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Kendall lunch thread

It is time for the 2008 Kendall Square lunch thread. Let us discuss what the viable lunch options are in this part of Cambridge,

I'll start:

Emma's: yuppy pizza
Izzy's: roast pork sandwich on Fridays
MuLan: kicking lunch specials
Miracle of Science: burgers & skewers
Middlesex: sandwiches on rolling chairs

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  1. Is Cafe Kiraz too far to count? I love their beet and goat cheese sandwich so much that I started making it at home.

    3 Replies
    1. re: finlero

      Everything is within the realm of possibility. I love beets - thanks for the rec.

      1. re: finlero

        Oooh, now that the weather is a little warmer that's within easy walking distance. Will check it out tomorrow!

        1. re: Eatin in Woostah

          FWIW, I actually prefer the one I make at home at this point. They use a *lot* of thickly-sliced beets and a fairly porous bread, which can makes things pretty soggy. It comes down to personal preference, but I make mine a little daintier, slicing the beets more thinly and using a baguette. Kiraz' is still great, though.

      2. ropa vieja (wednesday only), montanero, or fried pork sub are all terrific @ izzy's.

        paul's (newtowne variety for non natives) is a good place for a sub. its hard to beat a piantedosi roll combined with their quickness.

        i'm from the neighborhood and those are the only two places i eat at regularly.

        1. You need to define your parameters. Would the walk to the Similans close to the Galleria be out of the question? Or 2nd Street Cafe? It's not a lot further than the schlepp to Miracle of Science from the Kendall T-stop, but it seems like it because the area is an industrial waste-land. So, what are we talking about here?

          Also, I've never had the lunch specials at Mulan -- only regular menu items when I'm there around lunchtime. I'd love to get out of my rut ... what do you especially like?

          13 Replies
          1. re: yumyum

            I know how to use a map to figure out if 2nd Street Cafe is close enough for my personal parameters, and others can do the same. Hopefully this thread could be helpful for everyone in that area, regardless of specific geographical location.

            Lunch specials @ MuLan:
            s&p pork chop
            shredded pork with green mustard
            crispy spiced pork
            eggplant with basil sauce
            stir fried green bean
            shredded beef with preserved vegetable

            1. re: gini

              LOL -- I know how to use a map too, but I really couldn't figure out if it's a longer walk over to 2SC or not.

              Mmmmm.... s&p pork chop.

              1. re: yumyum

                Ah, well in that case it's slightly longer to 2SC, but only a quarter of a mile or so.

              2. re: gini

                Also, lamb with chili peppers...mmmmm

                1. re: gini

                  I dug this thread up since I've been spending some quality time at the office and needed a quick fix lunch today. Hit Mulan for the Octopus with Dry Bean Curd special. (I really wanted the s&p pork chop but held my ground.) Overall the dish is just okay .. listed as spicy on the menu but not spicy at all. The texture of the octopus and bean curd were too similar (long strips) so it was sort of like a big portion of all the same thing. That's not a great description, but it's what I can do right now. I wish I'd tried the fish fillets instead.

                  I was surprised that they've expanded the kitchen which has made the dining room and "bar" smaller. I think the gal told me they are doing a lot of catering, and that's why. The place was already bulging at the seams at lunchtime, wonder how it is now? (I took mine to go.)

                  1. re: yumyum

                    Glad to hear they're back open after the renovations. Haven't had that dish, so thanks for the report.

                    1. re: yumyum

                      Do try the fish fillets when you go next. They are really delicious. Swimming in chili oil each time we've ordered it, but I know that won't put you off! I am curious to see the renovations.

                    2. re: gini

                      I second Mulan. I don't even like Chinese food anywhere else.

                      1. re: lobst

                        PS--first time I went, a Chinese coworker took me there, ordered for me--many of the dishes listed here: chops, fish, eggplant. (We have had another eggplant and I believe a green bean dish on subsequent visits.) She loves it, but she is quick to point out that it is Taiwanese, not Chinese--and so she feels she's not the best authority--anyway it's cheap and delicious (and CROWDED--and yes that's pre-renovation) for lunch.

                        1. re: lobst

                          Taiwanese restaurants basically serve Chinese dishes (sampled broadly across various regions) with a few Taiwanese specialties thrown in. That's why I like them - they have something for everyone.

