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Where are the great sit-down breakfast (not brunch) spots in Cambridge!?

Zoe's defines mediocre. Petsi's and 1369 are great but they are coffeeshops. Henrietta's Table and Harvest are uber-high end brunch joints. IHOP is smelly. Where are the great weekday breakfast places in Cambridge? Where 2 can dine for under $20 and leave happy...? And no very greasy joints please...

This is a university town (albeit no Berkeley or Montreal), there's gotta be some places I am missing!!

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  1. You might want to try Brookline Lunch in Central Square. I'd say it's a small step up from a typical greasy joint, though it's not gourmet by any means.

    Also, a friend of mine swears by Andy's Diner in Porter Square, though I've never been...

    9 Replies
    1. re: hiddenboston

      Yeah, the greasy thing is gonna be tough. Mass Ave. Diner bet. Central and Harvard is a full on breakfast/lunch place. Miracle of Science has breakfast that's not greasy but not really a breakfast spot per se. That Half Shell place bet. Harvard & Porter is okay and the cafe on the corner of Vassar (I think) and Mass Ave. is all right. Does Izzy's make breakfast?

      1. re: Joanie

        All of this screams mediocre! Are there really no awesome places It's sort of surprising given the nice lunch options (i.e. All-Star Sandwich Shop, etc.).

        1. re: tennisboy

          Well, I'm just trying to think of any breakfast spots and there you go. Let us know if you have any other bright ideas.

          1. re: Joanie

            For some reason, a certain God-awful song by James Ingram suddenly popped into my head.....

            1. re: hiddenboston

              All the Restaurants in Central Square are good but I have to agree with that one.

        2. re: Joanie

          Izzy's isn't open for breakfast, but Camie's is.

          1. re: Joanie

            I like the Mass Ave Diner. It changes a bit over time depending on who is working there, though. Plus these days you can't have pancakes as your bread side (e.g. toast, muffin, etc) which was a slick way to get a massive breakfast on the cheap (omelette w/ pancakes as a side)

            1. re: jgg13

              I like one of the Yelp reviews on the Mass. Ave. Diner:

              "You order an omelet, you get an omelet."

              What more could you want....

              1. re: hiddenboston


                Even better, looking at my own review from over a year ago - apparently I have a one track mind because I basically made the exact same points that I did above (regarding no longer being able to pig out on a full breakfast + sleaze your way into a free short stack)

        3. It's just over the Watertown line, but Delux Town Diner is one of the only spots in the area that passes my could-I-have-easily-cooked-a-better-breakfast-at-home test. Think of it as a "faux greasy spoon", an old school diner vibe with chow for the yuppie/bobo set. The sweet potato pancakes are my favorite.

          Just over the line into Somerville, I'm personally not a huge fan of Sound Bites or Ball Square Cafe, but a lot of people swear by them. I do love their massive piles of fresh fruit and their multigrain waffles.

          9 Replies
          1. re: finlero

            Soundbites' omelets taste like air - not in a good way - I'm pretty sure there aren't any eggs left in there. They must pour a container of milk into each one. I do love their waffles and fruit as well and a nice order of noplacelikehomefries always hits the spot.

            1. re: gini

              I've been meaning to try Soundbites for a while, as well as Delux Town Diner. Was just hoping there was something in Cambridge! It seems like a ripe business opportunity -- though of course a major headache -- but how is a college town a college town without a killer, decently priced breakfast w/a pleasant atmosphere.

              1. re: tennisboy

                In a way, it's really not a college town. For most of its history, it was an industrial city that just happened to have colleges and universities. So it's really a lot different from true college towns such as Amherst, Hanover, NH, Durham, NH, and Burlington, VT.

                Maybe that's not the reason why there aren't many decently-priced breakfast places with a nice atmosphere, but perhaps it has something to do with it...

                1. re: hiddenboston

                  Combine that with the fact that Boston/Cambridge college students don't really have a reputation as discerning diners, and appear to prefer cheap greasy spoons to decently-priced, high-quality sit-down breakfast places. Consider, for instance, the outpouring of nostalgia when Grecian Yearning in Allston burned.

                2. re: tennisboy

                  There used to be a breakfast place in Harvard Square, the Greenhouse. Was there forever, went out of business about a year ago.

                  I had several rather decent breakfasts at Z-Square when I used to live in Harvard Square. Not sure if it would meet your "awesome!" criteria, though...

