College students are back in town once again, and many if not most will be looking for places for food, drink (if they can), and live music. The spots that offer all three tend to be along subway lines, so they are pretty convenient for students who more often than not don’t have wheels, but for those who are up for an Uber, cab, bus, or a little walking, one of the better options for a night of grub, booze, and tunes is in a great little section of Cambridge (Inman Square) that’s just a bit off the beaten path. And with such legendary places as T.T. the Bear’s in Central Square and Johnny D’s in Somerville’s Davis Square being history, Atwood’s Tavern on the eastern edge of the square seems to have taken on even more of a role in the local and regional music scene while also offering up some tasty dishes as well as beers that will satisfy even the biggest beer nerds out there.
Inman Square is full of restaurants and bars, and if it were on a subway line, the area would probably be jammed with people night and day. But it isn’t, so it’s typically filled with locals, people with cars, and those who don’t mind one of the options mentioned above, including the 69, 83, or 91 if opting for a bus. Because Atwood’s is just outside of the heart of the square, it is a bit of a hidden spot because there isn’t nearly as much foot traffic as there is further up Cambridge Street where it intersects Hampshire Street. Upon first glance, it is a little difficult to figure out exactly what Atwood’s is—is it a dive bar? An Irish pub? Maybe it’s an upscale watering hole? Well, it’s none of these, really, instead being a good, solid, midlevel place that oozes charm inside, with lots of dark woods, a bar that looks like it has seen its share of history, a small stage in the back that is integrated nicely with the rest of the space, and a hidden side patio that is accessed by a door beyond the bar.
It seems that with some of the big names among clubs now gone, Atwood’s is mentioned more often as one of the best places to hit for live music, but as indicated earlier, this is not just a music club. Much of the food here is quite good, including a cheese plate that comes with sourdough bread, quince jam, dried apricots, and an always-changing mix of cheeses; a hummus plate that is heavy on the garlic and comes with house-made pita chips; a grilled boneless pork chop that’s brightened up a bit by fennel and ginger; a creamy mac and cheese made even better with the addition of bacon; a juicy grass-fed burger made using local beef; a savory wild boar bratwurst sandwich on rye; and for dessert, a Taza chocolate pudding that’s almost too rich (if that’s possible), along with an equally decadent creme brulee. The beer list at Atwood’s includes some good ones, with regional favorites such as Lawson’s, Notch, Idle Hands, Night Shift, Mayflower, Jack’s Abby, and Castle Island sharing the list with a large number of beers from overseas, while a handful of wines and specialty cocktails are available as well. On the music side of things, you’ll find everything from blues to rock to jazz to R&B to bluegrass and more here, and live acts can be found nearly every night.
To those new and returning students (and others as well) who are looking for more than just a bite to eat when they go out at night, Atwood’s Tavern may not be a crazy place or a meat market, but there are few better options in the Boston area for food, drink, and music. And even though it remains a bit of a hidden spot, it is starting to get “discovered” by more and more people, so it might not be the under-the-radar gem that it once was—and that’s probably a good thing, because Atwood’s is the type of unassuming little place that you definitely want to root for.
ATWOOD’S TAVERN. 877 CAMBRIDGE ST., CAMBRIDGE. ATWOODSTAVERN.COM
Marc is the founder of @hiddenboston, a textbook editor, a hike leader for @AppMtnClub, and a food and travel writer and commenter for DigBoston, NBC/NECN, WBZ, WMFO and indie617.