                          I didn't even realize they were doing renovations - I guess it's been too long since I've eaten there!

                          1. re: nfo

                            The happy overlap I've found between both Mulan and Taiwan Cafe (the only other Taiwanese place I am familiar with) is that they both do an excellent job with fried foods. One of my favorite dishes in town is the s&p fried chicken with crispy basil leaves at Mulan.

                    3. re: yumyum

                      Not to mention, I tend to think of Miracle of Science as being in central sq vs. kendall sq.

                      Heck, I don't even really like thinking of "one kendall square" as being in kendall sq ;)

                      1. re: jgg13

                        That's because MoS _is_ in Central, and not Kendall. (I say this as someone who works in Kendall - I wish MoS were closer).

                      1. re: nasilemak

                        What do you like there for lunch?

                        1. re: gini

                          I'm not nasilmak, but last time I lunched there I had a divine octopus app -- tender, flavorful, garlicky and olive oily -- with bread to sop up the juices. I like being able to have a cheap and cheerful glass of wine there, too. Surprise!

                          We had pork and clams too, which was just aiiight for me dog.

                          1. re: yumyum

                            Dog, I like their rice pudding a whole bunch too. Thanks for the tip of the octopus appetizer. Sounds tasty.

                            1. re: yumyum

                              Its a bit further, but if you can do the lunchtime wine thing Portugalia offers half bottles and has two of their better salt cod dishes for a very reasonable price. Its fairly quick, considering, but not a 1/2 hour lunch.

                            2. re: gini

                              the octopus appetizer and a grilled shrimp entree that comes with potatoes and broccoli rabe. you might have to ask for the latter since it is only on their dinner menu. avoid their pastas as they are quite mediocre.

                          2. The Blue Room has been a lot more consistent with their Lunch BBQ in the past years during the decent weather. MIT trucks are a bit so-so, but its an inexpensive lunch and particularly Jose's has improved (I have about 3 things from the Asian truck that I order). I think the falafel at the student center is better than the truck, but that's another option. There are always lines for the sandwiches at Beantown, but I never was that impressed when they were at one Kendall. 2nd street is better (meatloaf, etc), but still a zoo and not 100%. Florentina I memorized the days they had the two pasta sauces I liked and ate those with overdone pasta (back in the day they had a great breakfast). Mulan much more, but occasionally I do the zsa zhang lo mein (not certain of spelling) at Royal East which has dried shrimp.

                            Double-parking options: courthouse has pre-fried fish at the market (smelt and other bone-in fish), Royal Pastry has their pizza slices.

                            For delivery: Cafe Kiraz (not certain about lunch) for sandwiches, The Snack Bar for Portuguese (ask for their specials too), Cinderellas for some folks but not my idea, Skampa for Roast Beef and acceptable pastrami, maybe haddock sub. Some of the Brazilian places in East Somerville (Cafe Varanda and Minas Grill) will delivery, muqueca if you do an office thing (and I think is available via foodler). Tropico on Cambridge St also has good steak tacos, ok pupusas (slaw is a bit ehh), and grilled chicken legs for delivery.

                            Pizza and pitchers of beer are good depending on your co-workers at La Hacienda. Legal can be really slow for work lunches and is just annoying (Black Sheep is a bit better, even the restaurant in the Marriot does decent sandwiches). As afterwork alternatives to CBC, Blue Room, Cuchi Cuchi, people tend to forget about the Muddy Charles (pitchers) and Thirsty Ear at MIT.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: itaunas

                              Thanks for all of your great ideas!

                              1. re: itaunas

                                That reminds me....I believe Florentina is now closed (or looking for a new tenant). I've heard atrocious things about the food.

                                Love the spicy fish filets at Mulan for lunch. And the mountain Chinese vegetable. And the bean curd skin with mushrooms...

                                How is Anise these days? I sent a big Chinese group from my office recently for a going-away party and they were not happy with the slow service. They were gone a mighty long time.

                                I've also been curious about Aceituna - I know previous reports have not been favorable.

                                1. re: digga

                                  Really? People don't like Aceituna? Sigh. Sometimes I think I'll never keep up with this crowd. Anyway, I only ever seem to have the chicken schwarma, but I love it. The garlic sauce is great.

