Just steps away from the heart of Tufts campus lies Tasty Cafe & Kitchen, a hub of community, social interaction and good food, which are not to be missed as a Tufts student. Upon entering, your eyes will immediately be drawn to the beautiful white marble counters and then to the coffee bar, where delectable espresso drinks are brought to fruition. The menu’s promise of fresh avocado toast or sweet acai bowls flirt with the appetite, and the quaint setting facilitates the development of friendships, both new and old.
Patrick Pereira, current owner of Tasty Cafe, explained that his father opened the business in 2015. The original menu took influence from both Portuguese cuisine and diner-style American breakfast foods. Eventually, Pereira’s father gave him a shot at running the cafe.
“It gave me the opportunity to finally step in and do what I wanted to do with it,” Pereira said.
Pereira noted the uniqueness of Tasty Cafe as being a part of not only the Medford community, but the Tufts community specifically. After taking over Tasty Cafe, Pereira began to make changes that he thought would cater to the Tufts community the best.
“My vision [for] the cafe,” Pereira said, “ … was to make [it] essentially a playground for Tufts University, a place where you guys can come and gather and hang out with your friends and have a good time.”
To do this, Pereira explained that Tasty Cafe offers “a little bit of everything.” The menu itself is extensive, with options ranging from smoothies to salads and sandwiches. Serving aesthetically pleasing food was also one of Pereira’s aims because it creates publicity for the cafe and a positive experience for the customer.
“I wanted to make a menu that, in a way, created a sense of community,” Pereira said. “My big thing is to provide something that someone wants to take a picture of and post it on Instagram.”
Though Tasty Cafe resides within a block of two other cafes, they all specialize in something different. According to Pereira, Danish Pastry House mostly caters to people looking for pastries, while Tamper Cafe specializes in coffee and espresso drinks. Pereira explained how Tasty Cafe differentiates itself through variety.
“We don’t really specialize in one thing. … Anyone could walk in here and find something that they like. … We have vegan items for anyone who's vegan [and] there are vegetarian items. … We don’t necessarily have the biggest menu in the world, but we offer a lot of different types of things, which is different than what everybody else does around here,” Pereira said.
Pereira also emphasized the close relationship that Tasty Cafe has with Danish Pastry House and Tamper Cafe.
“We always work with each other. If we need something and they have it, then we go there and we get it,” Pereira said.
The pandemic was a rough time for hospitality businesses, and the same can be said of Tasty Cafe. The business ended up closing for a month, but only because Pereira himself came down with COVID-19. However, the time spent away from customers was put to productive use.
“During that month is actually when I did that first menu change,” Pereira said. “We still hadn’t rebranded; we still hadn’t really renovated the store. … We eliminated a lot of that Portuguese concept stuff and made it more of a cafe-like experience.”
Even prior to the pandemic, about half of Tasty Cafe’s business was conducted through UberEats and GrubHub. Therefore, while the pandemic led to a loss of in-person clientele, it did not hurt the cafe as much as it could have. In fact, it was during this time when Tasty Cafe was able to grow its online presence.
Overall, Pereira is most proud of the influence that Tasty Cafe has gained in the community.
“Hearing … not just my name, but Tasty’s name, across campus, across the city of Medford is something that I take a lot of pride in,” Pereira said. As for his long-term hopes for the business, Pereira would like to open up additional locations across Massachusetts, especially in areas with colleges. Pereira is also thinking about his ambitions for the near future.
“Essentially, one of my biggest goals [for] the next couple of years is to get another location around here because I think that we’ve gotten too small.” A larger space would enable the cafe to be more efficient, heightening both the customer and employee experience.
Pereira has learned many lessons through his journey rebranding Tasty Cafe. In the summer of 2021, the cafe underwent renovation. When construction began in the store, he found himself questioning whether it was the right choice. He came to a realization, reminding himself why he “fell in love” with running the cafe.
“This is the risk I always wanted to take, and it worked out wonderfully. … And I think that if I could give my piece of advice, it’s for anyone to take a risk and just also know that anyone could do what I do,” Pereira said.
Ann Yancey Bassett, a senior at Tufts University and an employee of Tasty Cafe since January 2022, provided insight into the positive working environment the cafe provides. Bassett described the sense of community among the staff, most of whom are not Tufts students like herself.
“I really like that it’s not a totally student-oriented cafe in terms of the employees, because I feel like I’m part of a community that’s outside of Tufts,” Bassett said. “I love all my coworkers, but then I still get to see Tufts students because they are our most popular clients.”
Similar to Pereira, Bassett views Tasty Cafe as a hub for Tufts students to come together. She said that while people can go there to work, the space is more conducive to social gatherings.
“I think with the blenders running and the espresso machine and the music, there’s a ton going on in there. And I think there’s just a lot of energy,” Bassett said. “It’s a place where people go to just get off campus and hang out with friends.”
Bassett also touched on how Pereira is pivotal in creating the sense of community at Tasty Cafe. According to Bassett, this might be influenced by the fact that several of Pereira’s family members work as staff members as well as the relationships he builds with regular customers.
“[Pereira] doesn’t explicitly tell employees that they need to mimic that behavior, but then you kind of just do, because that’s what other employees are doing,” Bassett said.
Bassett feels that Tasty Cafe wouldn’t be itself without the special dynamic between the employees and the customers.
“That culture and environment [from the customers] definitely carries over to the employees as well,” Bassett said. “Or maybe it carries over from the employees to the customers. I think it’s a symbiotic relationship.”
The connections within the team at Tasty Cafe have an immense impact on the environment there.
“I do definitely feel like a part of a community there, which makes it a fun place to work, which then in turn makes it a fun place to be,” Bassett said.
Anika Buder-Greenwood, a Tufts sophomore and regular customer at Tasty Cafe, discovered the cafe because of its proximity to her freshman dorm, Hill Hall. As a lover of brunch and coffee, it was not hard for her friends to convince her to visit the cafe.
“I associate Tasty Cafe with just a really nice break from Tufts Dining sometimes. It’s also something that I look forward to on a Saturday, or a Friday, or Sunday,” Buder-Greenwood said.
Buder-Greenwood visits Tasty Cafe for more than a takeout experience.
“I don’t really go in there that much for like a quick coffee grab-and-go, I go in for an actual meal with friends. … When I go, it means that I’m going to not only be with my friend community but maybe see more people I know. So it’s a nice social spot, as well as just a place to relax and enjoy good food,” Buder-Greenwood said. “It also is really nice that Tasty is a really successful small business run by a family.”
Like Bassett, Buder-Greenwood has also noticed the closeness and hardworking nature of the staff at Tasty Cafe, which has only improved her experience.
“I think it’s really nice that they always greet you with a smile and remember my order … and it means a lot that the workers are so friendly,” Buder-Greenwood said.
The cafe itself serves multiple functions for the Tufts community. In three words, Buder-Greenwood described Tasty Cafe as “lively, delicious and bright.” The convenient location, the food and the atmosphere all contribute to its appeal.
When we spend time with those we love, we want that experience to be gratifying in every way. Tasty Cafe is just the place to feel connected to ourselves, our peers and the local community.