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Best foodie first date in Cambridge?

So I'm on a quest for the best foodie first date in Cambridge. I have a couple ideas about it: Christina's ice cream, Le's, Formaggio Kitchen...I posted the question on my blog (www.sexyspoon.com), but have been greeted by meager replies and I need to come up with a good place quick! Any suggestions?

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  1. Do you want to go out to eat or just gather food? Sinceyou can't really sit and eat at Form. and Christina's is just ice cream, I'm not sure what the question is. I'd say maybe something like Miracle of Science or Garden at the Cellar or the Plough might be good for sitting and eating casual food.

    1. Sticking with the interesting food, not-too-expensive, not intimidating theme you've got going, and staying within the Cambridge city limits:

      Baraka Cafe - Algerian/Tunisian
      The Helmand - Afghan
      Mary Chung - Chinese, especially Sichuan
      Bar at Chez Henri - Cuban sandwiches
      Cafe Mami in the Porter Exchange - donburi
      Qingdao Garden - Northern-style Chinese

      1 Reply
      1. re: finlero

        Second the bar @ Chez Henri. Casual but classy enough, won't break the bank, cozy for conversation, but enough scene for people-watching if the date goes sour.

      2. I think Baraka Cafe in Central is a great first date place on the casual side, as long as you don't mind service that may vary and take a while--it's otherwise cozy and delicious. May not be for some, given that they don't serve alcohol, but your blog suggests that you may not care about that anyway. Can always grab a fabulous drink before or after at Green Street and then meander....

        1. Well, now that the KFC is closed (kidding!), perhaps Christopher's in Porter Square might work, as it is casual, the food is mostly decent, and it's usually quiet enough for easy conversation. And if this is a big first date, they do have a fireplace in the back for a little extra romance.

          1. TW Foods hands down if your other is afoodie too it will knock hisor her socks off!!

            5 Replies
            1. re: Quinn823

              Yes, although don't go to TW Food if this is meant to be a casual, inexpensive date (I'm assuming it is, based on the places mentioned by the OP). Figure on $120 to $180 (give or take) for two people at TW.

              1. re: Quinn823

                Do not go there for a first date! Goodness! Talk about setting the bar too high...

                If Saturday, how about strolling the farmer's market / stalls outside the hotel that has Rialto, then down to Darwin's for a sandwich, followed by Burdick's for a little hot chocolate? You could also work in Cafe Algiers / Casablanca.

                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                  I think Bob's suggestion is just about perfect. With Darwin's, you could definitely make it a quick date (if things go bad) or a leisurely date (if things go well). Or you could bail after the farmer's market if things go really bad.

                    1. re: xiaoguniang

                      I always like to see a guy is willing to spend money and dazzle me

              2. I agree that the bar at Chez Henri for a Cuban and cocktails may be the very best but could be cramped and noisy depending on the day and time.

                My great first date foodie experience in Cambridge was on a weeknight in the Lava Lounge at East Coast Grill - it is casual, quieter and more intimate than the rest of the place and I'm in the camp that thinks their food is tops (esp. raw bar, free pickles, and above all else - the wet bone!). They were fine with us lingering until they had to close up.

                Central Kitchen is romantic with consistently good to great food.

                1. I'd say dinner at Casablanca followed by hot chocolate from L.A. Burdick. You can't always sit down at L.A. Burdick, but walking around with it could be just as nice.

                  1. I think bar none, Oleana. You can share lots of little dishes and tastes, have a wonderful drink, and split a fabulous dessert. Once the weather gets a bit warmer the patio is wonderfully romantic. Makes me want to make a reservation just thinking about it!

                    1. First of all, thank you for all the suggestions! However, I should probably qualify my question by saying that the place should fulfill the following three criteria (let's leave amazing food as a given):

                      1. Be inexpensive
                      2. The food should be able to be eaten quickly (if the date is a disaster) or lingered over (if the date is fabulous)
                      3. The noise level should be at a minimum so you can actually talk (about the food you are eating, your five best meals of all time, the virtues of MuLan vs. Mary Chung dumplings, etc.)

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: xiaoguniang

                        Not quite Cambridge, but I like Tu y Yo in Somerville very much for the food, and I think it hits the mark on most of these requirements.

                        1. re: xiaoguniang

                          Another Davis sq possibility would be Namaskar. Also quiet, and you could hit the JP Licks afterwards and meander around D Sq.

                          Oleana is wonderful, but pricey, and not so much in a wandering neighborhood.

                          Qingdao has great food, but that lighting is not flattering to anyone, much less on a first date!

                        2. Bartly's Burgers- A burger, some onion rings, and a lime rickey. Followed by a long digestive stroll through the Harvard Book Store. food and books, mmmmm........

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: gorditwo

                            I'll second that plan.

                            Had my first Bartley's burger yesterday - The Ted Kennedy - only ok mushrooms, but the burger was superb. Whenever the O'Sullivan/Bartley's debate thread rears up again, I am throwing my hat, coat, basically my entire wardrobe into the ring on the side of Bartley's. It trounced O'Sullivan's. (It is also a bit of practicality that I should scrap all my clothes after eating at Bartley's - it is not health food.)

                            Also I will note that I have had two outstanding raspberry lime rickeys recently - at Bartley's loaded with fresh limes - and at the B-Side, perfectly mixed and seltzered.

                            1. re: Bob Dobalina

                              Speaking of B-side. Perhaps that would fit the bill. It can get expensive at dinner time but how about brunch (served til 4:00 on the weekend)? It is not as cheap as your run of the mill diner but I have really enjoyed the brunch there. East Coast Grill for brunch could also be a good option (again cheaper than dinner) but I have found it to be a little too crowded for what you are looking for.

                              Regardless I think a first date at that time of day would take a lot of the pressure and awkwardness off. Plus if it wasn't going well you could tend to the "plans" you had for the rest of the day or if its going great, Sunday chores can always be postponed.

                              To the OP: My brother's first date with his wife was going out for ice cream. They met late at night dancing in a bar and given the dubious location she admitted later that if he asked her out for a drink she probably would have said no. 6 years later first baby is on the way this month all thanks to a couple cones at Herrell's (she lived in Allston at the time).

                                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                  What are they going to name the baby?
                                  Boy- Steve. Girl - Christina ?

                          2. I'd avoid the Casablanca, only because it is so abysmally slow you may be sitting there with an ogre across the table, and you're both hungry and probably thirsty to boot.

                            I'd do sandwiches at Darwin's, ice cream from whatever the place is on Church St, drink at Charlie's and/or Shay's, then head to the footbridge to make out. Gives you plenty of opportunities to bail (well, until the bridge, but hopefully you've made up your mind by then) and no one has spent too much money yet.

                            1. How about Fasika in East Somerville? It's a traditional Ethiopian restaurant on one side, and townie dive bar on the other. You'll never run out of things to talk about!

                                1. re: saltyair

                                  That would be Oleana and that would be WAY setting the bar too high for a first date. Where do you go for your second date, if that's the ground floor?!

                                2. Can't believe no one has mentioned Dali--it's actually in Sommerville. Great tapas and the atmosphere is both romantic and fun. I've been twice and service was great and with tapas (obviously) you can eat as slow/fast as much/little as you want. It's great for sharing plates on a first date and getting to know you, etc.

                                  1. izzy's sub shop for awesome puerto rican food - good way to see how much of a chowhound your date is.