Help: Central Square & cheap & ethnic
Although Central Square has two top-notch mid-price bistro-type restaurants (Rendezvous and Central Kitchen), its representatives of a wide variety of cheap ethnic eats are mostly perfunctory at best.
Tibetan (Rangzen) is decent, as is the best Indian place in Central (Royal Bengal). Pepper Sky is also somewhere that you can get a dinner you probably won't hate. None of these restaurants, however, will deliver an exciting experience. I would actually recommend the lunch buffet at Rangzen as a unique experience of fresh, simple food at a low price. It's great if you've just done a lot of physical activity and want to fill yourself back up with simple, clean food.
The other Indian places are not worth eating at. Pizza is passable at Cinderella's and abominable at Hi-Fi and that other Greek pizza place down the street. There is no intensely authentic Chinese food in Central, although Mary Chung can make a good meal if you navigate the menu very, very, very carefully.
Cafe Baraka is probably the best ethnic restaurant in the area, but it's not all that cheap. Maybe cheap-ish? It's good for a "nice dinner" event if you're on a small budget.
Moody's Falafel Palace does not make good falafel, and the salad is often cold and old. Don't go expecting quality. I'd throw the Middle East in the same category, though the food is just a bit better, and they make an OK hamburger with Sysco fries if you're looking for a decent lunch.
Asmara gives a perfunctory representation of Ethiopian food, but I wouldn't waste my money there. Fasika serves a much better product (now located on Broadway in Somerville).
I have to agree with Luther, Central has lots of okay but few really good places - easy to find food that "you probably won't hate."
I had takeout from the Tibetan place once, and thought it was pretty good - don't know much about Tibetan, but it was tasty. I think you'd do okay there, but I don't have advice on what to order.
I like Mary Chung's - not necessarily authentic, but cheap and good if you order right. Some people prefer Royal East for Chinese (never been).
I like Baraka, but I don't understand how people get out of there for less than $25 pp.
why all the hi-fi hate? i don't know of a better place to go to get greasy pizza at 2 am after drinking!
but in all seriousness, there is lots of cheap in central square, not much of it very good. but also not much of it very bad. and since many of these places are pretty cheap, there's not a lot to lose by trying. tosci's for ice cream is always good!