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Moving to Porter Square

This weekend, I'll be moving to Porter Square. My friend and I would like some advice on where to find the following:

For the kitchen:
A butcher - Savenor's is not a daily option. I know about McKinnon's. How's the meat at Market Basket?
A baker - I don't remember Petsi's selling bread....should I just trek to Hi-Rise or Iggy's? Does Union Bakery carry breads?
A candlestick maker - ok, not really
A fish monger - Should I just stick with Courthouse? How's the fish at Market Basket?
Good looking produce - Will I have to treck out to Russo's or can Market Basket deliver the goods? I know that once the farmer's markets start, I'll feel better about this, but in the mean time...
An all purpose grocery store for when we're feeling lazy - Market Basket? Is Evergood Market good in a pinch?

Why are both Shaws/Star markets so abysmal?

Eating out:
Chinese - What should I order at Zoe's? I feel like it's very hit or miss.
Indian - Passage to India seems average and India Club is turning into Addis Red Sea - what else is there or should I stick with Namaskar in Davis?
Thai - Tried Tamarind House recently and wasn't blown away, but it will do in a pinch - is there anything else worthwhile? How's Sugar & Spice?
Pizza - How's Di Mio? I know Pini's delivers down here.
Coffee - Cafe Rustica - is their cappuccino any good? Other neighborhood coffee shops? I'm adverse to Rose's.
Other than Christopher's and Sully's, is there another good pub around? How's the food at the Thirsty Scholar?
A great salad or sandwich - I'm drawing a blank here - is Blue Shirt in Davis my best bet? Or Oxford Spa?
Tea shop - Does Tea Zone have service or is it just a store?
Deli/Appetizing - Where to get lox on a bagel for breakfast? Or a great pastrami on rye? I might be pushing my luck.

Thanks!

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    1. I stopped eating at the Thirsty Scholar a while back because the quality of the food and the service were abysmal. My last burger there (requested medium rare) bore a very strong resemblance to a hockey puck. My second to last visit included an order of nachos that came out with cold congealed cheese - yum.

      Good place to have a beer and watch a game, but don't eat there.

      3 Replies
      1. re: heathermb

        ew. Just ew. Thanks for the warning.

        1. re: heathermb

          My husband and I went to the Thirsty Scholar for dinner a couple of Wednesdays ago, and had fine drinks, good pub food, hot & not congealed nachos & attentive service. It was pretty empty, as it was mid-week & relatively early, but we'd go again.

          1. re: trsf

            I'm glad to hear your experience was better than mine. Given my string of many bad food experiences, I'm going to stay away until I hear that things have VASTLY improved. Too many other good places to go!

        2. I won't attempt a comprehensive response, but a few notes from a guy who lived in Porter Square for years.

          Baker: if you're looking for bread, Hi-Rise is probably your best bet (I think Iggy's is ridiculously overrated). Formaggio Kitchen also carries a wide selection of good breads made daily, including wonderful breads by B&R (the guy who used to be the baker at Sel de la Terre). They also do deli sandwiches most days -- including the occasional pastrami on rye, which they do very well.

          Thai: I think you're being too generous with Tamarind House. It stinks. You may have to go to Harvard Square or Inman for decent Thai, although I haven't tried Sugar & Spice.

          Pub: best bet is to head into Davis, where there are several.

          Korean: Yes, I know you didn't ask, but I need to mention Seoul Food on MassAve, which is delightful and reliable. It was one of my mainstays when I lived over there.

          Indian: there was a place just north of the square, across from KFC, whose name I can't recall, but I remember it got some good writeups.

          Pizza: Armando's in Huron Village is surprisingly decent. So is Village Kitchen, also in Huron Village. I believe Armando's delivers.

          4 Replies
          1. re: B. Savarin

            I think the place across from KFC is now an Afghani place. It used to be called Buzkachi but they changed the name.

            I agree with both Armando's and Village Kitchen. I like VK a lot.

            There is also Orantique in Huron Village. I haven't had much luck with great food there. Always luke warm and had been sitting in the pot for awhile. But very sweet service.

            1. re: beetlebug

              Now if only the Walden St Bridge would open back up, I could zip constantly up there!

            2. re: B. Savarin

              Unfortunately, Armando's does not deliver, but their pizza is worth the quick drive if you can pick it up.
              Sugar & Spice - I like the soups and noodles. The Chicken Masaman Curry didn't resemble the Masaman I was expecting. It was very bland; just did have the right flavoring.
              Deli - One of the small convenience shops on the right towards Cambridge Common has Boar's Head and makes a good sandwich and breakfast sandwich to go.
              Lox on a bagel - when I want that, I head to the bar at S&S
              Places to check out: West Side Lounge for brunch or drinks at the bar. It is a great place to eat solo as well if you are out on a walk.
              Porter Exchange - my favorite is Choo Choo, it is Korean I believe. my favorite dish is the beef Soon Du bo -something like that
              I just popped into that convenience store that used to be the White Hen across from the Exchange. It is now Gourmet Deli or something like that. The staff was very nice and the place looked clean and had some good looking groceries on the shelves - nice honeys and condiments, some produce. I didn't check out the prices on the groceries, but the sandwich I got was good and well priced.

