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

tennisboy Oct 29, 2008 08:29 AM

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. hiddenboston Oct 29, 2008 08:39 AM

    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
      Joanie Oct 29, 2008 09:40 AM

      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
        tennisboy Oct 29, 2008 09:56 AM

        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
          Joanie Oct 29, 2008 10:07 AM

          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
            hiddenboston Oct 29, 2008 10:36 AM

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

            1. re: hiddenboston
              foodlover678 Nov 5, 2008 08:27 PM

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

        2. re: Joanie
          gini Oct 29, 2008 10:33 AM

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

          1. re: Joanie
            jgg13 Oct 30, 2008 01:06 PM

            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
              hiddenboston Oct 30, 2008 01:13 PM

              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
                jgg13 Oct 30, 2008 01:22 PM


                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. finlero Oct 29, 2008 10:12 AM

          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
            gini Oct 29, 2008 10:33 AM

            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
              tennisboy Oct 29, 2008 12:11 PM

              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
                hiddenboston Oct 29, 2008 12:33 PM

                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
                  Allstonian Oct 29, 2008 12:52 PM

                  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
                  hsquare2southend Oct 29, 2008 05:11 PM

                  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
                    nzach Nov 12, 2008 06:21 PM

                    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
                enhF94 Nov 6, 2008 02:49 AM

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

                1. re: finlero
                  whats4dinner Dec 1, 2010 04:13 PM

                  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
                    FoodDabbler Dec 1, 2010 05:44 PM

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

                2. j
                  jajjguy Oct 29, 2008 03:25 PM

                  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
                    triple creme Oct 30, 2008 07:59 PM

                    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
                      MC Slim JB Nov 1, 2008 06:52 AM

                      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
                        black bean can Nov 2, 2008 11:05 AM

                        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. p
                        pickledtink Oct 29, 2008 05:24 PM

                        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
                          jgg13 Oct 30, 2008 01:07 PM

                          "are Zoe's"

                          The OP panned Zoes right from the getgo ;)

                          1. re: jgg13
                            pickledtink Oct 30, 2008 06:08 PM

                            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
                              dashrashi Nov 5, 2008 05:10 PM

                              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. yumyum Oct 29, 2008 05:44 PM

                          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
                            lschow Oct 30, 2008 12:59 PM

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

                          2. a
                            allston chow Oct 29, 2008 06:30 PM

                            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
                              RedSoxForevah Nov 29, 2010 07:49 AM

                              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. fmcoxe6188 Oct 30, 2008 01:27 PM

                              Just over the bridge but how about Paramount on Charles?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: fmcoxe6188
                                bachslunch Oct 30, 2008 01:57 PM

                                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
                                  teezeetoo Oct 30, 2008 06:57 PM

                                  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
                                    gansu girl Nov 29, 2010 10:19 AM

                                    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. yumyum Oct 31, 2008 06:33 AM

                                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
                                  BJK Nov 12, 2008 06:35 PM

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


                                2. a
                                  Andymayo99 Oct 31, 2008 07:07 AM

                                  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
                                    dulce de leche Oct 31, 2008 08:47 AM

                                    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
                                      cpingenot Oct 31, 2008 09:59 AM

                                      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. viperlush Nov 1, 2008 05:08 PM

                                    Have you considered Hot of the Press in Central Square?

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: viperlush
                                      jgg13 Nov 3, 2008 07:31 AM

                                      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
                                        viperlush Nov 3, 2008 09:06 AM

                                        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
                                          jgg13 Nov 3, 2008 09:50 AM

                                          "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. k
                                      KingCarnivore Nov 4, 2008 06:31 PM

                                      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: KingCarnivore
                                        foodlover678 Nov 5, 2008 08:28 PM

                                        Delux Town Diner is where its at!

                                        1. re: KingCarnivore
                                          robertlf Nov 12, 2008 05:51 PM

                                          What about CREMA in Harvard Sq.?

                                          1. re: robertlf
                                            Allstonian Nov 12, 2008 05:56 PM

                                            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."

                                        2. m
                                          monicall Nov 5, 2008 06:24 PM

                                          S&S in Inman?

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: monicall
                                            juanbatlle Nov 5, 2008 06:42 PM

                                            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
                                              bachslunch Nov 5, 2008 06:49 PM

                                              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
                                              cgj Nov 6, 2008 09:09 AM

                                              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. d
                                              djd Nov 13, 2008 07:54 AM

                                              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
                                                neil Nov 23, 2008 10:08 AM

                                                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
                                                  neil Dec 8, 2008 03:30 PM

                                                  and one more

                                                  1 Belmont St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                              2. leahms Nov 23, 2008 01:24 PM

                                                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. t
                                                  tennisboy Apr 26, 2009 10:58 AM

                                                  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
                                                    bear Apr 26, 2009 06:09 PM

                                                    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. BerkeleyPowerGrip Nov 29, 2010 07:50 PM

                                                    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
                                                      FoodDabbler Nov 29, 2010 09:08 PM

                                                      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
                                                        brandywiner Nov 30, 2010 08:14 AM

                                                        +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!

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