Staff Writer: Maya Arruda
Any student can tell you: school food sucks.
Sure, some of it is decent enough, but most times choosing a tasty meal is like Russian roulette. Some things are too spicy. Some things have about as much spice as white bread. Some things you just don’t like personally.
The safest option is the lunchroom classics, the stuff state schools have been serving since the dawn of time. The chicken nuggets, the grilled cheese, and the pre-frozen French fries: the simple things that can always be made edible. But, living on chicken nuggets and grilled cheese gets real old real fast.
So, getting food from actual restaurants. It’s the classical alternative to eating in. However, there are still some kinks with this solution.
For commuter students far from the UMassD area, transportation isn’t a problem, but what on Earth around here is any good? The big chains are a safe bet, but who wants to eat Taco Bell or Chipotle every day for months?
For resident students, it’s even worse because you’re stuck in the area. Those who don’t have resident parking have no personal transportation to grab a quick bite. And, chances are, if you’re living on campus, you aren’t familiar with the local area and thus have no idea where the good restaurants are.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you. This list will cover 10 restaurants where you can get a good meal at a reasonable, college student-friendly price within a half-hour drive from campus.
10: Graham’s – Hot Dogs
931 Bedford St., Fall River, MA.
This small, hole-in-the-wall joint is open from 9 to 6 on weekdays, closes at 3 on Saturdays, and is completely closed on Sundays. Their specialty is their Coney Island hot dogs, and they are delicious. They roast the dog on one of those rotating pin grills, giving the dog an even cook.
More importantly: they’re really affordable. Each hot dog is only $2.25 (current recession price), including basic topics like ketchup, mustard, relish, etc. And, best thing of all, they run a deal where if you buy six of the same item, you get the seventh for free. That alone makes Graham’s the best place to drown your post-exam sorrows in hot dogs.
The fries are hand-cut and made in-house. They cost about two dollars more than a hot dog, but the quantity is enough to serve more than one person. Or just one ravenous college student.
They also make in-house coffee milk, but if that’s not your thing, you can just get a standard canned beverage.
The restaurant has a small seating area if you prefer eating in, but all meals are made to go. They do not do delivery, so if you want hot dogs, you’ll have to go yourself (or pay a friend in hot dogs to go for you).
This restaurant is a solid 20-30 minute drive from campus, depending on traffic. However, residential students are in luck. There is an SRTA bus stop on the street, and your UMass Pass will let you ride all SRTA buses for free. Just make sure you bring a mask if you’re taking the bus.
9: Cask & Pig – Southern Style BBQ / Portuguese-American Food
780 State Road (Route 6 to the locals), Dartmouth, MA.
This restaurant is a pretty big place, up route 6 before Dartmouth becomes Westport. It’s open pretty consistently, from11:30-9:30 give or take a half hour depending on the day. It has outdoor and indoor seating and a great big bar inside.
It’s pretty easy to miss when you’re driving 55 mph and it’s hidden behind some trees when you’re on the right side of the highway, so be vigilant if you’re driving. Look for an abandoned building with a Joe’s Auto sign to know when your turn is; the abandoned auto dealer is right across the highway from the restaurant (which makes a really interesting view, if you choose to eat outside.)
Cask & Pig, as you can probably guess from the name, is a big meat restaurant. They specialize in pork barbeque dishes, which are delicious, but they have some chicken, beef, and vegetarian dishes as well.
What really makes this place stand out from your average Smokey Bones is that Cask & Pig has a big Portuguese influence on their food. (I, a Portuguese person who grew up eating Portuguese food, am absolutely unbiased when saying Portuguese food is some of the best food you can get in the world).
For those unfamiliar with Portuguese cuisine, this basically means the food is chock full of spices, garlic, and peppers (which makes everything taste better. Completely unbiased). The shrimp mozambique and G.O.A.T. burger (which has chorizo and an egg) are my personal, non-pork favorites.
