Experience some of Boston#039;s savory secrets

by Beacon Staff • March 29, 2006

To spice up your culinary outings, here are some restaurants that go against the mainstream and satisfy the appetites-and wallets-of Emerson students.,You've been to The Cheesecake Factory. Your parents dragged you to Legal Sea Foods about four times last fall and if you have to sit through one more stereotypical Italian dinner at Bertucci's, you might consider boycotting all pasta, Atkins-style.

To spice up your culinary outings, here are some restaurants that go against the mainstream and satisfy the appetites-and wallets-of Emerson students.

24-hour eats in the North End: Bova's Bakery

Just a short walk from the Haymarket T stop, Salem Street is home to many small, cozy shops and eateries. At its intersection with Prince Street, however, lies one of its hidden treasures.

Bova's Bakery at 134 Salem St. doesn't really call out to the casual North End explorer. Red-and-green striped curtains hang from cloudy windows and an unremarkable white sign announces the bakery's name.

Though it looks rather dull on the outside, Bova's interior is anything but. Upon entry, the familiar aroma of anise cookies and cheesy pizza envelopes you, a strange combination for sure, but enticing nonetheless.

Immediately, it seems as if you are surrounded on all sides by inviting fare. One display case holds pies and pastries, another subs and pizza, a third Bova's "famous" Italian bread, and, finally, cookies by-the-pound. The staff is friendly and quick to serve the eager customers, and the menu boasts reasonable prices on delicious desserts.

Perhaps the most intriguing characteristic of this heavenly hole-in-the-wall is its hours-the bakery is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, perfect for late-night munchies or after-hours cravings. The downside to this setup, however, is that only the bakery section of Bova's holds those convenient hours. Subs, calzones and pizza are not available for late-night munchies. Bova's offers deliveries through nightowldeliveries.com. This is a good choice for a hungry college student who keeps inconvenient hours and little cash in their pockets.

Mexican Fare in the Financial District: Andale Restaurant

On 125 Summer St., somewhere between the Financial District and Downtown Crossing is a small galleria. Therein lies a hidden ethnic gem. Andale is a Mexican eat-in, take-out restaurant.

Although the room is small, the brightly colored wall decorations in combination with the soothing sounds of a Spanish guitar give the restaurant an authentic atmosphere. One can't help but admire the beautifully painted masks and flora that adorn the four walls of the dining area.

Some of the patrons of this somewhat trendy dive sit in elevated stools at the bar-style table along the walls.

The menu consists mainly of a choice of burritos or enchiladas, but vegetarian options are available. And don't worry if you're low on cash-the price range for most items at Andale is $5 to $7.

Andale offers an assortment of enchiladas, burritos and quesadillas. There are also some light appetizers such as tamal, a dish described in the menu as "steamed corn meal stuffed with chicken or vegetables wrapped in a banana leaf."

Placing an order and receiving the food (don't forget to say gracias) takes a total of about five minutes. Warning: unless you are very hungry, you will have leftovers. The size of the vegetarian burrito ($4.95) is daunting, but it's so delicious, you won't mind finishing it later. If you crave tasty meat, you can add chicken and beef to your burrito without paying more. Andale provides a great quick lunch that's light on the wallet.

Indian food in Inman Square: Punjabi Dhaba

Located a stroll away from the Central Square T stop in Inman Square, this quaint-yet-cultured Indian restaurant really gives patrons the bang that's worth more than their buck.

Customers are greeted by the staff with very friendly smiles, even if it's their first time experiencing the wonderful world of Indian food. Located at 225 Hampshire St., the dining area is small, but ordering to-go is an option if it gets full.

While the names of dishes on the menu can be confusing and hard to pronounce for one new to Indian cuisine, the staff was glad to explain what samosas and chicken saagwala are. Emerson freshmen Nick Shreiber, a film major, and Andrew Nicholson, a TV/video major, were impressed with the restaurant.

"I normally don't care very much for Indian food," Shreiber said, "But this is really good."

For Nicholson, quantity is more important than quality.

"There's just so much food here," he said.

The portions are indeed exceptionally large. One tray of chicken saagwala only costs $6.95 and includes white rice, chicken curry and several spicy dips. Pair that with garlic nan (a large, flat round of bread) for an additional $1.95, and the meal is complete.

If you're only in the mood for a light snack, the vegetable samosas at Punjabi Dhaba are only 75 cents each-but they taste like a million dollars. A vegetable samosa consists of a vegetable paste within a fried, turn-over-like shell.

The total cost of one order of chicken saagwala, one order of garlic nan and three vegetable samosas was only $11.71. Go ahead, be charitable and treat your friends to some of Boston's finest Indian cuisine.

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