Back Bay/Cambridge recommendations?
I'll be staying at the Hyatt on Memorial Drive in Cambridge for the first week of April, attending a conference at the Hynes Convention Center. I've been to Boston only once before, over 10 years ago. Would love recommendations for some great food - cheap is better! Thai? Sushi? Tapas? Sandwiches? Any ethnic is fine by me...send me to your great holes in the walls!
(Though I will have a car, I'd prefer to just leave it parked for the week if possible!)
Parking is a nightmare in Back Bay and Cambridge, so you're smart to leave it parked.
You'll definitely get more bang for your restaurant buck eating in Cambridge. Back Bay has a bad ratio of cost to quality food. If you're at the Hynes, I would probably venture into the South End-which is behind the Hynes auditorium-for good restaurants. I'll defer to the South End experts for their advice.
In Back Bay on Boylston, I'd highly recommend the Parish Cafe for sandwiches. Also in Back Bay for Tapas, Tapeo on Newbury Street is pretty good.
Tapas: take a taxi from the Hyatt to Cuchi Cuchi on Main Street. The drinks are pricey, but the tapas are yummy, and it's a great atmosphere.
Seafood: the East Coast Grill is a reliable favorite, and a quintessential Cambridge restaurant.
Indian: there's a bunch of them around Central and Harvard Squares. I like India Pavillion in Central, and Punjabi Dhaba in Inman Sq., which is more of a takeout joint.
Portuguese: There's a slew of Portuguese restaurants along Cambridge Street. O Cantinho is one of my faves, and a good value, but there's also Portugalia, the Sunset, and Atasca on Hampshire St. in Kendall Square.
Bistros: Central Kitchen and Rendezvous both have wonderful food, as does the Blue Room in Kendall Square. Central is moderately priced, but the Blue Room and Rendezvous could set you back a bit.
If you want excellent pub food and a nice atmosphere, the Druid in Inman Square has a great burger, as well as roast chicken, fish and chips, etc. And their homemade bread is to die for.
Excellent suggestions. For Cambridge and immediately surrounding areas, I'd also add:
Tapas: Dali, which I prefer to Cuchi Cuchi. It's on the Cambridge/Somerville line between Inman Square and Porter Square and cabs can go there just as easily.
Indian: for me, Harvard Square's Indian options easily beat Central Square's. Tamarind Bay, Cafe of India, and Tanjore are especially good. And Kebab Factory is right across the street from Dali.
Seafood: Dolphin Seafood is good and very reasonably priced, between Harvard Square and Central Square. And there's always the pricier Legal Seafoods, whose mention provokes strong pro- and anti-reactions on this board; I like it, myself. Note that in addition to seafood, East Coast Grill also provides arguably the best BBQ in the Boston area.
Pubs: River Gods outside of Central Square provides stellar quality pub grub, as good as any I've had anywhere.
Brazilian: Muqueca near Inman Square does an excellent and very reasonably priced version of this style of cooking. And if you want to OD at an all-you-can-eat-meat-heavy churrasco rodizio style place, Midwest Grill ably fills the bill. It's pretty much across the street from Muqueca.
Cajun: Magnolia's is excellent. Also in Inman Square.
There are a couple of reasonable choices among the otherwise overpriced and underwhelming options on Newbury Street in the Back Bay. Both the Other Side Cafe and Trident Booksellers and Cafe are good cheap granola-coffee-shop-lunch type places. Tapeo does decent tapas. And there's an outpost of the local ice cream chain Emack and Bolio's.
Thai: Pepper Sky's on Pearl Street near Central Square. There's also a Tibetan place next door which has gotten rave reviews from friends, and another Middle-Eastern (Moroccan?) just down Pearl. From the Hyatt, go West on Memorial, take a right on Brookline, left on Green. There's a garage at Green and Pearl.
Dulex on Clarendon Street in the South End for dinner (opens at 5.30pm). It's fairly cheap for both food & beers, cash only. If it's busy, either sit at the bar or give the waitress your name if you want to wait for a table. It's about 2 blocks past the Hard Rock cafe.
Praish has already been mentioned, great big sandwiches. Also it's a block from the Gardens so you can stretch your legs walking around the frog pond. ;)
If you want breakfast near the Hynes it's hard to find a good inexpensive place. Steves Greek isn't bad for breakfast and for lunch they do a decent Gyros sandwich. But, I think Thornton's on Huntington Ave (5 min from the Hynes) is a good inexpensive breakfast joint. Link here w/ map & address: http://www.yelp.com/biz/H_nEq0mJ_tg6pVEFpqxNog
Shays Beer & Wine pub on JFK street in Harvard Sq. They do decent burgers (about $6) and beer! Good place to sit and chill and has a friendly crowd. No hard stuff just beer & wine!
Grendels (opp Tommy Doyles) in Harvard Sq. Interesting choice of beers, not so bad pub grub.
Loads of Indian places in or near Central Sq, but I like Royal Bengali at 313 Mass Ave (you could catch the #1 bus from near the Hynes to here):
It's tiny, and they do a really decent lunch buffet. If they're full, 2 blocks away is Desi Dhaba, then a block past that is Shalimar. All decent Indian joints all decent inexpensive lunch buffets.
Mick's "Dulex" is probably a typo for "Delux," and if so, I'll second it as a fun little South End dive with decent food. Steve's is a passable supercheap Greek greasy spoon; one can do worse in this neighborhood and pay more to boot.
I've been very disappointed with Grendel's the few times I've gone. Shay's is to my mind a better Harvard Square bar option.
Shalimar's lunch buffet (which I went to not that long ago) was the worst I've ever had anywhere, topped off by a rank and smelly men's room. I'd go to Harvard Square for Indian food, but if really you've got your heart set on Central Square's Indian options, anything's got to be better than Shalimar.
japanese - decent sushi in Cambridge at Cafe Sushi on mass ave (prob have to trek to Chestnut Hill to get better), Kotobukiya on porter exchange, passable noodles at the same place.
indian - who knows, had good luck at Royal Bengali near MIT, Tajore at harvard, Punjabi Dhabi in Inman
cross the river to Alston for Victoria's for good cantonese seafood....the super 88 food court and a bunch of new ethnic places in alston....Chinatown has probably among the best seafood in town at East Ocean City, someone else here mentioned a place called Peach Farm or something like that?