                                  Florentina is indeed history. There's a new lunch place opening, not in that space, but in the office building next door.

                                  1. re: BostonCookieMonster

                                    Yes, as CookieMonster said, Florentina is closed. They closed about a month or so ago and the space is now sitting empty. I wasn't a fan, so I won't miss it.

                                    I like Aceituna for lunch. I enjoy getting their Greek Salad with Beef Schwarma. It consistently hits the spot for me. I am not a fan of their falafel though. IMO, Aceituna is not a destination that anyone should go out of their way to eat at. But if you work in the neighborhood, it is a viable lunch option.

                                    The new lunch place is going into 101 Main St. where the horrible Cafe La Brioche used to be. Its going to be called Cafe on Main and will be open for breakfast and lunch. It is run by "Corporate Chefs Inc." and from what I've heard it will be counter service with sandwiches, daily hot entree specials, salads, etc.

                                    1. re: mangorita

                                      I used to work very close to Florentina, and I could never understand the lines out the door there every day. Their food always, I mean always, gave me heartburn. I wonder why they packed it in: did that corner of Kendall wise up, or have those buildings emptied out, or did they just decamp for another location?

                                      I wonder if Hungry Mother will ever open for lunch?

                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                        When I worked at 1 and 101 Main (and I don't know what the occupancy is now, but they were both pretty fully up at the time), Florentina was definitely a hotspot - just like you describe. I went there frequently, there was a general lack of options in the very immediate vicinity (looks like that hasn't changed much, most of the things being mentioned are at least a 10 min walk from that spot) ... there were only 3 or 4 spots on that block, the MIT trucks were an extra block or two down the street but was more of a warm weather thing. Florentina was the best of a bad situation.

                                        Plus, as a recent convert to urban living, my notion of what was a decent walking distance was wildly different than it is now (where I'll walk 20+ mins for lunch!)

                                    2. re: BostonCookieMonster

                                      I think Aceituna is a not great and pretty expensive, especially the vegetarian options. The Falafel is just terrible. A steam table tray of oil-soaked chickpea fragments. They had no competition for quite some time in that immediate vicinity so hopefully they see the need to step it up.

                                      -----
                                      Aceituna Cafe
                                      605 W Kendall St, Cambridge, MA 02142

                                    3. re: digga

                                      Aceituna is in my building, so I've probably sampled almost the entire menu. It's ok, not a destination in my book. I was really spoiled by the fantastic Lebanese place near my job in Cleveland and it has ruined me forever. But without a whole lot of other options...
                                      I like the chicken shawarma sandwich (I just have a hard time calling it a "roll up" for some reason). I actually much prefer the shish taouk over the shawarma, but usually don't feel like waiting for it. I personally don't like the spices on the beef shawarma, but a lot of coworkers like it. Their baba ghanoush is very good and the hummus is decent. The falafel is ok but very salty. I like to get the vegetarian 3-choice, usually with sauteed cauliflower, baba, and a wild card. I haven't tried many of the daily specials because I don't usually eat that much for lunch. Their french fries are *awesome*, totally unexpected. Sometimes I just get french fries and a V8 (is that gross?).

                                      I like the chicken noodle soup at Similans, and the chicken burritos at Boca (no rice or cheese, just chicken, black beans, and hot sauce).

                                      The spicy beef noodle soup at Anise really hits the spot on a chilly day. I am really looking forward to the Blue Room BBQ starting back up again. The turkey burger at CBC is really good, but I'm not crazy about anything else there.

                                      Love everything I've eaten at Mulan.

                                      When I'm in the mood for a salad, sometimes I go to that place in the MIT food court and make my own by the pound.

                                      I like the grilled sandwiches at Rebeccas, especially the grilled cheese. Good bread, good cheese, great pickle. The one time I went to Cosi it was a total zoo and they lost my order. I haven't bothered to go back, but I think the sandwich was pretty good.

                                      1. re: digga

                                        Was at Anise for lunch today - they certainly are doing a brisk lunch business. One friend was very happy with the spicy pork wontons, which are certainly fantastic and during lunch served in quite a large bowl. Another had the kung pow chicken, which she chowed down on while I had a beef, bamboo, mushroom, and carrot dish that was perfectly serviceable. We also shared a blooming tea, that while pretty and fun to watch, was not that flavorful, but we did enjoy it.