The desserts are also to die for, especially the malasada bread pudding. A malasada, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is basically Portuguese fried dough covered in cinnamon and sugar.
Despite how delicious the food is, this restaurant is rated 9th on this list because of two things: prices and how difficult it is to get there.
The food here is pretty high priced; the cheapest meals are the burgers and sandwiches, and they go upwards of $12. Almost everything else (not counting appetizers, salads, or desserts, though those aren’t cheap either) is around $20 or upwards of that. It’s not a five-star fancy steak dinner type of expensive, but it is on the pricy side. Going there often will definitely put a dent in your budget.
Getting to the restaurant isn’t the easiest thing either. I went into it a bit earlier about the problem for commuters, but it is difficult for residential students to get there, too, since they would have to either walk on the side of a state highway (that has no sidewalk at that point) or take the bus to get closer and end up walking on the side of a state highway anyway because there is no bus stop in front of the restaurant.
Worry not, residential students, you can still partake in this delicious food. Unlike the last name on this list, Cask and Pig does do eat-in, take-out, and delivery options.
8: Percy’s Place – Breakfast Galore
715 State Road, Dartmouth, MA.
This humungous and brightly colored building is impossible to miss, unlike Cask & Pig. They’re open every day of the week from 7-2, and they are a breakfast/lunch restaurant. They do eat-in, curbside pickup, and delivery.
Percy’s Place is the best place to have breakfast. They serve pancakes, omelets, scrambled eggs, and all the breakfast foods (minus cereal, but who orders cereal at a restaurant?).
Percy’s Place is pretty much IHOP on steroids. Anything you can get for breakfast at IHOP, you can get at Percy’s Place, and it will taste far better. They give pretty great quantities of food here, enough to fill your stomach and then some while being pretty light on the wallet.
They have a great selection and variety on their menu, and their food is very affordable (even on a college student’s budget). They also have both indoor and outdoor seating (as of the start of the pandemic).
The one problem you may have is that this restaurant fills up really quickly, especially on weekends, even with the additional seating. When it gets to the point where you can see people waiting outside, just go somewhere else. No breakfast food is worth waiting nearly an hour to get seated for.
Driving to Percy’s Place can be a bit of a pain because you have to cross the highway into their parking lot from a U-turn section. Depending on the traffic, this can be super easy or you could be waiting for 10 minutes to cross and not get hit by a car.
For residential students, you can take the bus, but it’ll take a while; there is a Best Western next to Percy’s Place and there’s a bus stop for the Best Western, so you wouldn’t have to walk very far on the highway.
7: The 9th Monarch – Thai Food
634 State Road, Dartmouth, MA.
Here’s another restaurant on route 6. It’s in a plaza with a pizzeria and a Mexican restaurant (which are pretty good, but not good enough to get on this list).
It is open 12-8:15 every day except Sunday. If you show up Sunday and expect to eat Thai, the joke’s on you, they’re closed. (Definitely not speaking from a past experience). When they are open, they have eat-in, take-out, and delivery dining options.
While the 9th Monarch does serve sushi, their Thai food is what they’re known for, and with good reason.
Their food is extremely delicious, particularly the soup. I would eat their Tom Kar soup every day of my life and die happy. Their mango fried rice is also a good go-to for me, a great blend of sweet and savory flavors I personally love. They have a lot of other dishes for those who would not eat fruit fried rice (probably the same people who refuse to eat pineapple on pizza when pineapple is clearly the best pizza topping).
There is only an inside dining area, so keep that in mind for busy restaurant business hours if you want a table.
The prices are a bit steep, but you get a large enough quantity of food to make it worth the price. However, if you keep eating here and nowhere else, the expense will add up. It is a once-in-a-while type of restaurant.
Getting there isn’t so bad. Commuters can see the plaza pretty easily, and there is usually ample parking available. Since there is an apartment complex across the street, there is a bus stop close by. However, this would then require you to cross the highway, where all the moving cars are.
I’ve seen people cross the highway to pick up pizza and live. No, there isn’t a crosswalk there. Cross at your own peril.
