As we've said a few times before, sometimes qualities other than food bring us to feature specific dining spots. Atmosphere, for instance, might play a major role, or overall convenience (ease of getting a table on weekends, an abundance of parking nearby, and so on), or maybe simply the "hidden" factor of places that are just a bit off the beaten path. Well, the Thirsty Scholar Pub in Somerville certainly seems to hit or at least get close to the target on all three of these, and the food at this charming little spot near the Cambridge border isn't all that bad, either, with several dishes that really tend to stand out.
The Thirsty Scholar is located on a stretch of Beacon Street that, while within walking distance of the bustling Inman Square in Cambridge, is mostly a quiet residential area with little in the way of shops and eateries. Both the exterior and the interior of the restaurant have the appearance of a classic Irish pub, with the interior having a cozy, old-fashioned look (brick walls, charming hanging lights over the bar, an old scratched-up floor, and lots of dark woods throughout the place). The front windows of the dining area open up in the warmer months, allowing for cool breezes and a more spacious overall feel to the space. One thing that the Thirsty Scholar has that you typically won't find in most Boston-area pubs is a "snug," or a small, secluded room that is separate from the rest of the restaurant. This little room is a great spot for a group of perhaps six or less who are looking for some privacy.
With atmosphere this nice, it would be easy to think of the Thirsty Scholar as simply a place where you might get a drink at the bar either before or after dining elsewhere. And while there are Irish pubs in the Greater Boston area that have excellent to outstanding food that's tough to beat in this category (including a nearby place called The Druid over in Inman Square), the food here is very impressive as well. Standouts among appetizers include a delicious plate of roasted mussels with a spicy cream sauce; a heaping plate of nachos that can be ordered with pulled pork, chicken, and/or guacamole; a fresh Caesar salad that has a mild yet tasty dressing; and curry fries that come with a particularly delicious curry that is moderately spicy. Some good choices among the main entrees (depending on the season and the specials offered) include a meaty char-broiled burger that is a good half-pound of beef and comes on a bulkie roll; fish and chips that have a flavorful beer batter covering the flaky white meat; a beef stew that has huge chunks of meat and lots of carrots and potatoes; a piping hot chicken pot pie whose crust has a hint of cheese and a rich-tasting gravy inside the pie; a classic turkey dinner with all the fixings; bangers and mash that include baked beans; and almost shockingly great steak tips that rival some of the best that the Boston area has to offer. The beer list at the Thirsty Scholar is decent with regional microbrews offered as well as the more familiar Irish pints. In addition to lunch and dinner, the Thirsty Scholar also has a Sunday brunch with a number of choices, including a traditional Irish breakfast.
If you are looking for a noisy, packed Irish pub where people go to be seen, the Thirsty Scholar probably isn't for you. And if you want loud music and dancing, it is probably best to go elsewhere as well. But this pub is certainly a good choice if you're looking for quiet conversation, good atmosphere, and decent food in a slightly out-of-the-way location.
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