                  1. re: hsquare2southend

                    wow - greenhouse went out of business?? i was at school in cambridge for 10 years (MIT), but moved away a year and a half ago... that place was an institution! but honestly, not any good and i always wondered why it didn't go out of business.

              2. re: finlero

                yep, I'd say that Delux has the closest analog to Waffle House, for those of you craving that with me.

                1. re: finlero

                  If you are going to a Watertown (but near Cambridge) diner, Uncommon Grounds is far superior to Delux, in my opinion. http://www.myuncommongrounds.com/

                  Uncommon Grounds
                  575 Mount Auburn St, Watertown, MA 02472

                  1. re: whats4dinner

                    I've eaten at both and I'm a deluxe man.

                2. Danny's Diner on Beacon St (in Somerville, but literally spitting distance to the city line) is surprisingly good. Standard diner offerings, well done. And cheap. You should try S&S in Inman, they can be fun. I've never tried Fresco's for breakfast, but I know they serve it for low dollars (Mass Ave near MIT).

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: jajjguy

                    I second Danny's. Every egg dish I've had there has been solid. Veg & cheese omelets, eggs benedict, huevos rancheros, and hash 'n' eggs (especially); it's all good. People seem to love the pancakes too but I haven't tried. The place is a tiny dive, so I don't know if that fits your bill.

                    1. re: jajjguy

                      I third Danny's; good corned-beef hash, nice pancakes with most orders, good coffee, waitresses that call you Hon.

                      I also agree with the idea that extraordinary breakfasts are rare. I still consider the Deluxe Town Diner my favorite, mainly for the fact that it has a big, interesting breakfast menu and does every little thing really well.

                      I can't remember which Hound steered me to the Miracle of Science for breakfast, but that was a great tip. It's really good there, and seemingly never crowded, at least on weekdays.

                      I recall a time when The Neighborhood did a great breakfast, but something broke there; I had a couple of really awful experiences and have crossed it off my list.

                      1. re: jajjguy

                        another vote for danny's as a solid option. BYO maple syrup to class it up a bit. Pancakes have been uniformly good, and it's a bit crazy that you can get pancakes instead of toast.

                      2. Two places that come to mind are Zoe's (on Mass ave between Central and Harvard) and Z Square (the downstairs part) in the middle of the Square. Last time I was at Z Square they had roasted veggies as a breakfast side that were quite tasty. Zoe's breakfasts are basic but I've never had a bad one.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: pickledtink

                          "are Zoe's"

                          The OP panned Zoes right from the getgo ;)

                          1. re: jgg13

                            oops...wonderfully careful reader, aren't I?

                            I will stand by what I said, though. Zoe's is fine for a basic meal...eggs included.

                            1. re: pickledtink

                              Agreed, although my special plug is definitely for the Belgian waffle. I'm not a waffle person at ALL, very much an omelet person by and large, but their waffle is unreal. It's like an enormous pillow-soft-with-soft-but-crispy-edges sugar cookie.

                              I've also DIY'd a really lovely omelet to approximate one I had a bajillion years ago at French Roast in the Village: onions, goat cheese, and kalamata olives. Zoe's is pretty much the only place I've ever been able to fully recreate it since they're the only place I've seen with all three options on the omelet options board.

                        2. I really think the extra 5 minute drive into Somerville is worth it. I love Soundbites, only on weekdays, and Ball Square Cafe is good too. Neighborhood in Union Square gets good reviews but I (still) have never been.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: yumyum

                            I love Neighborhood for their Cream of Wheat alone...

                          2. Breakfast Club on Western Ave. in Allston - It's not in Cambridge but is right across the river from Harvard Square. Great pancakes, waffles, omelettes, etc. Totally unpretentious. The counter chef is a great guy named Frank who can make anything you ask for.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: allston chow

                              Breakfast Club was fast and good chow. Easy to get to and park...good prices and agree with allston chow: totally unpretentious. Be prepared to wait, but definitely wait.

                              Breakfast Club
                              270 Western Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                            2. Just over the bridge but how about Paramount on Charles?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: fmcoxe6188

                                Had breakfast at the Paramount once, but was unhappy with the cashier's "prices subject to change if you don't watch us closely" behavior, followed by an argument with said cashier who insisted that I pay the higher place she demanded ("the price on the menu board is wrong" -- and I guess on the printed menu outside in your window as well) or I don't get my order.

                                Haven't been back, as I don't patronize places that play this little game.

