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Central Square Breakdown

I only eat cheap.

Tavern On the Square - good for 1am nachos and cheap pitchers of beer while watching the game.
Picante - all right for the only mexican in the square, a large burrito with guacamole will run $10 which I think is a travesty.
Moody's - delish, cheap, quick. I usually only go for the shwarma but the meat pies are pretty good too.
The Field - I've had really good BLT turkey clubs, everything else doesn't look so hot.
The Phoenix Landing - avoid the food
Pepper Sky - I am no thai hound, but I think it's great
Green Street - Not cheap, but I've been for dinner and everything was good
Indian Place with the prepared foods in the back - don't know good Indian, but I've stuffed my face once or twice from the back food counter.
HiFi - quick cheap pizza open late. I've also had chicken parm subs, which were pretty good.
Mary Chung's - my go to for chinese, it's had enough coverage at CH
Cinderellas - Good basic subs, pizza always seems confusingly expensive, cheap on the toppings.
Asgard - everyone hates it, but I like the "Irish dip" if I'm there.

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  1. I'd add Miracle of Science for good food in the $10 range.
    Brookline Lunch for breakfast and good wraps.
    I like the panini at Carberry's (I'm in the minority I know), also heath bar cookies
    Haven't gone to Pressed Sandwiches yet.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Joanie

      Definitely try Hot Off the Press! They do a solid cuban and their breakfast sandwiches are unbeatable! I'd kill for a sandwich shop like Hot Off the Press in my neighborhood

      1. re: heWho

        I love cubans and haven't even heard of this place. Good god.

        Guess I know whats for dinner tonight.

        1. re: DanInCambridge

          I don't really like that place, although i like it a little bit better than when it was Pressed.

          Everything is soooooo freeeeaaaaakiiiiiinnnnnnng sloooooooooooow. It usually tastes somewhere between fine and good, but i think its a bit expensive for what you're getting. That combined with the wait have caused me to pretty much never go there (and I live a block away)

          1. re: DanInCambridge

            It's right on Mass Ave (on the side of the street, closer to the river). If you're coming from the Centra Square T-stop it's about 2 blocks in the direction of Harvard, a little bit past the Prospect St/Western Ave/River St junction.

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            Hot Off the Press
            736 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA

            1. re: DanInCambridge

              Dan give Izzy's roast pork sub a try on Fridays or Saturdays (they offer it when they offer the pernil roast pork plate). They can do it in a quasi-cuban style too, but just the basic sub is worth eating. Its a bit out of the Central Square proper, but not as far as ConSol. Camie's is probably still worth it for the Haitian meat pie (not Jamaican meat pies though). Over on Norfolk St (closer to the actual square) there is a convenience store that did sell the basic NY-frozen jamaican meat pies... and Shalimar has basic samosas and other snacks at the back.

        2. Don't forget Moody Falafel Palace. I like their vegetarian platter - perfect on a hot summer's day.

          1. I'll add River Gods to the mix for excellent kimchee handrolls and good burgers.

            1. I will add Basta Pasta as a reasonably priced/decent portion place with great sauces and pastas.

              3 Replies
              1. re: TomH

                basta pasta is pretty far from central square...probably as far a walk from central as inman sq. is

                1. re: phosho

                  Well if we want to get into semantics, if I had to categorize it "by square" I think it would fall into Central by location. Also, if River Gods is mentioned above I think Basta Pasta would also fit the same bill. Plus, after a big plate of pasta a nice walk will do you well....

                  1. re: TomH

                    Count me as a person who would consider River Gods to be in Central but not Basta Pasta - its definitely a good bit further away than RG. I'd put Coast Cafe in teh same boat ... both of them are great places but IMO not in Central. OTOH, I'm much more lenient in terms of geography along the Mass Ave axis than I am in the other two directions (in that I view pretty much the old cambridgeport saloon space down to the plough and stars as being 'central square', but give up pretty quickly just a couple of blocks along the other axis) so who knows :)

              2. I'm a HUGE fan of Hot Off the Press, though I haven't been to this location (I used to go frequently when they were in Charlestown). You can't go wrong with their Southwest Turkey Panini or, for breakfast, their Spicy Start...really nice staff (at their old location anyway) too...

                1. Rangzen - Tibetan restaurant. $8 lunch buffet. Interesting, unique flavors. One of my personal faves!

                  Thailand Cafe - consistently good Thai food, and FAST too!

