their grandmothers silky slow-simmered broths and noodle dishes, which are bursting with sweet, spicy and even tangy flavors. Their curry-flavored Khao Soi, for example, features crispy pork belly, a sprinkle of pickled mustard, and starchy egg noodles that soak up the umami flavor of the broth. All the snacks and street food are delicious, but if we’re forced to pick favorites it might be the northern Thai sliced Sai Ua sausage and the fiery Pad Kee Mow with holy basil and chilli costs. That said, while we’d generally suggest steering away from your conventional pad thai order, given all the great deals, Dakzen’s version will easily become your new favorite in town.
195 Elm Street, Davis Square, 617-718-1759, dakzen.net.
by Dave fresh pasta
Once you enter this quaint neighborhood market, you’ll find you don’t have to walk to the North End to get great Italian sandwiches, fresh pastas and homemade sauces, imported olives and everything you need to assemble a charcuterie board at home. Plus, most of the fresh produce and specialty groceries come straight from New England. Behind the deli counter, almost everything is homemade: take their Sicilian sandwich, for example, topped with Genoa salame, warm capocollo and fresh hand-made mozzarella on freshly baked focaccia brushed with basil pesto. As for pasta holders? Dave’s ravioli and the rest are cut to order and often come in a unique variety of flavors, from porcini mushrooms to saffron.
81 Holland St., Davis Square, 617-623-0867, davesfreshpasta.com.
Old cassette tapes and spray-painted menus line the walls of this chef-run slice shop that tops playful pies with everything from Kung Pao chicken to cheddar cheese and bacon drizzled with maple-chili glaze . While this punk-rock pizzeria knows no bounds when it comes to inventive toppings, it also offers a wonderfully nostalgic three-cheese pizza around the corner in New York with a simple but effective marinara. Bonus: Dragon offers inexpensive house-made sodas, gelatos, and cocktails that you can sip on their street-side patio during the warmer months.
233 Elm Street, Davis Square, 617-764-5026, dragonpizzasomerville.com.
Martsa on Elm
Spice lovers, this one is for you. Martsa’s menu, full of Tibetan and Himalayan comfort foods, is always on point – it also hits hard with the seasoning, so when the waiter asks if you want light, medium or hot, take a moment to really assess your heat tolerance. If you go the fire route, go for the wok-seared beef shapta or the south Indian-style fish curry with freshly ground spices and ginger garlic curry. Those with slightly more delicate palates can order the fried momo (dumplings), which arrive with an incredibly good and not super spicy onion/chili/red pepper sauce, as well as some aromatic curries that won’t melt your taste buds.
243 Elm Street, Davis Square, 617-666-0660, Facebook.
The painted donkey
Although there are a series of excellent restaurants along Elm Street at Davis Square, none of them can be said to offer more than 100 types of tequila, mezcal and sotol, unless it’s not the Painted Burro. This always-lively hacienda-style Mexican cuisine (from the same team behind the Burro Bar spots in the South End and Brookline) draws inspiration from the flavors of Baja and Oaxaca, with touches of Tex-Mex. Chicken chimichanga with mole ranchero and avocado dressing provides a flavorful kick, while a red wine and cola mole dip adds just the right kick to pork carnitas enchiladas. Did we mention The Painted Burro makes a mean margarita? We love the “Spicy Peach” when traveling solo, but if you have company, go for the 64 oz. “Passion fruit pitcher.”
219 Elm Street, Davis Square, 617-776-0005, thepaintedburro.com.
Red Bone BBQ
As Redbones owner Rob Gregory recalls, in the ’80s Davis Square was largely boarded up buildings and a cluster of blue-collar bars. In 1987, however, the rambling nightclub manager decided to rent a kitchen from a grimy dive bar to sell ribs, brisket, and pulled pork. The rest, as they say, is history. Gregory would go on to embrace New England’s burgeoning craft beer scene, leading to legendary parties and an impressive list of 29 beers on tap. Today, Redbones’ charming green gingham-covered tables and hand-painted signage retain their retro sensibility. Although dishes such as jerk beef brisket prove that Gregory isn’t one to shy away from contemporary flavor combinations, those who prefer to keep it classic will never tire of tangy baby backs with a side of burnt ends and of macaroni and cheese. Oh, and it wouldn’t be a true Redbones experience without ending on a sweet note, so treat yourself to another slice of pecan pie while you’re at it.
