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Being a first-year student and self-proclaimed foodie moving to Boston this spring, I felt an immense pressure to explore all the iconic Boston food spots as fast as I could. But after settling into my in-person classes and dorm, I found myself so disappointed that I couldn’t conquer the culinary treats of Boston in my first few weeks. It’s been a bit of a journey but I’m slowly getting to try the cuisine of Beantown and I’m here to share my two cents on the all the best food unique to the Emerson neighborhood. My love affair with Boston’s food scene will be a slow burn, but I do believe there are a few essential spots (and types of food) that you simply have to try—maybe as a treat for our spring-break-less semester. 

Take advantage of your Board Bucks

Many people will tell you that they get easily tired of the restaurants included in Emerson’s Board Bucks, but I strongly believe that you can’t be bored unless you’re boring. That being said, there are a million different ways to order at the variety of restaurants that take Board Bucks. The classic options include El Jefes Taqueria, Tatte, Blaze Pizza, and Garbanzo. Although these restaurants might not be advertised on fancy Boston food blogs on Instagram, they offer a surprisingly diverse selection of meals and are always delicious. Personally, spending money outside of my Board Bucks and meal swipes can be so painful and makes me feel wasteful—don’t feel ashamed of eating at the classic Emerson restaurants just because it's not the fancy five-star restaurant you saw on Yelp. You’re paying for your Board Bucks, you might as well use them!

Chinatown is your new best friend

Fortunately, Emerson College is located on the edge of Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood. There are endless opportunities for gastronomical exploration—hotpot, ramen, bakeries, and dim sum are just a few of the many adventures that await. A personal favorite spot, Dumpling King, sells 6 dumplings for $10. I promise you will not be dissapointed by anywhere you go in this neighborhood, and anywhere you search for in Chinatown is guaranteed to be less than a 10 minute walk from campus. Another classic spot for Emerson students is Pho Pasteur, perfect for a warm soup on a snowy night or a refreshing thai tea. 

The beauty of coffee shops

There is a magical main character type feeling that comes from sitting at a coffee shop window, sipping on a warm latte, and taking out your laptop to do homework. I’ve developed a bad habit where I literally cannot focus on my schoolwork unless I’m sitting in a comfy booth and sipping on coffee or eating a pastry. Around Emerson, the two best places to sip on a dreamy latte and study are Thinking Cup Cafe or Cafe Nerro. My favorite coffee and pastry is from Tatte Bakery, a shop located on the side of the Little Building, but their dine-in is currently closed (plus, your Board Bucks work there). Thankfully, all of these cafes offer alternative milk options for your delicious coffee and usually a wide selection of breakfast items, lunch options, and pastries of course. 


Another perk of living near Chinatown is the excessive amount of boba places near Emerson. While this could’ve gone under the Chinatown section, I believe it deserves its own separate label- you will be overwhelmed by the flavor and add-on options, especially if you’re a first time boba drinker. Boba, the physical tapioca pearls, can be added to any tea, juice, coffee, smoothie, even milkshake. Some places around here offer add-ons like crushed oreos or cheese foam! I personally love the crushed oreos at the bottom of my drink. Even if you’ve never tried bubble tea before, there is literally something for everyone. My favorite spots around campus are Pin Ming and Tbaar

Don’t be afraid of the Dining Hall

Last but certainly not least, the Emerson Dining Hall is severely underrated. I know it’s not as exciting as going to a restaurant and ordering from a menu, but the staff work really hard to have a million different kinds of food for everyone and it’s literally always delicious. Whether you’re picky, vegan, vegetarian, keto, or anything in between, there are options for you (and they’re guaranteed to be scrumptious). I am a huge supporter of using all of the dining hall swipes given to me on my meal plan, even if it’s just to grab a classic double chocolate cupcake or to grab a fresh salad from the salad bar. A pro tip is to check the menu at the dining hall beforehand to see if there’s anything special or just to get excited before your meal. I think the dining hall absolutely kills it everyday and there’s no shame in using the swipes that you’re paying for with your meal plan. 

While I know I am just getting started on my culinary adventures in a new city, I feel like I’ve covered a good amount of ground and I’m beyond excited to continue exploring all Boston has to offer. From the perspective of a freshman, I wish I had heard these tips at the start of my in-person semester, and I hope it helps you too!

Anna Arriaga

Emerson '24

Hey! My name's Anna (sometimes Annie) Arriaga and I'm from the pastelito-filled land of Miami, FL. I'm currently studying in Boston, MA at Emerson College, majoring in Business of Creative Enterprises with a minor in Narrative Nonfiction. I'm a food blogger and writer with a particular affinity for all things dessert, Ben & Jerry's and MilkBar being my two go-to's.
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