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Cheap Eats

College food, Jumbo-size

(Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Kathleen Burge
Globe Staff / October 13, 2010

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The simple act of proposing dinner at this restaurant trips up the tongue: “Do you want to eat at Eat at Jumbo’s?’’ But the repetition, and the elephantine name, foreshadow the meal you will have. Food here is big. Burgers can be supersized into “mammoth’’ one-pounders. Large pizzas are a foot and a half wide. Pasta portions might be measured by the pound.

The menu seems designed for the students down the street at Tufts, whose mascot, Jumbo the Elephant, gives the restaurant its name. Most of the menu can be divided into classic student food groups: pizzas, burgers, wings, and sandwiches. And it’s cheap — the most expensive item is an 18-pack of large chicken tenders ($18.99), and it’s hard to imagine a single person, even the burliest of students, eating them all. Sandwiches and burgers are well under $10; an 18-inch cheese pizza is $10.99.

Still, in this nexus of meat and oil, there are some nods to vegetarianism and healthy eating. All of the chicken wings can also be ordered as tofu tenders ($7.49 for six), which look like overgrown fish sticks, but don’t taste as good. Better than the tofu tenders is the little Italy ($5.99), a summery sandwich of fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil. Veggie burgers, salads, and pasta are also available, and pizzas can be ordered on whole-wheat dough. Fried green beans ($4.79) are beans in name only — encased in shells of batter and deep-fried, any gustatory hint of vegetable has left this world for a happier place.

One of the best deals at Eat at Jumbo’s might be the pasta, which takes up only a few lines on the sprawling menu. Best of all, pasta meals come with excellent garlic knots ($3.50 for six if ordered separately), slightly crispy and not too greasy.

Eat at Jumbo’s excels at wings, which come in 31 flavors, including Buffalo Style, Mild; Buffalo Style, Suicide; and Teradactyl (a blend of teriyaki and barbecue sauces). We find maple BBQ ($6.59 for eight wings) smooth and entrancing. Zesty orange chicken tenders (pictured, $7.49 for six) have an Asian air, and are made from white meat. (Jumbo’s vows the chicken is fresh, not frozen.)

The restaurant, which opened in Ball Square last year, has a handful of tables inside — two outside in warmer weather — where the cheery yellow walls are covered with bold prints of fish and other artwork. Each table has a notebook for thoughts that strike diners as they’re eating. Some doodle, some sketch, some work out math problems. One person wrote: “I am at Jumbo’s and I am really FULL!’’

EAT AT JUMBO’S

688 Broadway, Somerville, 617-666-0000, www.eatatjumbos.com. Visa and Mastercard accepted. Not wheelchair accessible.

Prices Wings $6.59-$18.49, pizza $9.49-$16.99, sandwiches $5.49-$6.79, pasta $8.99-$10.99.

Hours Sun-Sat 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

Liquor None.

May we suggest Garlic knots, maple BBQ wings, zesty chicken tenders, little Italy sandwich.