                                1. re: bachslunch

                                  deluxe town diner (mt.auburn, watertown side) - spots cafe (main street, watertown, the best bread and real jam); victors (north beacon, watertown) - great locanico sausage and humungous portions, better than most greasy spoons, and real homey

                                  1. re: teezeetoo

                                    another shout-out for Victor's - not Cambridge (and there is nowhere in Cambridge I like, frankly), but solidly good and more down-to-earth than Deluxe (which I don't love - I might be the only person around here, though, so it's worth a try since you haven't been).


                              2. I just remembered a good option in Cambridge -- the 2nd Street Cafe near the Cambridge courthouse does great breakfast and it's rarely crowded in the mornings (mad house at lunch). Recently I had a breakfast sandwich that was great -- two eggs, ham, cheese on toasted rye. It was BIG and under $5. Good coffee, nice people.

                                2nd Street Cafe
                                89 2nd St Ste 1, Cambridge, MA 02141

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: yumyum

                                  Nice sandwiches and soups and decent salads for lunch, too. My office is a block away.


                                2. It's not Cambridge, but there's a spot in Somerville called The Neighborhood that's pretty good.It's located in Union Square.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Andymayo99

                                    It's the Neighborhood Restaurant. It's especially great in the summer, because you can sit outside at picnic tables under the grape arbor. Eating inside is a bit cramped and it's not an atmosphere like Petsi's or 1369.

                                    It's run by a friendly Portuguese family, so you will be offered Portuguese sweet bread and chourico. They serve a huge, carbo-load of food (pancakes come with a side of toast and a starter of cream of wheat?).

                                    Their specials can be really fun and inventive. It's cheap. Don't love the coffee, but Bloc 11 and Sherman Cafe are right there for that. But it's family-oriented, not foodie-oriented. Like, I wouldn't be surprised if they used "pancake syrup" rather than maple syrup, etc. And I think tennisboy is looking for something different.
                                    I love the place.

                                    I think Tennisboy is looking for is exactly the Deluxe Town Diner, but it's in Watertown.

                                    1. re: dulce de leche

                                      I'm a big fan of Miracle of Science for breakfast. I don't know where you draw the line of "not brunchy" but they do eggs and bacon w/ homefries, a great breakfast burrito and I think french toast.
                                      Their spicy turkey sausage is great. The coffee is decent although not to go out of your way for. Service is low key and efficient and they never seem so crowded that you're pressured to clear out. Come to think of it, maybe I shouldn't post about it if I want it to stay that way....

                                  2. Have you considered Hot of the Press in Central Square?

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: viperlush

                                      That place has ridiculously slow service for mediocre products. I've given them a few "one more chance" visits, and I always leave completely disappointed/irritated.

                                      1. re: jgg13

                                        I guess I've always been lucky then. I've gone when there has been a line and when there hasn't and I've never had to wait more than 5 min for my sandwich. Where else in Central Sq can one get a variety of egg sandwiches made to order? I've always left satisfied, but then again I've never been in a hurry or looking for anything but a simple egg sandwich.

                                        1. re: viperlush

                                          "Where else in Central Sq can one get a variety of egg sandwiches made to order?"

                                          Well, the Mass Ave Restaurant has egg sandwiches but they're not quite the same. There's a reason why I keep giving it one more chance ;) I will say though that their breakfast sandwiches are a lot better than the non-breakfast ones (@ hot off the press). I usually like their breakfast sandwiches, and usually dislike their normal ones ... it's just that the service annoys me too. The workers there never seem to beo verly concerned with moving things along, just kinda taking their time with everything (and not in a good 'slow cooked homey goodness' sort of way).

                                    2. Without the Greenhouse right in the middle of the square, there is really no good dinery option... perhaps the rents now preclude it.

                                      Delux Town Diner in Watertown sells a 'diner experience' more than it does true, solid diner food. They try to do fancy diner food and in my opinion, fail. Also, its expensive. Aint no way that 2 people are dining there for under $20.

                                      Down the street and around the corner on North Beacon St, you'll find what you're looking for - Victor's Diner. Great huge omelets, egg sandwiches, truck driver specials, all for under $10 with coffee. The staff there is salt of the earth. Fair disclosure: I take my 5 yr old daughter there every other saturday so I'm a little biased ;)

                                      Will second two other mentions: Love, love, love The Neighborhood restaurant in Union Square in Somerville. Best bang for your breakfast buck no question - but bring your hunger. Definitely go for the specials. Also agree with a reec for The Breakfast Club on Western Ave behind Harvard stadium.

