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Recommendations for Affordable dinner options in Cambridge

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Josh M Sep 13, 2008 06:06 PM

After going to school in Cambridge for a year, i've finally made the move and am living between Porter and Harvard Square. Because I didn't used to live here before, I know the bars in the area and some of the nicer options (Rendezvous, Oleana, Craigie Street Bistrot), but I'm trying to find some restaurants that have tasty food I can eat on a regular basis without breaking the bank. So far, I've personally come to like Cambridge One, Emma's, Christopher's, All Star Sandwich Bar, and Wagamama, but I'm sure there's other good (better?) Chowish options.

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    amychef RE: Josh M Sep 13, 2008 06:47 PM

    algier's on brattle is a good deal - some of their food is bad, but they do several dishes very well: the falafels, lamb kebab, and lamb sausage is fantastic. you can make a meal out of a filling sandwich for less than $10.
    cheap cheap is boca grande on mass ave. v good mexican, they have great tamales. this is a quick-sit place though, no alcohol served.
    the cellar on mass ave. quality food, nice bar, good prices.
    baraka on pearl - closer to central but not far. super cheap, delicious n. african food.
    if you're into sandwiches, darwin's cafe has fantastic food.
    for a quick cheap meal, go for vietnamese at Le's.
    last but not least, the cuban at the chez henri bar is a deal. it's ~$13 but is huge, so it's perfect to split or eat for lunch the next day.

    1. d
      Dan J RE: Josh M Sep 13, 2008 06:49 PM

      Boca Grande just outside of Porter is one of my favorites.

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        pollystyrene RE: Josh M Sep 13, 2008 07:31 PM

        Veggie Planet in Harvard Sq.

        2 Replies
        1. re: pollystyrene
          cassis RE: pollystyrene Sep 14, 2008 07:15 AM

          I love Veggie Planet. Other cheap but good places are
          -the Dolphin (seafood) used to have a great deal for early supper, maybe before 5PM
          - Basta Pasta
          - is it Il Panino in the same arcade as the Dolphin? really good pasta
          - the Buddhist Center on Mass Ave between HS and CS , I think $10 for a vegetarian meal

          1. re: cassis
            Allstonian RE: cassis Sep 15, 2008 06:53 AM

            Il Panino is actually a few blocks further towards Central Square from Dolphin, in the complex that once upon a time housed the Orson Welles Cinema (I'm dating myself!) I haven't tried their pastras, but the subs are good.

        2. voodoocheese RE: Josh M Sep 13, 2008 08:59 PM

          I would absolutely recommend skipping Wagamama and hitting up Porter Exchange instead- it's priced better and there are tons of options! If you walk a little past All Star, you can eat at Muqueca for Brazilian that's not super pricey. Cafe of India on Brattle has a lunch buffet that's a steal for around $10- but get it to go, and you'll have at least two meals!

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            02139 RE: Josh M Sep 14, 2008 06:03 AM

            If you're adventurous, try Addis Red Sea (on Mass Ave near Porter). I think the Cambridge location is better than the South End one.
            Rangzen in Central Sq. has a nice tibetan buffet fot lunch.
            I second Muqueca (near Inman Sq.) too, very solid seafood oriented Brazilian food.
            For Chinese, go to Mary Chung in Central Sq.

            1. WilliamTheFoodie RE: Josh M Sep 14, 2008 06:24 AM

              Flat Patties in Harvard Square (The Garage) is a great value and the pulled pork sandwiches are good. Always filled with Harvard students on a budget. I like The Upper Crust for the slice of the day. Temple Bar on Mass Ave is not excruciatingly expensive for dinner. The cubano at Chez Henri is definitely dinner tonite and lunch the next day. I've done a lot of postings on this area I can't even remember. My blog is:

              www.thebostonfoodie.blogspot.com.

              1. greygarious RE: Josh M Sep 14, 2008 07:40 AM

                Your question prompted me to look at their website: I don't know how good Grendel's Den is these days - it's been many years but I recall enjoying their food. Dinners are half-price before 7:30 and after 9:30, if you have a $3 beverage. This would mean a total cost of under $10 for most dinners. And there are express lunch specials for under $5. Think I'll have to try them again soon! Any thoughts from CHers who go there regularly?

                2 Replies
                1. re: greygarious
                  digga RE: greygarious Sep 14, 2008 01:59 PM

                  Grendel's food is rather dreadful, but it soaks up the beer nicely. How about Forest Cafe for Mexican? Entrees might be a tad out a starving student's budget, but I think you could squeeze something reasonable out of the menu.

                  1. re: greygarious
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                    dulce de leche RE: greygarious Sep 14, 2008 02:02 PM

                    I don't go regularly, every few months, I guess, but the last time I went, I was surprised at how good it was. I'd remembered it as cheap $$ but not too much care taken. My companion's sandwich (turkey & havarti), while not really hard to make, was delicious. I like the sambal shrimp, too.

                    Other places you all didn't mention that are in the hood: Tamarind House on Mass Ave for Thai, RF O'Sullivan's on Beacon St. for hamburgers, Greek Corner on Mass Ave on the way to Arlington. All priced well and do what they do well.

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                    jajjguy RE: Josh M Sep 14, 2008 12:29 PM

                    2 excellent indian places, each with its own distinctive style: Tamarind Bay in Harvard Sq (off JFK st across from Peet's) and Kabob Factory at the corner of Kirkland and Beacon.
                    City Slicker on Somerville ave, basically a pizza and subs place that is different from and much better than the norm.
                    West Side Lounge on Mass Ave, fine dining style but not so expensive.
                    Cambridge Common on Mass Ave: same idea and quality level as Christophers.
                    Newtowne Grill on Mass Ave: a dive bar with really excellent pizza (cheap!).

                    If you can make it all the way to Union Sq Somerville, there are a few good choices: The Independent, WuChon House, Pollo a la Brasa, Tacqueria a la Mexicana.

                    and in Inman Sq: Ole Mexican Grille and Olecito across the street, S&S, Punjabi Dhaba, Casa Portugal

                    Moody's Falafel Palace in Central. cheap!

                    Welcome and enjoy.

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                      fredid RE: Josh M Sep 15, 2008 08:28 AM

                      Also, for decent although not great, Thai - esp very good lunch prices - Sugar and Spice on Mass Ave just north of Porter. I like the Drunken Noodles and Mango Curry. I recently tried and enjoyed Annapurna, couple blocks further north on Mass Ave and Walden - again lunch specials are extremely reasonable and nice quality. On Concord Ave and Huron, HiRise has huge, and I hear, very good sandwiches, not "cheap" for a sandwich, but reasonable for a meal. Could also get a hunk of cheese, or a sandwich, at Formaggio's, on Huron. (Whoops! Lunch more then dinner suggestions - but maybe they'll be useful!)

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                        jajjguy RE: Josh M Sep 15, 2008 09:16 AM

                        May as well add Frank's Steakhouse. The steakhouse experience for less money and with less pomp than the folks downtown. Not the best steak I ever had, but not bad.

                        1. SpicyTea RE: Josh M Sep 15, 2008 12:44 PM

                          Blue Fin, in the Porter Exchange building, is excellent, and I think it's the best value for Japanese food in the area. I often go for the donburi bowl (eel, rice) but have had most of the menu -- I can't do the sticky yam -- and I'm always impressed by how consistently good the food is. Their sushi's good, but it's so much harder to find such good grilled food, like their yakitori and any of the fish dishes, that I've been concentrating on that lately. Give it a try!

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