                  Green Street Grill - outstanding food, incredible drink list. Can't go wrong here.

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                  Green Street
                  280 Green St, Cambridge, MA 02139

                  Rangzen Tibet Restaurant
                  24 Pearl St, Cambridge, MA 02139

                  Thailand Cafe
                  302 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: LadyLazerJ

                    Second Rangzen.

                    Thailand Cafe ... I really don't think iti si good at all. Its fast & cheap and hits the spot when I'm sitting at home craving something thai and don't want to leave my apt. But that's about all that it is good for.

                    For the 9 million indian joints in central, my favorite (out of what i've tried, which is all of the 'real' sitdown places) is India Pavilion.

                    If one wanted to consider the Plough & Stars as being in Central, their brunch is great.

                    1. re: LadyLazerJ

                      God, Thailand Cafe has got to be the WORST Thai food I've ever had. They should be ashamed of themselves for serving some of the slop that they do. :(

                      1. re: autopi

                        Yes, Baraka -- it's on Pearl St., about a block past the Thai joint - and it's great!

                      2. Nice list. I used to hate Picante until I tried their soups (credit to former Boston hound MBfkaMB, who posted about them), which are actually very good. Both the chicken ranchera (with rice) and the chicken verde (with tortilla strips) are tasty and come in generous portions, although they're consistently VERY salty. I sometimes get the tacos if I want something cheap and don't mind that they're gringoed up with lettuce and tomato. They don't compare to any of the really good local places like Tacqueria El Amigo, Tacos Lupita, etc. (or even Felipe's in Harvard square), but the excellent salsa bar covers a multitude of sins and as you say, they're the only option in the square. I agree that the burritos are lame and expensive, I wouldn't get them unless I was having a massive craving for something bland and starchy.

                        I sometimes get a burger at the Field and they're not bad, but I wouldn't go if I didn't work around the corner. (For the food, that is; it's a great bar.)

                        I wasn't that impressed with Hot off the Press - they were better than the magically taste-free Pressed Sandwiches, but not by much. Also annoying: they made a fuss of telling me that the avocado add-on to my sandwich was an extra dollar and then forgot to put it on. But given the raves I suppose I can get over the trauma and try them again.

                        Totally endorse the Miracle of Science rec, as well as Middlesex next door (same owners, different menu). Also agree that Rangzen and Pepper Sky Thai are solid. And I had a wonderful lunch at Baraka Cafe this week - the tuna salad (tuna tossed with parsley, cilantro, onions, olives, peppers, cucumbers, olive oil, and harissa) on a freshly grilled pita was really superb, and only 5 bucks. They can be slow when things get busy, but the food is great. Probably my vote for the most chowish option in the square.

                        A little further afield is the Plough and Stars, which has a great lunch. A little more expensive than most of the other places on the list (10-15 for lunch) but really excellent food. GREAT cubano - in the fancied-up Chez Henri style, not quite as good as theirs but pretty terrific nonetheless, and the fries alongside are excellent as well.

                        One last one - there's an Indian grocery store a few blocks down River street which has rather good samosas, pakoras, alu tikkis, etc. - definitely superior to Shalimar (the place with the back food counter next to Harvest co-op). The co-worker who told me about it said that sometimes the (somewhat stone-faced) owner will reheat these up in a pan with some ghee for him, but for me it's always been the microwave treatment. Still, they hold up pretty well and they're better than the average fried snack.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: MichaelB

                          Reading about this Indian store reminds me of a store I noticed while driving thru Central last nite. We were coming down Inman St. crossing Mass Ave. and going down that street, past the convenience store. There was something on the left that looked very new, I think it began with P. Anyone know what I'm talking about? It might have even been a salon or smething, went by quickly, but pretty sure it was food related.

                          1. re: Joanie

                            That's Pandemonium Books and Games - a nerd store.

                            1. re: teaTomE

                              Is it out of the Garage now?

                              I remember once in my misspent youth, it was above the Wursthaus and my friends and I were going through a shoplifting phase (yeah, yeah, I know). I noted that I wanted the Illuminatus trilogy but didn't want to pay for it . Despite the guy watching us like a hawk and despite him wearing non-baggy shorts & a tshirt my friend somehow appropriated it w/o any of us knowing it and gave it to me.