                                      3 Replies
                                          1. re: robertlf

                                            Crema is great, but it's not a full breakfast restaurant. They have egg sandwiches and some fabulous baked goods - I think that falls into tennisboy's category of "coffeeshops."

                                          1. re: monicall

                                            I second S and S. Probably the closest to what the OP is looking for. Renee's Luncheonette near Teel Sq (might technically be in Somerville, but close enough), the big table at Toscanini's on the weekends is good in Central Sq.. Does Hi-Rise Bakery do breakfast sandwiches? There are 2 Cambridge locations. I can also second the Neighborhood, though in Somerville. Blue Shirt Cafe in Davis Sq.

                                            1. re: juanbatlle

                                              I'm less convinced on the S&S. The OP said that Zoe's "defines mediocre," and I'd like to be the proverbial fly on the wall to hear what they'll think of the lackluster fare and snarly service there if they go.

                                            2. re: monicall

                                              I agree on the S&S--I know it gets grief here, but it is the essence of basic breakfast: not a greasy spoon, and certainly not Henrietta's.

                                            3. The love for S&S always perplexes me. I have actually felt ill after eating there (more than once), and I have a pretty strong stomach. Not to mention the sewage smell outside puts me off.

                                              So, these are Somerville not Cambridge, but I second the love for Danny's and note that Supreme Kitchen reopened today. Basic, friendly greasy spoons.

                                              Has anyone been to Sunny's Diner? It's on either Vassar or that next street parallel, one block off Mass. Ave. by MIT. I always think of the late, lamented Sunny's Deli when I see it.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: djd

                                                Rolling in some addresses so I can keep track

                                                Petsi Pies
                                                285 Beacon St, Somerville, MA 02143

                                                Petsi Pies
                                                31 Putnam Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                                Neighborhood Restaurant
                                                25 Bow St, Somerville, MA 02143

                                                Hot Off the Press
                                                736 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA

                                                2nd Street Cafe
                                                89 2nd St Ste 1, Cambridge, MA 02141

                                                Victor's Diner
                                                214 N Beacon St, Watertown, MA 02472

                                                Breakfast Club
                                                270 Western Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                                                Massachusetts Avenue Restaurant
                                                906 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                                1369 Coffeehouse
                                                757 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                                1. re: neil

                                                  and one more

                                                  1 Belmont St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                              2. I would definitely try Sofra Bakery, Hi Rise Bakery, Darwin's, and I like Uncommon Grounds in Watertown near Cambridge border.

                                                Boston Family Foodie

                                                1. It's been a while since I posted, but I now have some experience with breakfast issues!

                                                  (1) S & S is actually pretty good, esp their egg dishes

                                                  (2) Neighborhood Bakery, while I really want to love it, is overly greasy and makes me feel sick for about 1-2 days after eating there. I've been there 4 times, thinking I'd give it "one extra chance." Never again.

                                                  (3) Henrietta's Table is a surprisingly good value on the weekdays, and one of the only decent places with outdoor seating.

                                                  (4) Sofra is always crowded!!!

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: tennisboy

                                                    Also check out Uncommon Grounds on Mt. Auburn in Watertown, just up the street from Sofra, if you haven't eaten there yet. It's a decent weekday breakfast. Good quality and good prices. The bacon and cheese scramble is nice and gooey.

                                                  2. The place to go is Andy's Diner a bit north of Porter Sq at 2030 Mass Ave. Actually in Cambridge, local, sit down, good, solid breakfast.
                                                    Henrietta's table is a great breakfast - but barely under $20 for two if you just have an entree and coffee. And not half as high-end as Harvest - which only does brunch on Sunday for $35 a piece.
                                                    And, yes, who will bring a Waffle House in Cambridge?!! Please?!

                                                    Andy's Diner
                                                    2030 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: BerkeleyPowerGrip

                                                      I'm a big fan of Andy's and I eat there often, but to see its charms you have to look past the food.

                                                      1. re: BerkeleyPowerGrip

                                                        +1 on Andy's. Just a good, reliable breakfast. I generally get a mushroom omelette when I go, and they make them just as I like them. (Not runny, but no browning.)

                                                        A big -1 on Waffle House, though. I've tried them in several states, and I just don't get the love.

                                                        Now, if we could get an Original Pancake House or two in New England, my brother and I would be happy campers!