Hotel @ MIT
San Diego chowhound is looking for nice restaurants (no restrictions on any ethnic cuisines) within walking distance of the Hotel @ MIT (20 Sidney Street, Cambridge). My wife will stay there for five days next week. The last time she was there the area around the hotel seems sometimes a little bit sketchy during the night, so the restaurants shouldn't be in any obscure dark streets.
Thanks for the help.
Salts, Rendezvous, Central Kitchen, and Baraka Cafe are all close by and very good. Central Square remains a little sketchy, but the only one on a side street is Baraka (superb N. African--FYI no booze), and I wouldn't fear walking the block and a half to get to it, even alone...This is practically-PhD-per-household Cambridge after all.
The area around the hotel is 100% not sketchy, really. Or rather, it was sketchy about 15 years ago, but that was before they leveled it and built about 30 academic and biotech facilities (and the hotel).
On Mass Av itself, there are plenty of loud drunks, but it's way safer than it used to be, and it's all well-lit and well-traveled. That's where you'll find the best restaurants (Rendezvous!) though Baraka is on Pearl St.
A 20 minute walk will take you to Coast Cafe which is a great takeout (3-seat) joint. The fried chicken is popular there but I'm partial to the pork chops.
That's my neighborhood, and you are right, it's not at all sketchy, although it wouldn't hurt for any woman walking around late at night to stick to the main or well-lit streets.
We like Baraka Cafe, Salts, Central Kitchen, Toscannini's (best ice cream in town), Mary Chung's. We've yet to try Coast Cafe or Rendezvous, but given all the good chatter about them here, it's about time we did.
If your wife will be dining solo, the bars at Central Kitchen and Rendezvous Central Square are both staffed by warm friendly servers who will add to her dining enjoyment.
If she wants to venture farther and has any discomfort about walking, have her take the bus. For 90 cents (correct change or a Charlie ticket) she can jump on the Number 1 bus and ride it up and down Mass Ave to reach the Back Bay or Harvard Square.
Central Square is a key mass transit, transfer point for folks of all kinds. She'll find lots of Harvard and MIT faculty and students as well as residents of Back Bay and Beacon Hill.
Yes, there are a few loud drunks and posturing youth, but I'm a woman who walks or buses there from the Back Bay all the time.
just wanted to echo what everyone else said- your wife can easily check out dining options outside of central square (bus and T) and there are tons of links on the website to other hound favorites. also, central kitchen, rendezvous, and baraka are all, in my mind, really good- i'd also add blue room to the list- it's not in central square but it's easy to get to from central (it's in kendall). also, wanted to reiterate what everyone else said- central square is not "sketchy" at all. certainly any one walking alone after dark anywhere should be vigilant but there's nothing "sketchy" about the neighborhood.
I'd like to add Cuchi Cuchi to the list of restaurants already suggested. It's very close to the hotel, and I love the little plates they serve. If she really doesn't want to go far, the restaurant hotel, Sidney's Grille, serves pretty good New American food.
As for the area, it depends on what you mean by sketchy. I wouldn't walk around the nearby areas off Mass Ave that are mostly businesses at night because there's no one around. However, walking up and down Mass Ave to and from these restaurants on the T shouldn't be more dangerous than a female walking alone in other urban environments.
The comment that the area around the hotel is a little bit sketchy at night came from a friend who is born in Boston and lived there for 35 years and recommended to be careful when walking around alone at night. I just mentioned that comment in my first post to see what other people think about it. Overall the suggested restaurants look very promising. Thanks to everybody.
Any woman walking alone in any city or town at night should be careful, no? I think the "sketchy" label is because there is a lot of highly-visible (boozy) vagrancy in Central Square - no different than many neighborhoods in SF according to me. As a single woman who has passed through Central Sq. solo for the past 10 years, not once have I had a problem with that crowd. I should also add that there is a lot of police presence and community involvement, too. My 2 cents - don't talk on your mobile while walking in an unknown neighborhood. That is exactly how most muggings around here occur.
Definitely take a walk to Cafe Baraka on Pearl Street. I enjoy dining solo, but this might not be the place for a solo dinner - more for a small group or date night. But the lunch menu is great, too. http://www.barakacafe.com/menu.html
Miracle of Science on Mass Ave has a GREAT affordable breakfast. Upscale bar food there, also at the Middlesex next door, otherwise. Central Kitchen (http://www.centralkitchen.tv/ ) and Rendezvous (http://www.rendezvouscentralsquare.com/) are great. Cuchi Cuchi is fun and you can have some good bites, but also a bit overrated IMHO. I'd walk to Kendall for dinner at the Blue Room (http://www.theblueroom.net/main.html)
I love the strawberry scones at Mariposa Bakery, but their coffee it terrible. Coffee at Toscanini's is much preferred and I like the savory (gorgonzola and pear) scones there.
It would be nice to walk to Inman Square one night and hit up East Coast Grill (seafood) http://eastcoastgrill.net/ or Moqueca (Brazilian) or O Cantinho (Portuguese) http://www.atasca.com/ocantinho/index.... A straight walk up Columbia and turn left, or for a more highly trafficked area, take Prospect from Mass Ave.
If your wife enjoys eating at the bar, I would also recommend the River Gods (get there early, though, like 6 pm-ish) for their eclectic pub menu (Korean and Indian elements, spiffed up versions of pub food - I've been told that the steak sandwich is superior to most others in Boston and the fries are excellent).
I heartily second Miracle of Science - nice hummus plate and I love the veggie burger. Plus, very small, but well-edited choice of beers on tap (some local).
For lunch, I like the buffet at Royal Bengal on Mass Ave, next to Miracle of Science and I LOVE the one at Rangzen, a Tibetan place on Pearl St. Tibetan food, per se, is not offered on the buffet, but the food is always freshly made and delicious - a mix of Chinese and Indian-type offerings, along with naan-like bread and soups. Really a pleasant little spot for lunch. Get there early, though. It fills up at lunch. Don't know about dinner, though, as I've not been, but there are intriguing items on the menu.
Another nice treat for lunch, if she needs to get lunch on her own, is Bytes at University Park. It's a lunch counter run by West Africans. They serve one mean falafel sandwich wrap (especially if Mohammed is behind the counter), in addition to West African peanut stew, Mexican foods, and curries. It's located on the small street behind the Hotel, in the ground floor of the Richards Building.
BTW, I work further down on Sidney Street and have gone home many nights after dark. I have never felt unsafe.