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Cambridge restaurants

I''m going to be in Cambridge in October for a few days and would like some restaurant suggestions.

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  1. How about some guidelines: cost, formality, style, cuisine? I can suggest Moody's Felafel Palace in the former White Castle in Central Square, or the glitzy, pricey Rialto in the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square, both of which are pretty good, but may not be what you're looking for.

    6 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      I would like to know more about Moody's Felafel Palace, please.

      1. re: Chicky

        Cheap, fresh and very bare bones: maybe 6 seats, though most folks take out. Not the equal of my favorite felafel (Reef Cafe), but a very respectable sandwich. They also do a few kebabs, but I've never tried them. A couple of doors down from the police station.

        1. re: MC Slim JB

          Really good tabbouleh too--heavy on the parsley, light on the bulgur, which is how I like it.

      2. re: MC Slim JB

        our post:
        I was trying not to be wordy in my 1st post .How about top rated food and atmosphere,moderate to expensive,Italian,seafood and American for starters ? Also, what's your opinion on East Coast Grill for a party of 6-8 people ?

        1. re: crwrdh

          I'm a huge fan of ECG: they do grilled fish better than just about anyone, in my view, and do good raw bar, decent Yankee barbecue (real slow smoke cooking), and great cocktails. Hectic, casual, fun, consistent. One of the few nationally known places in Boston/Cambridge that lives up to its reputation.

          Salts is a terrific artisinal French place, not formal but with with quite lovely food. Intimate, refined, mid-priced.

          A few standbys: as mentioned, Rialto, though it's top-tier costwise. Creative high-end cooking, sort of New Med, with great service, atmosphere, wines. Dressy, but not stuffy.

          Tamarind Bay, for the most creative yet authentic Indian in Boston. Fancy of its type, which is to say casual but nicer looking than most.

          B-Side Lounge for above-average casual New American food in a great bar setting with extraordinary bartending. The teensy wine list went from okay to pretty forgettable, but that's a quibble.

          Some places on the New American tip with good grilling, casual but nice atmosphere, fine bartending, decent wines, and moderate prices: the Rendezvous at Central Square, Green Street, the Blue Room.

          Excellent Neo-Cuban food and drinks in a tight bar setting: Chez Henri. The dining room French is okay, but the bar is where to dine.

          A couple of holes in the wall: Izzy's (Puerto Rican), Baraka (Algerian), Forest Cafe (Mexican).

          Sandrine's for not-cheap but authentic and strong Alsatian cuisine. Great desserts, interesting wines.

          Several fine Portuguese places: my faves are O Cantinho and Casa Portugal. Brazilian spicy fish stew at Moqueca. All in East Cambridge, casual, relative bargains.

          1. re: MC Slim JB

            B-Side Lounge has some great fries w/bleu cheese, decadent desserts. Good drinks too. Found the atmosphere a bit pretensious....

      3. Rialto is one of my favorites in Beantown on either side of the river.

        1. Rialto is so damn overpriced...truly insulting.

          1. East Coast Grill is a lot of fun-- great food, strong drinks, and nice, if occasionally raucous atmosphere. Others to check out-- Central Kitchen in Central Square-- beautiful little room, excellent, eclectic wine list, and kick-ass food. they also are affiliated with a lounge upstairs called the Enormous Room--lots of couches and pillows to lounge on, great drink list, and you can get little plates to munch on if you want. Rendezvous, also in Central Square, is the new place that Steve Johnston, formerly of the Blue Room opened about a year or so ago. He's got influences from Asia to Africa to Latin America, all with a nod to local ingredients and authenticity of preparation. His former restaurant, the Blue Room in Kendall Square, has one of the best Sunday brunch deals around, as well as serving a pretty darn good dinner. Also an EXCELLENT wine list. Really eclectic and cool. Cambridge One in Harvard Square serves high end grilled flatbread style pizzas and salads. Good for lunch or casual dinner. Chez Henri, between Harvard and Porter-- eat in the bar and get conch fritters and a cuban sandwich. best f'in cuban i've had outside miami, and you can share with someone else and be full. great mojito and caipirinha, too. i don't love the dining room (prix fixe french fine dining) as much, oddly enough. Those'd be my top choices for Cambridge. if you're willing to go across the river a bit, let us know. also, as a last note-- rialto is in fact overpriced. avoid, avoid, avoid. same goes for upstairs on the square.

            2 Replies
            1. re: HeelsSoxHound

              Thanks HeelsSoxHound. You were a great help.

              1. re: HeelsSoxHound

                I agree with everything HeelsSoxHound suggested. Rendezvous is quickly becoming the hot Cambridge place. Slightly more expensive I'd add Salts, also in Central Sq. Outstanding. IMHO as good as anything across the river in So End... and you'll find parking.