                              It was stolen from me a few years later. Karmic balance I suppose.

                        2. Excellent responses.
                          Also forgot Asmara, the first place I ate when I moved to Central Square. I was impressed with my new neighborhood.

                          1. Is the Friendly Eating Place still across from The Plough& Stars?

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Guinness02122

                              Yes*

                              * They had a fire a while back and have been closed, but it looks like they're finally starting to work on rebuilding.

                              1. re: jgg13

                                That was a good cheap place. LaGroceria is good too, if you like Italian food.

                                1. re: Guinness02122

                                  I didn't go to FEP very often - ABC Pizza is a bit closer to where I live and more centrally (pun intended) located ... I like(d) FEP more than ABC, but not enough to warrant the extra walk.

                                  For both places, I rarely (read: once or twice total per place, over the course of 8 years) get pizza, so relying totally on experience w/ subs.

                            2. A couple more to add:

                              -Bengal Cafe (in same area as MoS and Middlesex)
                              -Bytes (in amongst some fancy biotech buildings). Lunch-only. I love the falafel. Also check out their West African peanut stew when it is on the menu.

                              How is Sidney's since Le Meridien took over the University Hotel@MIT?

                              1. Pu Pu Hot Pot. Nothing more to say.

                                1. I do rather like Picante's enchilada plate, and you can't beat the salsa bar.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: sailormouth

                                    Their enchiladas (mole, at least) are one of the few things I actually like there.

                                    I like the salsa but something about their chips I don't really care for

                                  2. Great list - now can I quibble? LOL

                                    Sorry, GREEN ST. GRILL is off-the-list. I've had many great meals there, but it ain't cheap... should we add CENTRAL KITCHEN? RENDEZ-VOUS? No!

                                    I also love RIVER GODS & MIRACLE OF SCIENCE, but both are too ... bistro-ish? A better qualifier might be "affordable" because it makes you wonder. I also like the tapas at ENORMOUS ROOM, when I'm listening to my favorite glitch electronica djs from Berlin *cue buzzer* Not cheap.

                                    RANGZEN TIBET is cheap, only because it has a sedate, formal ambiance and exotic menu are a great value: it's a jem!

                                    HI-FI PIZZA is kinda nasty but has great character for what it is: a really greasy joint. (Long live the Golden Donut!)

                                    Is the "Indian Place" SHALIMAR? That's also surreal - is the vegetarian samosa still under a buck? (Two and a mango juice for under $3. is the cheapest lunch I've had in the Boston area in this decade. I'd bet the prices went up, but it's rock-bottom cheap!)

                                    Honestly, to me Moody's tastes more flavorful & authentic than the schwarma or falafel I've eaten in Istanbul (been twice in the last 10 years) - and it's the same price!

                                    Brookline Lunch, Pressed, Picante, Carberry's are forgettable, in my book - not bad, just forgettable. (I've heard & read so many raves about PEPPER SKY it's a Must Try ASAP: this weekend or next!)

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: beacon_hill_boy

                                      I can get out of Green St. really cheap if I try, the offal and cure plates are always a steal at four bucks each and many of the appetizers are quite filling. My only issue with Green St is that I end up spending ten bucks on food and forty on cocktails.

                                    2. Blah, Pepper Sky is a crumby Thai restaurant - they've really gone downhill in the last two years. All the decent Thai in this town is in Allston and Coolidge Corner.

                                      Let me add to this list Andala Cafe - easily this city's best relaxing cafe to sit and chat or do some work on the free WiFi.

                                      And India Spice (aka. Radjahani Express) - a gem of an Indian cafe / bollywood VHS shop on River St just after Andala and before River Gods. All other Indian restaurants in Cambridge are a let down in my (anglocised) opinion.

                                      Cuchi Cuchi? Is that Central?

                                      Of the already mentioned, I'll stand up to defend these four to death. I love these places...
                                      Green St
                                      Rangzen
                                      Baraka
                                      Mary Chung

                                      1. Just to clarify, I only "reviewed" places I had been in Central Square (they are mostly cheap places only because I eat mostly cheap). If its off the list its because I've never been or I don't consider it to be in the square such as river gods, basta pasta, consol, La groceria, carberrys, royal east, izzys, coast cafe, koreana.

                                        I was hoping someone would chime in about the burgers at Cantab, I've heard...things.

                                        1 Reply