16 S Water St., New Bedford, MA.
This restaurant is in the heart of downtown New Bedford, arguably the best part of New Bedford. It’s really easy to get a bus there. In fact, I’d recommend taking a bus for students who have their own cars; you have to pay for street parking with quarters at the parking meters, and some of the streets in that area are old-fashioned cobblestone.
It’s a very good area to do some shopping or catch a show at the Z or to go to the numerous museums in the area. Take some friends with you and turn it into a relaxing day out, far away from the horrors of studying, tests, and worst of all: finals.
All after eating at a great restaurant, of course.
Moby Dick Brewing Co. is great for two main things: burgers and beer. If you’re a UMassD student old enough to enjoy their house-brewed beers, I envy you, but for the rest of us underaged college kids, we get the burgers.
These burgers are way more than a consolation prize. They are quality beef, cooked while retaining a juicy and succulent interior. The brioche buns provide a soft and buttery bite (arguably, one of the few things to actually thank the French for). In short, it was great. The burger, of course, came with fries that were crispy on the outside yet pillowy on the inside. There was much mouth-watering involved.
The price is on the higher side, but it’s not as bad as Cask & Pig. So long as you do not get anything with lobster in it, you’ll be fine financially. Everything without lobster is pretty much under $20.
It’s an easily accessible location and right next to the New Bedford Whaling Museum if you’re in the mood to get a side of history with your burger.
The only downside of being in downtown New Bedford is driving in downtown New Bedford. It’s really easy to get turned around, and there are a lot of one-way-only streets.
If you aren’t familiar with New Bedford, it’s best just to take the bus.
5: Atlantic Sports Bar & Restaurant – Portuguese American Food / The Best Portuguese Steak
70 Shove St. Tiverton, Rhode Island
Don’t let the state change fool you. This restaurant is, at worst, a half hour away. Even closer, if you use the highway. It’s a bit remote and difficult to find if you are unfamiliar with the area, however. There is an SRTA bus station on near Shove St. for those whose navigation skills are as bad as mine.
Atlantic Sports Bar & Restaurant has delicious Portuguese food at low prices, making it great for the budgeting college student.
No matter what you order, I can personally guarantee it will be delicious. They make salads taste good (and I am of the firm belief that salads are rabbit food occasionally with tasty crispy bread cubes if you’re lucky).
They do have a wide selection of dishes. In addition to salads, they have a great variety of sandwiches, pasta dishes, meat dishes, seafood dishes, and pizza. Few pizzas in existence have come close to the sheer perfection that is the Fall River Hawaiian pizza (bacon, chorizo, and pineapple).
The cacoila sandwich (Portuguese marinated meat on a Portuguese pop and a finger pepper on a bed of golden fries) is a close second favorite of mine.
My absolute favorite is the Portuguese steak jr. For those who’ve never had Portuguese steak before (you’re missing out on life), it is steak cooked in a garlic-packed, wine-based sauce with an egg on top. Atlantic serves this steak with a choice of two sides. It is delicious. It is filling. It is only $14. Need I say more.
They have the three typical dining options: eat-in, take-out, and delivery. Delivery may be the best option for those not willing to get lost. But, for those brave souls willing to venture the side streets of Fall River and Tiverton, I’ll provide some brief instructions.
If you don’t want to take the highway, just go down route 6 until you pass Meditech, then take a left at the light. Take another left at the end of that street, then take a right at the church. Take a left at the light, then bear right at the next light. Keep going straight until you see a billboard on your right, then take the right behind it. Turn right at the stop sign, and you’re there. Even with the highway, you still have to deal with the last few steps. Take the highway towards Fall River, then take the Tiverton exit, take the second exit on that highway near the Market Basket, take a left at the light, and then take another left farther down the street in front of a car dealership and a wooded area. Then follow the last three directions to get there…
Thankfully, they have delivery.