              Have fun exploring.

              1. re: B. Savarin

                I prefer Buk Kyung to Seoul Food. Seoul Food always seems really greasy to me. Also, their panchan is miserable.

                Thanks for the pizza recs!

              2. Baker - Formaggio has Iggy's breads as well as B&R (my current fave), Clear Flour and others. If you are going to Hi-Rise, there coffee and take out dinners are also very good.

                Meat - I usually just go to Whole Foods for meat. Fish also now that Fresh Pond Seafood shuttered its doors. Sometimes I go to the Fishmonger on Huron Ave (next to Formaggio).

                I can't help you with Market Basket because I don't go there often enough to give an accurate assessment. I go a few times a year and it's packed but reasonably priced. The produce is of good quality and the turnover is high. When I was on my mexican cooking phase, I noticed that the tomatillos were comparably priced to Whole Foods so the savings may not be as great on certain items.

                Thai - Tamarind House is slightly better than Sugar & Spice. But neither really does it for me.

                Indian - I usually head into Arlington for eat in (Punjab) and there are no decent take out places in the Porter area.

                Pub food - Food at the Thirsty Scholar is ok. Not good and not bad. But parking is easier to deal with than heading the extra few blocks into Inman.

                Cafe Rustica - I have friends who swear by it (both coffee and sandwiches) but it's never on my radar.

                Oxford Spa - the sandwiches are pretty good there. I don't go there often because of the location. If I feel the need to eat a sandwich, I usually grab a fancy one from Formaggio and occasionally, Hi-Rise. BTW, Hi-Rise does do half sandwiches and their soups are quite satisfying.

                Also you will probably be closer to Union Square now which opens up a whole world of possibilities too.

                3 Replies
                1. re: beetlebug

                  For restaurants, if you have a car, Arlington Center is not far and offers many possibilities. Search here for lots of recs.

                  1. re: peregrine

                    Arlington is a quick hop on the 77 bus, too.

                    I like Tango for steak and Punjab for Indian.

                  2. re: beetlebug

                    Market Basket has one of, if not the largest meat selection around. Almost every cut from every animal, including lots of offal and harder to find meat, like goat. The prices are outstanding, and the high turnover means a fresh product.

                    Is it the best meat? No, Savenor's and Whole Foods' is better, but also 3-4 times as expensive. Market Basket's meat is on the same level as the major supermarkets (shaw's, stop and shop), but usually a bit fresher.

                    For selection and price, Market Basket's meat section is tough to match.

                    I still make the trek to Russo's for produce, but will go to Market Basket in a pinch. The produce is like the meat: good selection, high turnover, and low prices.

                  3. Welcome to the neighborhood.

                    The Star/Shaws is terrible and terribly expensive because it caters to a captive student / grad population that does not have the wheels to go elsewhere for their food. I periodically go down the Ave (Somerville Ave) to the Basket (Market Basket) to scope for deals. One example: Newman's Own Lemonade (and other varieties) - Typically pushes two bucks or more at the Shaw's - Often, I can get it for $1.50 at the Basket. They also have surprisingly good produce and cheaper than Shaw's - Recently had very sweet and large pineapples for $3. These are but two examples - I am sure you can make out.

                    This is sort of how the whole area slants - the closer you get to Tufts or Harvard the more you pay. The closer to Union, the cheaper.

                    Although it is isolated from the T, Union Square is far superior in terms of quality, number and diversity of restaurants than Porter. There are great, low-rent places there - For coffee and fresh scones, hit the Sherman Cafe. The Independent has a good bar area and good grub. The Neighborhood Restaurant has a great weekend brunch. Myriad others....

                    Fish monger: Try Roma Seafood just past Union - I think they have good deals.

                    Chinese: I order almost exclusively from Qing Dao in North Cambridge - they deliver to Porter Square and I find it superior to Zoe's. Many threads on ordering on the board.

                    Indian: I don't disagree with your assessment, although I think there is Indian in Union Square that is comparable.

                    Thai: I order from Lemon Tree Thai (I think) on Highland Avenue - it's ok, but I feel like the prices are a touch more reasonable.

                    Pizza: Porter is a pizza wasteland. I've enjoyed the pies from La Ronga Bakery on Somerville Avenue, for really homemade seriously cheap pizza, but it's only pick-up and I am never around when they are open it seems. However, definitely check out La Ronga for fresh basic bread - no multigrain business there, but outstanding fresh sub rolls, italian bread, etc.

                    Tea Zone is just a store.

                    Also, don't forget Tacos Lupita is in Wilson Square (the square with the Cumby's) - still the best Mexican for my money -

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Bob Dobalina

                      > However, definitely check out La Ronga for fresh basic bread - no multigrain business
                      > there, but outstanding fresh sub rolls, italian bread, etc.

                      Agreed -- however, they do have a multigrain loaf -- I had one last week. I think they also had a wholemeal loaf.