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Garden at the Cellar: where's the love?

okay, so i have posted about this place before on this board, but we recently made another trip to Garden at the Cellar in Cambridge, and once i was completely blown away. honestly, i don't think any place in the area compares in terms of value combined with quality of food, especially now that the Biltmore has gone under new ownership. i love the fact that you can eat well here (really well, in my opinion) for under $50 for two. there are many items on the menu that are very reasonably priced and it's easy to combine a few small plates for a substantive meal. i especially love what they do with vegetables--the veggie sides sampling is always really unique and delicious and always inspires me to do more with vegetables in my own cooking. i'm not vegetarian, but it seems like a really good dining option for those who are.

i'm surprised that the Garden doesn't get more play on this board (or maybe I've just missed the posts). have others had lackluster experiences there?

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  1. Glad to hear you enjoyed this place - it is pretty great.

    Here are some other threads I've found -

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/523484

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/510679

    and hey, here's mine! :

    )

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/479990

    among other numerous mentions on other threads.

    (If you put quotation marks around your search, you'll find it better I think)

    6 Replies
    1. re: Bob Dobalina

      My only gripe about Garden at the Cellar is that they don't take reservations. It's usually packed when we get there, and the threat of a long wait w/o rez is enough to make us reluctant to stop by.

      1. re: triple creme

        I totally agree. If I can't go right after work on a weeknight, I just don't bother. I do love this place though. The food can be really outstanding and at a great price for the quality.

        1. re: uman

          interesting...typically we've gone when it's just two of us, and haven't had a problem sitting at the bar. but maybe we've just been lucky!

        2. re: triple creme

          No one goes there anymore - it's too crowded.

          1. re: Bob Dobalina

            It may be less crowded now that the academic year is about over... but if you don't mind more casual surroundings, you can order off the restaurant menu in the bar down in the basement -- which, by the way, is home to the friendliest bartender in the greater Boston area. The burgers and rosemary truffle fries on the bar menu are pretty fantastic, and my favorite small plate (though a super filling one) on the main menu is the ribs/beet & bacon salad combo -- yum! The Cellar basement bar can be pretty loud and crowded, too, but during the summer it's usually pretty mellow.

            1. re: Bob Dobalina

              Ha! Smooth use of the Yogi Berra reference!

        3. Garden Cellar - worth the trip but hit and miss. The prices will probably keep us coming back, but we had this smoky chicken soup that was abysmal - it tasted like they poured a half-gallon of oil in it...

          1. I've only been to the Garden a few times and as I tend to go out late, it was never a problem getting a table. However, for just a few dollars more,I think Rendezevous just a few blocks away is a much better restaurant.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ghostcat

              Rendezvous is certainly more polished/ambitious, but IMO a lot less comfortable. There's something about the layout, the spacing of the tables, that always felt a bit...formal to me. Also, I may be misremembering, but is the difference really just a few dollars?

              Point being, I guess, that for me the two are apples/oranges...

            2. Here's some love! I went this weekend and loved it. Every table and bar stool was taken we arrived, but by 8:30 the restaurant was practically empty, save for us at the bar and two tables. Anyway, the food was all in all pretty great:
              Shared a watermelon, tomato and goat cheese salad to start - light, sweet, sour, crunchy: good.
              DC had the burger - perfectly cooked, tasty, and on a brioche that was actually the perfect foil for the burger. I stand corrected about the brioche:burger issue - it can really work!
              Fried green tomato blt for me - lovely, but could have used more tomatoes; weirdly, sandwich was overwhelmed by bacon in a bad way. Who knew that could happen? However, bacon was certainly delicious.
              Truffle french fries are certainly from the gods - they held their crisp to the bitter end and the truffle was just amazing.

              By the way, they open for lunch on July 5: 11:30 - 2pm.

              1. Six of us tried Garden at the Cellar last Tuesday. We arrived at 7pm and were told it would be a 45 minute wait, since they don’t take reservations. I can’t imagine what the wait on a weekend night must look like. It is understandable though as the room is tiny. We were quite hungry by the time we sat down so we promptly ordered the rosemary-truffle fries, homemade tater tots and the Halloumi cheese with tomato chutney. The fries were perfectly addictive with lots of rosemary flavor! The tater tots were also good but paled compared to the fries. I personally thought that the Halloumi was the best of the three appetizers! The cheese was fried perfectly and the tomato chutney was a great tangy accompaniment! A few of the group ordered appetizers for their main dishes. The cod fritters with chives, and citrus remoulade were very good! They had a lot of cod, without a lot of filler. The citrus remoulade was just wonderful with a tartness and acidity which complemented the cod. We also tried the steamed littlenecks with greek yogurt, bacon, and green garlic appetizer. I am not a big fan of clams but the yogurt sauce was the best! I have not had bivalves prepared in a yogurt sauce and I thought it was wonderful! The sauce was just perfectly piquant and also very flavorful with the garlic and bacon. One of the entrées at the table was the Pork Cheek Pot au Feu which was served with the white bean puree with roasted garlic and oregano. The pork was delicious! Perfectly braised with a lovely flavor and very tender. The white bean puree however, was an odd choice of pairing. Not only that, it wasn’t good. It seemed to have a very strong flavor almost like a blue cheese which overwhelmed the white beans and detracted from the dish. I had the spring onion flatbread with ricotta, bacon, and asparagus for my entrée. It was nicely prepared with a thin chewy crust and a tasty combination of toppings. But, it was not the best pizza I have had in town. Overall, Garden at the Cellar is a lovely room with some very well made dishes. But, not all were outstanding and given that they don’t take reservations and we had to wait about 50 minutes on a Tuesday I am not sure I would rush back.

                This seems to echo some of the comments already made here but I thought I would add the info on what we tried in case someone is looking for suggestions.

                1 Reply
                1. re: MasalaWala

                  Three of us were there on a weekday last week too. We arrived at 6:45 and waited maybe 15 minutes for a table. We ordered the rosemary/truffle fries right away. They were way too good, so I was forced to eat too many of them. That put a bit of a damper on my hunger for the rest of the meal, but I did manage to enjoy everything.

                  Started with the tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich. The soup was lovely and rivals the tomato soup at Upstairs on the Square. As my main dish I had the short rib, which is an appetizer but I still couldn't finish half of it. It comes with a wonderful herbed carrot puree and beet/bacon salad. The leftovers made a wonderful lunch the next day.

                  But the star of all our dishes was the littlenecks in bacon-y yogurt sauce. I don't eat clams but I would devour that sauce all by itself.

                  Our server was personable, eager and knowledgeable. I'm still bugged about the no-reservations policy but I will be back.