                Harvard Sq: Tamarind Bay is not the usual Indian and very good. Panang (a small chain) should reopen by then - their lunch is a great deal. Red House is more upscale but there are ways to eat there more frugally. Casablanca under the Brattle Theater. We've twice managed dinner for two at the Monkey Bar of Upstairs on the Sq for under $100, but that's with not much wine. Avoid all Chinese restaurants in Harvard Sq and the awful Border Cafe.

                Up Mass Ave, towards Porter Sq (sorry, there's no other way to describe it) are, from most expensive to least, Chez Henri, which is French/Cuban, Temple Bar, West Side Lounge and Forest Cafe/ Mexican Cuisine.

                On the Somerville line, there's a corner with Dali's, a good tapas place, and the badly named Kebab Factory - actually a really good Indian place.

                All get busy on weekend nights - particularly Head of the Charles weekend - hope that's not when you're visiting (10/21 and 22) so do try reservations (tho not all take them).

              2. I have to strongly agree with the Casablanca rec. We wandered over for dinner on this dreary evening. It had been awhile, and we forgot how great it was (and always is). The service was friendly as always, and all the food was outstanding. We split the Eggplant and Musabaha to start. For entrees, she had the Scallops and I tried the Chicken. The Scallops were top notch as always, with incredible flavor to the dish. This was probably the first time in two years I ahve ordered chicken in a restaurant, and was I ever glad I did. I have to say (and then listen to everyone freak out), that I think the Chicken at Casablanca is better than Hammersley's (and it is really not even that close). The combination of the moist meat, pan juices, fig and ricotta dumplings is just unbelievable. We left vowing to return soon. Also, we got out of there for under $100 (before tip) with a couple cocktails.

                I also back the ECG call, it is consistently great.

                1. I had one of the worst meals that I can remember at Red House in Harvard Square a month ago. Even the Caesar salad was inedible. On the other hand Casablanca, which had slipped a bit, is back to it's usual brilliance.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: SmokeDawg

                    Casablanca has been my "go to" restaurant in Harvard square for a while -- especially for unplanned weekend evening meals, when it's often easy to find a seat for four or five in the bar, and impossible to get a table at many of its sub-par neighbors. Agree on Red House. On my last visit the entrees seemed to have been sitting around to cool and congeal for twenty minutes before being served. In fact, I've been surprised that Casablanca doesn't receive more attention on this board.

                    First up: the terrific olive oil, perfect for wiping up with thin pita bread. What is that stuff? Then a really nice casual mix of proper entrees and smaller plates. Agree that the chicken is terrific -- luscious, moist, rich. My SO and I have ordered it double plated a couple of times along with some smaller plates. A very cost effective and flavoursome way for two to dine. Deconstructed tuna nicoise is brilliant; devilled eggs reminiscent of Oleana, fatty pieces of grilled tuna loin. Wood grilled lamb is running in its own juice and a lovely garlicky creamy tomato sauce. Soups are consistently excellent, often with creative toppings. The burger, as rightly noted before, is also a total standout. When served with a generous plate of mixed greens instead of the (good) fries, I even manage to convince myself it's a fairly healthy option. I really appreciate being able to sit down, have a cocktail or beer, and then decide whether we want to order an indulgent three course meal with wine or a set of bar snacks and some good draft beers. Try the Wolaver's organic. Also the fried almonds. Essentially, it's great for a group, particularly one with different spending habits/constraints (entree prices are in the mid-twenties, but I've also had three beers and some snacks and left for $30).

                    1. re: katielp

                      glad to hear that casablanca is back up to par-- as i recall, the food suffered for awhile after ana left to open oleana.
                      gotta second the wolaver's rec--that's my uncle-in-law's brewery (along with otter creek, of course)! support the fam...

                  2. I would take Casablanca over Oleana any day of the week at this point.

                    1. I ate at Om a few months ago - Beautiful decor, very expensive, tiny portions and very lengthy wait after ordering. all of which I would put up with for truly exceptional food, but the food was merely OK. In fact, some of it wasn't even well thought out: I had the steak and eggs and the steak, a fillet, was good, but the poached egg had been rolled in panko and fried to make it crispy. Naturally the egg was over cooked, and the whole point of putting an egg on a steak is to have the runny yolk become a sauce.

                      The one thing that was exceptional was a Manhattan made with orange bitters. The best Manhattan I've ever had.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: SmokeDawg

                        I agree with your assessment of OM. Take a look at my post on the same restaurant a couple of days ago. My pomegranite Old Fashion was the best I have ever had. An extremly well mixed drinks. Otherwise the food and portion sizes left a lot to be desired. Great atmosphere and good service but besides that I don't think OM will make it in the long run unless a few things change.

                        1. re: SmokeDawg

                          I loved my meal at OM. Love the drinks even more. Bartenders are nice w/o being too snooty.

                          I also had the filet, but my egg was not overcooked. The duck app was a great combo of flavors -sharp, spicy (but not hot), sweet & salty. Found the Deconstructed Cesaer a bit too deconstructed for me.