Cambridge (Central Sq. area)
As we will be visiting our college bound son who is moving to this area (near Brookline and Green St.) , we are in need of restaurant options. Any and all recs are much appreciated including those "bargain" places that will help a student on a budget.
You should take him to Garden at the Cellar, on Mass Ave between Dana and Ellery (between Harvard and Central Sqs). You'll love it. He may not go on his own - it's not exactly student fare - but it is great, and reasonably priced for how good the food is.
There's a great falafel place right in Central Sq - Moody's Falafel. That's more doable for a student budget.
Baraka Cafe on Pearl St in Central Sq is really good Tunisian-Algerian food.
Helmand is a wonderful Afghan restaurant in Kendall Sq.
Veggie Planet in Harvard Square for interesting, delicious vegetarian pizzas and rice dishes.
A few more suggestions, all which should fit within a student's budget:
Miracle of Science (Mass Ave) - Above-above-average bar food. Sunny spot serves up excellent burgers, both meat and veggie with roasted potatoes instead of the usual fries and cold local beers (Tremont IPA, Harpoon). I love the hummus plate. Yummy skewers of veggies and shrimp, too.
River Gods (River Street) - Great pub with interesting clientele (think discussions about string theory over beers) and a kitchen putting some really wonderful food (everything from vegan Korean handrolls to curries). Must get there early to nab a table.
Green Street - A bit fancier than the above, and not as good as its formal incarnation when they were putting out Caribbean-spiced food, but a nice spot all the same. Updates on classic American/New England comfort food.
Rangzen (Pearl Street) - Tiny Tibetan spot run by truly nice Tibetan folks that has a tasty lunch buffet for about $8/person, all-you-can-eat. Not really Tibetan, but fresh, well-done Indian and Chinese-style dishes. Plenty of choices for meat eaters and veg-heads alike. I have not had dinner here, when you can order Tibetan food a la carte.
Royal Bengal (Mass Ave, almost next door to Miracle) - Tasty Indian lunch buffet. I have found this one to be the tastiest of all the Indian choices in Central.
Koreana (Prospect) - Boston is not known for Korean food, and this restaurant is not exceptional, but it is a fun time if you choose the cook-your-own-bulgogi option. Nice atmosphere and the lunch specials are a good deal.
Mariposa (Mass Ave) - Bakery/coffee shop that puts out some wonderful baked goods and sandwiches. Nice place to linger.
Toscanini's (Main Street) - Tasty ice cream. Also try the breakfast served only on Saturdays.
Miracle of Science Bar + Grill
321 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139
125 River St, Cambridge, MA 02139
280 Green St, Cambridge, MA 02139
Rangzen Tibet Restaurant
24 Pearl St, Cambridge, MA 02139
313 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139
154 Prospect Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
424 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139
Mary Chung's is my favorite restaurant in Central Square. Everything there is at least good -- her Suan La Chow Show and Dan Dan Noodles are legendary --, and the pricest are remarkable. It should be perfect for students.
They have some delicious specials on weekends, some of them very authentic Chinese. I've enjoyed the Lion's Head, Grandma's Pie, and a shrimp version of Suans.
General Gao's chicken -- I doubt how Chinese it ever really was, but Mary C's version is about as good as it gets. Her pork Moo-shi is also good; it tastes just like what Joyce Chen's served in their prime. The Peking Ravs are also very good, plus they're served in that irresistable hot dipping sauce.
Inman Square is a quick walk from Central (straight down Prospect Street), and worth the hike in order to get to the All-Star Sandwich Bar... excellent sandwiches, not terribly expensive. I live in Central, and visit this spot once a week.
I'll also second The Garden at The Cellar recommendation... that's an exciting addition to the neighborhood. If you check out Royal Bengal, be sure to order only off the Bengali menu (which is excellent)... and I don't understand what everyone sees in Mary Chung's.
About Mary Chung's, I also don't get it. I've lived in the area for 15 years and every couple of years I think "hmmm, everyone seems to love Mary Chung's. I guess I should give it another try." And it's always a mediocre.
Not that there are any great alternatives in Central Square.
Add Central Kitchen to the list for when mom and dad are paying. Not terribly expensive, but not an every day place either. And just a block away from the apartment. And, of course, great food.
Also in this category -- great food, reasonably priced, but not an every day place -- is East Coast Grill in Inman Square (as previously pointed out, Inman Square is a quick walk -- just over half a mile -- from Central Square). Another good option in Inman Square is The Druid, an Irish pub. Their burger is particularly good.
Speaking of burgers, my favorite is Bartley's just down Mass Ave in Harvard Square. Don't be too put off by the line out front; they move it along pretty quickly. Don't miss the onion rings.
Just a FYI that the Cantab is only serving the burger/food after 5pm and usually requires 21+ positive ID in the evenings (depending on how you treat the door/bar staff, there maybe flexibility in this). I know that some hounds originally scouted out the burger at lunch time, but thats no longer available and depending on the age of the college student this might not be an option.
Also some nights (usually Thu-Sat) there is a cover charge after 8 or 9, but again depending on how you converse with the door staff they might waive it if you are only there for the food and not pushy.
You can do that or they have one or two waitresses at night that will call you "hon" :-) The bartender might walk the order to the kitchen or might give it to the waitress. If its crowded (tuesday bluegrass depending on feature act), you are better off at the bar end and have always tried to find a seat for us when we order food.
Its a 1-page menu, not always in a plastic cover, the grease stains are free. The burgers options and prices are also listed on a banner inside the front door.
Another vote for Central Kitchen- great food, fine dining in a nice, casual atmosphere.
Slightly out of Central Square proper...The B-side is another local gem. It's a bar, but they have some tasty eats there, as well (definitely lives up to the "gastro bar" designation). Emma's (in Kendall Square) is great for pizza. And while we're in that part of the neighborhood, have to mention Oleana, which would be a nice treat when Mom and Dad come for a visit. Then there is Salts, which would be a wonderful splurge for a special occasion.
Gandhi in Central Square has what is arguably some of Cambridge's best Indian food (there are probably about 40 Indian restaurants in Cambridge alone, and I've been to most of them!).
You should also venture over to Inman Square to go to the East Coast Grill and have ice cream at Christina's (my personal vote for best ice cream in the city).
And in Harvard Square, you must to to Mr. Bartley's for a burger. It's the best burger around.
Thanks for all the suggestions. We went to The Cellar Saturday afternoon for an excellent lunch. It was about a ten block walk (felt longer in the 96 degree heat !) but was enjoyed by all. We will try some of the other suggestions as I know have a better idea where we are ( I saw Gandhi and Mariposa's on our walk). We may have been out of luck without the suggestions as the area looks a bit "dicey" !