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Short leash in Cambridge

I'm on foot at Harvard in a super intense summer program that runs 12+ hours a day, starting at 9 AM. I am sleeping on campus. I am from Portland and am therefore spoiled by a great price/quality ratio. I am also now unemployed, broke from Harvard tuition, and generally on a tight budget. I know you can't have it both ways, but I am trying to do my best.

I need to find alot of meals on a 10-15 minute walk. Kendall Square and Central Square are out for weekdays - possibly weekday dinners if it is mindblowlingly good and economical enough to warrant the T fare (yes, that tight, sorry).

Dietary problems (hard when you're a foodie): I have a very painful reaction to sweet and tart foods. No fruit, no sweet veg, no vinaigrette, no OJ, etc. It's really fucked up. I'm a guinea pig at a major research hospital for it but had to leave to attend this program. I am also allergic to shellfish and lactose intolerant. This excludes a lot of Asian food and good New England lobster, crab, chowda, etc. I also have bad digestion due to too little acid and digestive agents in my system. I love hot and spicy food - it's the dense stuff like pasta, potatoes, bagels, huge steaks, pork chops, etc, that I have a hard time getting down).

Tired of "nos" yet?

Here is more what I'm looking for:

Breakfast - I eat something small with a cup of coffee or sometimes just a good latte. More room for lunch. Unfortunately, I have yet to find good coffee or pastries around here. So far have tried Starbucks (Hi Rise was closed - anyone know their hours?) and Au Bon Pain today (holy shit it was horrible). Anything good within a 10 minute walk of campus? What's Petsi's like? Is Burdick more of a dessert place? Any other offerings? Its hard to find a pastry that isn't over the top sweet.

Lunch - same 10 minute walk. Felipe's was enjoyable enough. Boloco was horrible. I liked sandwiches at Darwin - do they have an adjacent sit down area? I couldn't tell. Digestive issues make me avoid having starch for both lunch and dinner (sandwiches, pizza, burritos, etc - I know this makes economy consideration alot more difficult).

Dinner - pretty much the same, but good beer is always a plus (Portland again). The pie at Cambridge One I chose (their version of the Marg) was too sweet for me (all the tomatoes) but the others look good enough. I didn't enjoy Pinocchio's tonight, but I generally do like good, thin, charred pizza. I like non-western food. Chinese, Japanese (sushi excepted), and Thai are generally out (Issan excepted) because of my sweet reaction/sour reaction. Indian is a mixed bag. I like western food just as much.

If you're still reading, bless you. I didn't choose my diet and hope the amount of detail isn't as obnoxious as those being selective due to calories, feared ingredients, or pickiness. They are all physiological exclusions that I have no control over. If only I could be paid for being a lab rat.

Thanks for any replies or helpful info. Cambridge is beautiful and I hope to get a couple hours to get into Boston, but until then I'm pretty locked up.

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  1. Try Crema Cafe for breakfast. It's at that point where Harvard Square and Brattle Square meet: there's an outlying entrance to the Harvard Square T station right in front of it. I have not had the pastries, which look tasty enough and not particularly sweet, but I had a coffee there a couple weeks ago and it was quite good.

    1. Not sure if this meets your criteria, but as an additional option, there's a fairly large "by the ounce" salad bar open weekdays for lunch right inside the yard (Lehman Hall). Being a salad bar it was pretty light on starches and high on veg, proteins, legumes, fruits, etc. Went for the first time today and "weighed in" at around $6.. air conditioned dining room or take it to go...

      2 Replies
      1. re: mrsx

        maybe portuguese food though most of the good portuguese restaurants are closer to Inman Square than to Harvard Square? My favorite cheap eats "near" harvard is also a hike: Basta Pasta on Western Avenue. Isn't there also a food court near Porter Square station with good Asian choices at good prices?

        1. re: mrsx

          Hi, The cheapest good meal in Boston is just a few steps away at Grendel's Den, on Winthrop St, just off JFK. They have a great selection of beers and 1/2 price food every day from 5-7:30 and 9-11:30 on Sun-Thurs., as long as you spend $3. on a beverage. It really is the best deal in town and a very "local" place....very few tourists know about it. The food is healthy and well prepared and the portions are sane. It's a Harvard Square institution.

        2. Crema Cafe, Hi-Rise (not sure of hours, but I think they're open for breakfast and lunch every day), and Darwin's should have you covered for breakfast and lunch. Yes, Burdick's is sweets only.

          There's also Cafe Algiers and Grendel's, both right in the Square for pretty cheap eats. For dinner, I'd walk 10-15 minutes to Garden at the Cellar right on Mass. Ave headed toward Central Square. It's a gastropub, but they've got a lot of small plates and you could cobble together a good, not-expensive meal there.

          1. How about Pho Le for Vietnamese? You could get pho and leave the noodles (I can't eat dense things like noodles either), and just enjoy the richness of the broth and the (thin) meat.

            12 hours a day - sounds like some folks I know who did summer orgo at Harvard and were $6k poorer for it. :(

            3 Replies
            1. re: Prav

              Do you find the noodles in pho dense? I find Asian noodles much lighter and easier to digest than traditional Italian (semolina or whole wheat based) pastas. The only exception may be udon, which I do find heavy do to their thicker cut, but I find rice-based noodles in particular very digestible.

              1. re: kobuta

                I do agree with you, pho noodles aren't dense compared to semolina or udon. I actually have a stomach condition that prohibits me from eating any sorta pasta. :)

                1. re: Prav

                  Nuts. That would make me cry because noodles in soup are my favorite comfort food.

            2. Wow, what a drag having all those restrictions but you were amusing about it. I like Crema Cafe too and a little further up Mass Ave. toward Central is Zoe's for when you want a more real breakfast. Also the Half Shell down Mass Ave. toward Porter has omelettes and such (are eggs okay?) and diner style lunches. A burger at Bartley's? Or cheaper at Flat Patties in the Garage. Red meat okay? Crepes just past Oona's on Mass Ave. Other fish meals at Dolphin Seafood above Zoe's. Lunch at the Plough and Stars, altho that may be out of the walking range down Mass Ave.