Somervillians pride themselves on being different. If you can think of something unconventional, they have a festival for it. Activist street bands? Check. The HONK! Festivaltakes place on Columbus Day weekend. Marshmallow Fluff? Double check! Fluff was invented here, and it’s celebrated every September with a street fairthat includes everything from fluff science experiments to fluff cocktails. Beards? Of course! BeardFestis coming up in November.

Somerville’s quirkiest neighborhood has got to be Union Square. That’s where you’ll find the Fluff festival, a non-profit community craft studio called Artisan’s Asylum, one speakeasy and a castle (ok, the Prospect Hill Monument). Union Square has a personality all its own. A large part of the area’s unique flavor comes from the many immigrants who live and work in the neighborhood.

I wanted to learn more about Union Square, so I asked Rachel Strutt to give me a tour. She’s a blogger, author and program manager at the Somerville Arts Council. Rachel took me everywhere from the Neighborhood Restaurant, where they make wine from their grape arbor, to Capone Foods, where owner Al Capone (yep, that’s his real name) sells delicious handmade pastas from his ancestral Italy and empanadas from his native Argentina.

My search for unusual international food brought me to Dosa Temple, an Indian eatery at the edge of the square. While most Indian restaurants in the United States serve North Indian dishes (tandoori chicken, anyone?), Dosa Temple serves South Indian food. In addition to offering an uncommon cuisine, Dosa Temple is a vegetarian’s paradise — chef Siva Kumar serves all-vegetarian entrees without trying to adapt meat dishes into bland vegetable-based alternatives.

Not only does Chef Siva use traditional recipes, he also employs traditional culinary techniques. He makes large, crepe-like dosas by hand on a flat-top grill, as is done in India.  He also makes dough for his lentil doughnuts in a large stone grinder and a vermicelli noodle dessert so good that I had to be torn away, or there would have been none left for the rest of the crew!         

Union Square is a wonderful place to visit for new culinary and cultural experiences. There is such a diversity of food in the neighborhood that a recently published book, "Nibble," tells the story of Union Square through its culinary offerings. From Portuguese to Haitian to Peruvian to South Indian, it's all there for you to try in Somerville.