55 Chester St., Davis Square, 617-628-2200, redbones.com.
Rosebud American Kitchen and Bar
Restaurateur Joe Cassinelli helped transform Davis Square into one of Somerville’s best places to eat when he opened his always exciting Neapolitan pizzeria, Posto, followed by Painted Burro. A casual, chef-led take on American cuisine soon followed in the form of Rosebud. Housed inside a refurbished Worcester Lunch Car, Rosebud is pure American glamour: extra-shiny tufted red booths, old-fashioned green soda glasses, and updated food from all over the country. It’s a reborn and revitalized American tradition, from tail-on shrimp and oatmeal with white wine and roasted garlic to hearty dishes such as pork shoulder rigatoni. End the meal with something sweet like a shake or a float, which you can (and should) choose to make alcoholic.
381 Summer Street, Davis Square, 617-629-9500, rosebudkitchen.com.
In true speakeasy, the entrance to the Saloon is not easy to find. However, when you come across this underground cocktail bar (hint: try looking under sister restaurant Foundry), you’ll be immersed in a world of bricks, leather and antique carpets. The cozy pre-prohibition-style bar emphasizes dark liquor drinks like the Irish whiskey-laden “Bradshaw”, with Campari and sweet vermouth, or the “My Beeting Heart”, a savory blend of bourbon, scotch, lemon, beet, and dill. Plus, Saloon has over 120 varieties of whiskey lined up on the shelves, so if you prefer your drinks neat, the bartenders will point you to a bottle that matches your flavor profile. The bar snacks are a bit pricey, but if you’re offering a date at a night on the town, it’s worth splitting the plate of meze with roasted garlic hummus, red pepper dip and a fuchsia-colored beetroot tzatziki.
255 Elm Street, Davis Square, 617-628-4444, salonondavis.com.
Spoken wine bar
There’s nothing new about “New American” cooking or wine bars, for that matter, but somehow Spoke has breathed a breath of fresh air into both terms. For one thing, its intimate atmosphere is anything but pretentious, something you’ll notice the moment you slip onto a bar stool and a friendly bottle puller offers you Spoke’s compact, small-producer-focused wine list. , eager to guide you through the grapes. The delicious drinks on the slate menu, meanwhile, will have you wondering if it’s too late to squeeze “and cocktail” into Spoke’s name. Might as well add “and restaurant” too: Spoke’s hyper-seasonal rotating menu always features a handful of wonderfully inventive small plates, from Jerusalem artichoke fritters with powdered leeks to Parisian rye gnocchi with beetroot, walnuts and horseradish.
89 Holland Street, Davis Square, 617-718-9463, speakwinebar.com.
As you sip the last sip of shiso broth from a huge black bowl in this little noodle shop, the fleeting nature of life itself is probably not in the forefront of your mind. Yet such philosophical reflection is embedded in the founding of chef Masuo Onishi’s restaurant, which began as a study in impermanence: Onishi opened Tsuruman in 2018 with the intention of closing its doors exactly 1,000 days later. After the last few years of changing perspective, it looks like the chef may have changed his mind. For now, he continues to use noodles as a form of storytelling, from his “Formula 1985” ramen, inspired by the classic Tokyo shoyu ramen he ate as a child, to “Formula 2022”, a fusion of Onishi life experiences and flavors. who inspire him today. The chicken and fish broth is adorned with slices of fatty chashu pork that sizzle on a bed of homemade noodles and bright scallions – and whether you’re starting a new job, moving or just finishing a week of work, it’s is the perfect bowl to contemplate the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another.
420 Highland Avenue, Davis Square, tsurumendavis.square.site.