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Good genuine food around MIT

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We're in town for a dinner staying in the the MIT/Kendall area. Any suggestions for good, honest food - doesn't ;t matter what kind although the top of the list is bistro, Italian, deli (possible in Boston?), Vietnamese. Thanks.

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  1. Emma's pizza is said to be pretty good.

    The Helmand has Afghani food, everyone on the boards raves about the pumpkin dish there.

    1. don't you dare go to Legal's - that Kendall location is probably the worst. (and if you do dare, stick with oysters and/or chowder at the bar, but really, don't do it!)

      The Blue Room would be my top suggestion for "honest" food, and based on my own experience http://www.theblueroom.net/main.html
      Many people enjoy Anise, right next door to The Blue Room, but I've not tried it http://www.anisecambridge.com/index/m...

      O Cantinho is about a 15 minute walk away from Kendall. "honest" Portuguese food is a more casual, but very attentive setting. http://www.atasca.com/ocantinho/index...
      Nearby is Moqueca for Brazilian, the most casual from this list, but a warm, inviting atmosphere http://boston.menupages.com/restauran...

      Rendezvous in Central Square, Cambridge - the other side of the MIT campus http://www.rendezvouscentralsquare.co...
      It might also be worth walking into (and past) Central Square to Cafe Baraka for North African food. Excellent, but no booze, so if you really need that glass of wine with dinner you might want to go somewhere else. http://www.barakacafe.com/menu.html

      2 Replies
      1. re: MB fka MB

        While O Cantinho is certainly excellent, for equally good Portuguese food located much closer to MIT (and owned by the same folks) I'd opt for Atasca. Emma's makes excellent gourmet designer-type pizza, though die-hard traditionalists may find their crusts too cracker-thin and their toppings eccentric. Second Street Cafe is a most worthy lunch spot. Salts is very upscale and pricy, but wonderfully good, as is Oleana, which is a bit further afield. And Toscanini's Ice Cream makes arguably the best version of this dessert in a city with some world-class examples of the genre.

        I'll definitely second Helmand, Blue Room, Miracle of Science, Mulan, Cafe Baraka, Black Sheep, Central Kitchen, and River Gods. And I find the vehement, persistent naysaying of Legal Seafoods on this board puzzling, as I've had good experiences at the ones I've been to -- including the Kendall Square location. Haven't tried Rendezvous or Anise, but both get lots of love on this board.

        I'd pass on Cambridge Brewing (except for the beer) and Quiznos (unless you want a moderately better version of Subway or D'Angelo's).

        1. re: bachslunch

          That specific Legal's location is the one I find the worst - though it wasn't always true. Definitely true as of the past 3 years. I get roped into business lunches there at least once a year. I think if you order a piece of plain grilled fish, you're fine. Though the sides on my last visit (yes, a regrettable business lunch) were inedible.

      2. The Helmand is (was?) great. I have not been there since moving out of Boston 3 years ago but really enjoyed it. No. 9 Park on the common is great for upscale italian and I used to enjoy il panino in the north end for italian as well.

        1. I must agree with the options of Rendezvous and The Blue Room. You can't loose with either restaurant. I feel that Rendezvous is one of the best top to bottom dining experiences in all of Boston.

          1. My pick for best food around Kendall is the Taiwanese as Mulan - you can search these boards to find out what to order, or order any of their specialties (there's a little symbol next to these items on the menu).

            Cambridge Brewing is a good place to pick up a beer, but the food is hit or miss.

            By the way, if the walk to Central Sq is too far, or the weather's bad, it's just one T stop away

            4 Replies
            1. re: nfo

              I enthusiastically agree with the recommendations for Emma's, the Helmand, Mulan, and the O' Cantinho cafe (although the latter is a bit of a hike). Cafe Baraka is also excellent, although really not close to Kendall Square.

              Some other suggestions:

              - For cheaper but still gourmet pizza (takeout) try Beauty's.
              - For lunch try the Gooseberry's food truck near Main Street and Ames Street.
              - I don't know what you mean by "honest", but Quizno's on Main Street makes excellent sandwiches.
              - The Olive Tree Cafe on Mass Ave. is very "honest" --- home cooked Mediterranean food, including a fine goat stew.
              - I was surprisingly impressed by the Black Sheep restaurant in the Kendall Hotel. It has some aspects of "hotel dining" but the squash pasta I had was just excellent, and there were a number of "honest", home style dishes on the menu. It's also a cute, if cramped space.

              But I do have a few quibbles with some other suggestions:

              "The Blue Room would be my top suggestion for "honest" food,"

              I have been there several times, and never been impressed, with either food or service.

              "don't you dare go to Legal's - that Kendall location is probably the worst."

              I think this is unfair. It is true that their wait staff are incompetent, and the food not the most avant garde, but I have never had a bad piece of fish there, and indeed never a bad meal. The falafel salmon sometimes achieves great heights.

              "Cambridge Brewing is a good place to pick up a beer, but the food is hit or miss."

