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.
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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.