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Oct 29, 2008 08:29 AM

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.

                  Uncommon Grounds
                  575 Mount Auburn St, Watertown, MA 02472

                  1. re: whats4dinner

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

                2. The original comment has been removed
                  1. 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.