Every now and then a restaurant pops up on the radar for one particular dish, and when it happens to be a food item that can only be found in a handful of dining spots around the country, that tends to make it just a bit more interesting. And so it goes with Tasty Cafe on the Hill, a humble little dining spot near Tufts University in Medford that offers a number of breakfast, lunch, and dinner items--and which also offers up a rather wild-looking sandwich called the francesinha, a Portuguese item that cannot be found anywhere else in the Greater Boston area (or nearly anywhere else, for that matter), and which slowly but surely seems to be putting this place on the map.
Tasty Cafe on the Hill (which is also known as Tasty on the Hill or simply Tasty Cafe) is located along a stretch of Boston Avenue that shifts back and forth between industrial, residential, and commercial while also having the influence of Tufts University at its doorstep. The eatery is one of many little storefronts lining the street here and there between Mystic Valley Parkway and College Avenue, and it is very easy to miss because it tends to blend in with so many of the other businesses along the road. The interior of Tasty Cafe on the Hill feels a bit like that of a deli or a sub shop, which makes sense because the previous business there was Tasty Gourmet, a deli that was popular with college students for a number of years. A handful of tables are set up inside the place, and it has both sitdown service for people dining in and counter service for those doing takeout.
The offerings at Tasty Cafe on the Hill include a mix of American dishes, Portuguese fare, and quick meals for those on the run, with bacon and eggs, bagels, oatmeal, breakfast sandwiches, eggs benedict, corned beef hash, muffins, croissants, waffles, pancakes, French toast, and omelets offered for breakfast, and soups, salads, sandwiches (including subs, wraps, club sandwiches, and panini) and pasta dishes available for lunch, while the dinner menu includes a number of Portuguese plates along with steak tips. And while there are some real highlights on the menu such as the gut-busting Portuguese beef plate (bife a portuguesa) with ham and an egg, the pastrami sandwich with pesto, the grilled chicken sandwich with bacon and monterey jack on sourdough, and an item which is no longer on the regular menu but may now be on special (the Cubano), the real star of the show here is the francesinha. So what exactly is a francesinha? Well, Tasty Cafe on the Hill has several versions, but the traditional version includes steak, ham, linguica, bacon, a hot dog, a fried egg, and American cheese, all stuffed into a couple of pieces of bread and doused with a reddish-orange tomato-based sauce that also has beer and some secret ingredients. The result is a sandwich that a) cannot be eaten by hand, and b) will probably be the last thing you eat all day unless you opt for a half sandwich, but even then, it is certainly a nap-inducing meal. (Options among the francesinhas at Tasty Cafe on the Hill include smoked salmon, grilled chicken, ground beef, and salted cod.) For those who have room, desserts at the restaurant include crepes, ice cream, and chocolate mousse, while drinks include a few different smoothie options and a very good hot chocolate.
It may not look like a unique spot, but Medford's Tasty Cafe on the Hill is certainly unique for its over-the-top francesinhas--and its other Portuguese and American items may not be so unusual, but they are top notch as well. If you're a sandwich lover (and who isn't?) and don't mind feeling just a bit sluggish after eating a meal, head over to this quirky little spot near Tufts to see why it's beginning to get noticed.
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