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Manhattanite needs a place for moderately priced "thank you" dinner

Headed to Boston this weekend to see some friends and take them out as a thanks for some work they did for me. I've known them forever so it's not about impressing them with bells and whistles. It's about going out with friends and having a great time while eating great food. I'm staying in Cambridge with them so near there would be ideal. They do have a car so we could drive if need be.

I'm looking for that place that's consistently good....it's a fun place to eat...moderately priced (main course under/near $20)...some place we'll say, "oh, remember that dinner from ________?"...a real "find" that only "locals would know about."

Too much to ask for? I hope not!

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  1. Central Kitchen in Central Sq., Blue Room in Kendall and Gargoyle's in Davis Sq. (Somerville) are mostly in that range and fun places. Not particular "finds" but favorites of many people here. Also Rendezvous in Central Sq. but that's mostly above $20. Helmand for Afghan food near the Cambridgeside Galleria.

    1. I think Rendezvous is a great idea. It's excellent, and while the entree prices may be a little over $20, it's very reasonable for the quality.

      They also have a Sunday prix fixe menu at $33 if that's a day you can do.

      Here's their regular menu:


      BTW, you're not a Yankee fan, are you?

      If so, I recommend Arby's in the Cambridgeside Galleria food court. Sublime.

      1. fun, moderately priced, and near Cambridge?

        I might catch some crap for this, and I wouldn't consider it a "find", but I think a trip to the Midwest Grill might be enjoyable. Nothing says "Thank You" like an overdose of meat.

        1. My vote would go for Muqueca on Cambridge St. in Inman. I went there last night and it was delicious (it is always getting good reviews on chow) and perfect for the cold Boston weather that just came in. They make amazing fish stews in clay pots. Both my friend and I were extremely happy with our meals and appetizer (fried yucca with a special sauce).

          1. Central Kitchen in Central Square, Cambridge is a good recommendation,

            But I would take them to Washington Square Tavern in Washington Square, Brookline. No sign out front, all the traffic through the restaurant is by word of mouth, its definitely a local spot. The food is great, the owner is friendly, the wine list is extensive, really really good.

            1. I'll back Central Kitchen, Rendezvous and the Blue Room.

              1. O Cantinho - Portugese in Inman Square
                East Coast Grille - Seafood/bbq in Inman Square
                Gargoyle's - Sit at the bar and inhale in Davis Square

                1. I just want to throw in my 2 cents about Central Kitchen. I have been a big fan for a long time but was very dissapointed last weekend. I had a Pork Chop which was WAY overcooked and the service was terrible. Our app plates sat on our table for about 15 minutes after we had finished. It was really too bad because I was a real advocate of this place.

                  If you want another Cambridge idea, I think that the B-Side Lounge would be a great place to take them. It is an old diner that was converted to a bar. They serve hard boiled eggs as free bar food and always have good music playing. The food is great, the place is owned by Paul from Chez Henri (a CH darling), and the drinks are just as good. Dont skip dessert either, the pies are made fresh by a woman in the neigborhood.....the pecan is my favorite. It is on Windsor St right behind Central Square.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: EP3

                    I'm pretty sure Paul (O'Donnell?) has nothing to do with the B Side. And it was never a diner I don't think, just a down and out old man/druggie bar. The points against the B Side is how crowded it gets while many of the others mentioned take reservations. And I always find it odd they don't have some sort of sandwich or burger option on the dinner menu.

                    1. re: Joanie

                      It is Paul O'Connell and unless he sold his interest recently, he does own part of the B-Side. That is why Dylan, Joe and the other bartenders used to rotate through Chez Henri. According to their website they do take reservations, but if you are looking for a sandwich, you might want to call and see what is being offered on the menu. It was the Windsor Tap which was a dive bar not a diner, you are right.

                      1. re: EP3

                        Weird, when I go to their web site I only get a first page with hours/address and nothing else to click onto. I thought Paul O. had something to do with it in the beginning but hadn't heard his name associated with it in so long, figured he just dealt with Chez Henri now.

                        1. re: EP3

                          Hot Lunches
                          (reference to the old Windsor Tap sign)

                        2. re: Joanie

                          Have no idea who owns the place, but the B-Side does have a few sandwiches on the menu. I was with some folks the other night, and some people had the chicken BLT, which they all seemed to like. I certainly hope so, since any $12 sandwich should be incredible. Personally, I think the food there is consistently mediocre and overly expensive. Certainly nothing esp memorable in culinary terms.

                          According to legend, the old Windsor Tap (the bar that used to be there) was the best place in Cambridge to get coke or get stabbed during the late 80s.

                        3. re: EP3

                          I'm a huge fan of Central Kitchen, but this has happened to me too. Basically, my wife and I always sit at the bar if at all possible, where the service is always excellent. If we end up at the table it's a roll of the dice, with less-than-pleasing service perhaps 20% of the time.

                        4. How about a little fun and try Redbones BBQ in Davis Square in Somerville? Great Q and decent prices. Then saunter across the street to Johnny D's for some great live music and drinks!

                          1. Is alcohol a requirement? If no, I'd highly recommend Baraka Cafe in Central Square.

                            Exotic, but homey, utterly delicious North African food, with a decidedly only-in-Cambridge vibe in an intimate, warm space.

                            I've not personally tried the Torta Bastilla, but reports on this board indicate that the (slightly bizarre) 36-hour advance notice is worth it.

                            In lieu of alcohol, be sure to get a pitcher of their outstanding spiced lemonade with rose petals.

                            1. Grotto immediately came to mind. Not Cambridge, but a quick ride on the Red Line to Beacon Hill. I just feel certain you'd dig the subterranean atmosphere and the massive portions of very good food. And if they are Cantabridgians, they may not go across the river so much for dinner, making it even more memorable.

                                1. A lot of the mentioned restaurants are either very open rooms or slightly larger. For a dinner with old friends in Cambridge, I might personally pick Trattoria Pulcinella (possibly a bit above your price range). For something a little more fun, you could try Dali (loud) but they do not take reservations.

                                  1. Again, not Cambridge, but I would suggest Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain. With a wicked cold front coming in this weekend, you might not have problems getting a reservation so close to the weekend.