4: Marzilli’s Bakery – Best and Biggest Sandwiches
944 Bedford St., Fall River, MA.
Even though technically, it’s a bakery, they make the best sandwiches in all of Massachusetts. Possibly all of New England.
They make their bread in-house, which is a big plus, and they make the sandwich in-house, too, more like a D’Angelo’s where you order off a set menu than a Subway where you essentially build your own sandwich and ignore that there’s text up above.
They also offer calzones and Italian desserts (like cannoli), but the sandwiches are the shining star of the menu.
In addition to being delicious with amazing bread, the best part about the sandwiches is that you get the best bang for your buck. Keep in mind while ordering, that the sizes double when you go up; a small is equal to half a medium, a large is equal to two mediums, that sort of thing. For reference, a medium is a footlong sandwich.
If you’re ordering with a friend and you both like the same sandwich, just order a large instead of two mediums. Your wallet will thank you.
Though, Marzilli’s won’t strain your wallet a bit. Their prices are pretty low. Even a large sandwich is usually under $15, which considering it is literally a two-foot-long sandwich, is pretty dang good.
This bakery is as easy to get to as Graham’s. It’s open from 7-5 every day except Sundays, which sucks if you get a hankering for a good meatball sub one Sunday afternoon.
All food is take-out only, but you can call in an order or just order it in person and wait twenty minutes if they’re busy.
3: No Problemo – The Best Burritos On The Planet
813 Purchase St., New Bedford, MA.
This is another restaurant in downtown New Bedford. In fact, it’s only a few blocks away from Moby Dick Brewing Co., so it has the same pros and cons of driving vs. bus as that restaurant (and really anywhere in a downtown area).
It’s open from 11-8 every day and is closed Sundays.
No Problemo is the place for Mexican food in New Bedford, hands down. No restaurant in the area does better at providing delicious and flavorful Mexican cuisine.
My personal favorite is the classic cheese quesadilla (not very adventurous, I know); it takes up over half the plate and comes with lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeños, and sour cream on the side to accentuate the natural cheesy deliciousness of the quesadilla. Way better than the sad, not as cheesy Taco Bell quesadilla.
As much as I love cheese quesadillas, No Problemo’s best food has to be, without a doubt, their burritos.
Once you have a No Problemo burrito, you’ll never be able to eat burritos anywhere else ever again. They offer a variety of burrito flavors, taking up a whole page on the menu, that caters to the tastes and preferences of every burrito lover in existence. (Look no further than the Diablo burrito if you’re a spice lover.)
The best part of all, each burrito is a solid 6 inches long and about as wide as an adult human fist. No way you’ll leave disappointed.
No Problemo does take-out and eat-in. Delivery is available through GotChew (which is pretty much DoorDash but local) and only GotChew; the restaurant personally does not do delivery orders, so if you want delivery, you’ll need to order over the third-party app or on GotChew’s website.
2: Gumbo – Chinese Food
411 State Road a.k.a Route 6, Dartmouth, MA
Don’t get me wrong. This is, without a doubt, Americanized Chinese food that you can typically find in any given Chinese restaurant. They serve Pu Pu platters, chow mein, and fried rice: all American-Chinese staples you can find in pretty much every town in America. Even Dartmouth has two other restaurants that share almost the exact same menu as Gumbo.
Gumbo just blows everyone else way, way, way out of the water.
The ingredients are fresh, and the food is super high quality. I’m talking whole breast meat chicken, beautifully cooked vegetables, and (naturally) excellent flavors. The vegetables retain their individual flavors and textures (and turgidity, for all you science nerds) in every single dish. The meat is juicy and chock full of delicious meaty goodness.
You can definitely taste the difference between Gumbo’s food and Chinese food inside a mall food court. Compare Gumbo’s food to any contemporaries and Gumbo’s will blow them out of the water.
The General Gau’s chicken is my personal favorite, especially paired with the fried rice. If it was possible, I would put that sauce on every single thing. Forget the crispy, succulent chicken, I would be happy just drinking the sauce straight from a glass.