              Not true. The food is a gigantic miss. It is said to have good beer, and on a nice day certainly has atmosphere, but for food this is the worst restaurant I have tried in the Boston area, although the Asgard and Tommy Doyle's (oddly, both near by) come very close.

              1. re: lipoff

                miracle of science has good burgers, sandwiches, and skewers. I like central kitchen for more of an upscale dinning expierence. RIver gods in cambridge port is a good spot for a pint and some apps. For lunch the plow and stars is pretty tasty. Last but not least I had an amazing clam bake dish at green st. the other night.

                1. re: lipoff

                  You have obviously haven't been enough times to CBC to get the hits. ;-)

                  From a semi regular that has eaten at CBC over 30-40 times, I most defenitely agree with the hit or miss comment. The things I can rely on are the buffalo tenders, humus plate, and the blackened chicken sandwich. The rest of the menu is a crapshoot - sometimes well executed, sometimes not, but they do seem to do a great job on their beer dinners and bass fest.

                  But we can all agree - CBC is the place for genuinely good honest beer.

                  1. re: LStaff

                    You go anywhere enough times, you're bound to hit something! In my original assessment, I meant to imply that it's a good place to go for drinks, and if you want to munch on something while you're there, it won't kill you. I sometimes get the buffalo tenders or even just fries, but mostly I want a tower of beer (okay, maybe just a pitcher).

                    I'm in the "don't go to Legal's" camp. I agree that they get decent fish, and won't ruin it if you order something simple, but the service is a disaster. This is from someone who picks quality and value over ambience and service almost every time, so it has to be pretty bad for me to nix a place over service. The last few times I've had to go here (Kendall location specifically), it's gone from bad to absolutely unacceptable.

              2. Many of my favorites have already been cited here. I'll echo some: Emma's, Second Street Cafe (breakfast/lunch only), The Helmand (dinner only), Miracle of Science, the Blue Room (outdoor lunch in summer is a bargain). The Black Sheep (I especially like breakfast there), Atasaca (fine Portuguese, though the Kendall location lacks the charm of its East Cambridge sibling, O Cantinho), Anise (good, unusual Sichuan, though it seems doomed).

                Some others near Kendall: Izzy's (a brilliant counter-service Puerto Rican and "Creole" food joint), The Similans (decent Westernized Thai from the Brown Sugar folks), Boca Grande (decent counter-servivce burrito joint), The B-Side Lounge (mainly for great cocktails, with good, slightly overpriced food, and a great weekend brunch), Jerusalem Cafe (decent Palestinian counter-food sandwich/salad spot), Sunny's Diner (passable greasy spoon), Royal Bengal (a rare, and worthy, Bengali place), Middlesex Lounge (sexy little lounge-style bar with good drinks and small plates), Aceituna Cafe (weekdays only, decent Middle Eastern sandwiches/salads/plates), Stefani (middling pizza and subs, but a respectable cheese steak).

                Avoid: Tommy Doyle's (despite the attractive patio), Cambridge Brewing (though the beer is good), Royal East (gross Chinese American), All Asia (bad pan-Asian menu, more a college bar), Asgard (gross food at a fake-Irish pub), Florentina (bad Italian-American cafeteria style food, don't be fooled by the lines), the MIT food trucks (there's probably one that's not disgusting, but most are).

                Lots of good stuff in Central Square (Baraka Cafe, worth a special trip), East Cambridge (Portuguese and Brazilian), Inman Square (love that Punjabi Dhaba!), and just across the Longfellow Bridge (French at Pierrot Bistrot), but more detailed recs probably belong in other threads.

                4 Replies
                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  I think we've provided a run-down of every restaurant in the area! I'm with MC on the "avoid" list, but there is one food truck I like - the felafel truck at 77 Mass Ave. All the others are pretty gross gross. But I'm hoping that the OP won't be dining at a food truck during a visit to MIT/Kendall, no?

                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    Jerusalem Cafe is now Olive Tree or Olive Branch.

                    1. re: Joanie

                      New owners, new concept, or just new name?

                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        Not sure. Saw someone here mention it as good middle eastern, so seems the concept is the same.

                  2. How's Sepal at the MIT student center?

                    I'd also look into some of the Cambridge Street places in East Cambridge - I remember Portugalia having good grilled salt cod/bacalhau. Liked Sunset Cafe for hearty Portuguese food in big portions. Further up near Inman Sq. is Muqueca, a favourite for Brazilian.

                    In Central Sq., there's Moody's Falafel Palace that's pretty good and inexpensive.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: limster

                      It's okay. The felafel is dry (do they use a dried bean mix and reconstitute it?) and so I much prefer the truck at 77 Mass Ave. I feel like the actual felafel flavor has much more depth.

                      Sepal is okay for healthy options (a decent fatoush-style salad, and the red lentil soup is nice enough) but quite frankly, I cannot handle getting sexually harassed/disgustingly ogled each and every time I've tried to go (and I am a thick-skinned girl!) I stay away and then try it again and it's the same old story. Grrrrr.

                      1. re: MB fka MB

                        Wow - thanks so much for your generousity of comments and thoughtful advice. Neil