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, etc.), or maybe simply the "hidden" factor of places that are a bit off the beaten path. Well, the Thirsty Scholar Pub in Somerville certainly seems to hit the target on all three of these, and the food at this charming spot near the Cambridge border isn't half-bad, either, with a few dishes that really 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 we admit that there are better restaurants for food nearby (including an Irish pub called The Druid just down the street in Inman Square), the food here can be very good, depending on what you get. Standouts among appetizers include a delicious plate of roasted mussels with a spicy cream sauce; a meaty chili with olives, peppers, and tomatoes, and tri-colored tortilla chips on the side; and a surprisingly fresh Caesar salad that has a mild yet tasty dressing. Some good choices among the main entrees include an above-average char-broiled burger that is a good half-pound of meat and comes on a bulkie roll; fish and chips that have a flavorful Sierra Nevada beer batter covering the flaky white meat; a beef stew that has huge chunks of meat and lots of carrots and potatoes, and is simmered in Otter Creek Stovepipe Porter; and a piping hot chicken pot pie whose crust has a hint of cheese and a rich-tasting gravy inside the pie. The beer list at the Thirsty Scholar is impressive, 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, the Thirsty Scholar probably isn't for you. And if you want loud music and dancing, it is probably best to go elsewhere. But this pub is a great spot if you're looking for quiet conversation, terrific atmosphere, and decent food in a slightly out-of-the-way location.
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