Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The best bites in town for college students

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff / Daily Collegian)

Amherst and the surrounding areas are filled with fun and diverse places to eat. Whether you are in the mood for an American classic, traditional Spanish, Middle Eastern or Asian, Amherst has a place for you. The following picks are some of my carefully vetted favorites. For this article, I focused on three categories to target some of the easier, cheaper places that would attract thrifty college students: cost, speedy service and tastiness.

Pita Pockets

Located in downtown Amherst, sandwiched between Panda East and Amherst Ice Cream, this Syrian family-run business sits at the pinnacle of my list. The base of their food is a delicious home-made falafel that pairs with home-made hummus. Falafel pockets can be complimented with grilled chicken, gyros, kafta and a wide variety of vegetables. The menu is rounded out by salads, appetizers and plated dinners. Every meal is made with a smile in this shop; the biggest attraction here is quite possibly the service behind the counter. Each individual coming in to the Amherst Pita Pockets feels as if their every taste and desire is being attended to in a welcoming, friendly and casual environment. Another bonus is the price: not a thing on the menu runs over $10 as it sits. The way to get the best value out of the whole excursion is by heading over to CVS, buying a can of Arizona Iced Tea ($1), getting cash back to avoid the ATM fee, then picking up a hefty falafel pocket for $8 that will be ready in minutes.

La Veracruzana

Across from the commons in downtown Amherst, La Veracruzana is another small family-run business that focuses on authentic Mexican food. Their huge menu offers food for just about any taste, with burritos, enchiladas, tacos and so much more. Their menu is also remarkably cheap for the quality of the food and sizeable portions, ranging from around $5 up to around $20 for specials and seafood. It is very easy to find a large and tasty meal for under $15. And for those over 21, La Veracruzana also offers tequila, margaritas and other delicious Mexican alcoholic beverages.

The Black Sheep

This cafe offers up great sandwiches, baked goods and a positive atmosphere from breakfast to dinner. All of the baked goods are made in house (to which the aroma can attest), the sandwiches are craftily made and if you need to be convinced of their quality, they’ve been around for over 30 years – quite an accomplishment and testament to their consistency. Topping off at $9 for specialty sandwiches, prices generally go down from there. If the specialties don’t particularly catch your interest, there’s also the option to build your own sandwich or salad. The mulled apple cider only available seasonally is a great compliment to a crisp autumn day and sandwich of your choice.

Miss Saigon

I would be remiss to leave out this venerable Vietnamese restaurant. Sidled right along the alleyway next to CVS in Amherst, Miss Saigon gets pretty busy at times and for good reason. A great date spot with pleasant staff and great food, an ample entree typically runs around $12. If you are a light eater, expect two meals out of a trip to Miss Saigon. The crispy noodle stir fry is a must, as is any pho dish. Miss Saigon is made as a sit-down place to eat and enjoy food calmly, but the service is quick, guaranteeing you will not be left to starve.

Hillside Pizza

They’re a little out of the way, but easily the best pizza place around (yes, better than Antonio’s.) Located on Route 9 next to the Central Rock Gym, Hillside Pizza serves sandwiches and salads, but their pizza is the star. Their pizzas run from $13 for a large cheese to $21.50 for some specialty large pies, and are made from organic, locally-sourced ingredients. Every day they run special pizzas, and have a variety of favorite pies such as “The Great Scott,” a basil pesto, chicken and tomato pizza. They sell by the slice, but you get the most bang for your buck with a full pie.

These are some of my favorite places to grab food in town, but of course there are so many more. Places like Zhang’s Kitchen, The Mission Cantina and countless others have menus waiting for you to peruse.


Matt Leonard can be reached at [email protected].

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    Ryan McKinneyOct 4, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    Hillside better than Antonio’s? No way, no how!