In addition to the amazing food, the price is also pretty good. Most of the dishes are under $15, and they have good quantities (I mean, Full Plates, about two stomachs full).
Better yet, they are really close to the campus, which means you can save on gas; and by really close, I mean you can get there in less than five minutes if the traffic isn’t terrible.
They do take out and eat in, but not delivery. They’re open from 11:30 to 10 every day, so you’ll be able to sit down and eat no matter how late your class ends.
1: From the Seoul – Korean BBQ
127 Faunce Corner Road, Dartmouth, MA.
This restaurant is in a plaza right next to the Texas Roadhouse, a building that is so typically… Texas, shall we say, that you can see it a long way from the turn into the parking lot.
The first time I even heard of this restaurant (never mind ate at it) was when my best friend and I were actually waiting in line for Texas Roadhouse for dinner at 7ish on a Wednesday. After hearing that it would be a 40-minute wait to get a table, which neither of us was down for, she said that the Korean place was open and that we’d be better off trying our luck there. Seeing as I forgot to eat lunch that day, I was more than willing to give it a shot.
I’m glad I did. It was some of the best food I had ever eaten.
From the Seoul offers a selection of Korean cuisine (as you probably could have guessed by the pun in the name, which definitely, absolutely had no impact whatsoever on me agreeing to try out the restaurant in the first place).
They offer pork, beef, and chicken dishes served with a hefty helping of expertly cooked and seasoned vegetables. Even the drinks are positively scrumptious (I never order non-water drinks, cheapskate, that I am, but I am willing to give my wallet and soul to be able to drink their Plum Cha drink all the time.) The appetizers, particularly the mantou (dumplings), are divine.
My favorite thing to order, however, is the Kimchi Jjigae (Spicy cabbage stew, pretty much). I order it nearly every time I go there. In a perfect world, I would have one of those sippy cup hats filled with Kimchi stew, and I could just go about my day continuously sipping on the stew. That being said, my sinuses would not agree.
When something is explicitly labeled as “spicy” in Korean food, they mean it. I went through four glasses of water and at least six napkins because my body just gave up from the high capsaicin level of this stew.
I felt so bad for the poor waitress who had to keep coming back to our table every five minutes or so just to refill my water as I continuously shove my face with bright red stew. It was absolutely worth it, though. Best stew I have ever eaten in my life.
They have a pretty good bar, too, where you can enjoy some traditional alcoholic beverages like beer or try some Korean soju (a very hard liqueur, pretty much Korean vodka) with your meal if you’re older than the legal drinking age.
They also have some Korean snack food available to buy for people who’ve ordered take-out; if you eat in, trust me, you won’t need it because they do not skimp on the quantities here. From the Seoul also provides free side dishes (kimchi, pickled radish, potato salad, etc) for those who eat in.
Not that you would even be able to eat all of it; even I, the black hole stomach that I am, still end up taking about half of my meal home because I’m just too full to finish it.
From the Seoul is on the pricier side of this list, yes, but it still manages to be cheaper than Cask & Pig.
Most meals are around $15-$20, but the quantity of the food definitely makes up for it. They also have lunchtime specials that are around $12, between 11-2.
They are open 11-8:30 Wednesday through Friday. On the weekends, they’re open 12-8:30. They do eat-in or take-out but do not offer delivery.
It’s pretty close to the campus. At most, it will be a 15-minute drive with traffic.
Honorable Mention: Black Tie Cookies
238 Russel Mills Road, Dartmouth, MA.
This place serves only desserts, which is why it didn’t make it to the top 10 list. Black Tie Cookies makes the best cookies in all of New England. These cookies have great size and great flavor, soft and sweet.
You can order cookies online, find them in the dessert rack near the register in other restaurants, or can visit their storefront.
The storefront is open 11-5 on Thursdays and Fridays and 11-2 on Saturdays. Not a big window of time, I’ll admit, but it does come with certain benefits. They have free samples in store, for example.