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Green Street, Hungry Mother or Central Kitchen?

We will be staying in Cambridge on Saturday (I'm from Toronto) and need a place for dinner. We're looking for something casual and recession-friendly, with great cocktails and comfort-ing food.

I had decided on Green Street, but got anxious after reading a recent thread indicating that there have been service issues lately. We've been to Central Kitchen and loved it (although it's been a while), but not to either of the others. Which would you pick? Or is there another spot we're overlooking?

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  1. I went to Green Street the other night and, while the mixology is excellent, the food was just OK. Also, they have not managed to fully squelch the (fraternity basement) odor that strongly pervaded the place when it was in decline, several years ago. The odor crept up every once in a while and made the experience a tad sour. I cannot comment on the other two places.

    1. All three! But if you only have time for one, I'd say Hungry Mother most perfectly fits your specifications. Make sure to get a reservation, they've been pretty full even at off hours.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jajjguy

        Would agree that Hungry Mother best fits your requirements. I've not had the cocktails, but they are supposed to be excellent - and the dishes are essentially comfort food but SO much better. Do make reservations, though, ASAP if you decide to go there.

      2. I'd definitely pick Hungry Mother of these three options. Highland Kitchen in Somerville is also an excellent and reasonably priced option for cocktails and comfort food in the area.

        1. Have you tried Rendezvous(across the street from CK)? This is a fav of many.

          502 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139

          1. All three are places I love to go. Central Kitchen has the most low-key, romantic vibe. Emphasis is on the wine rather than cocktails, as you know, and the food is great, if the menu a bit limited.

            Green Street is a bit more lively, excellent cocktails, very good food, the widest variety of the three.

            Hungry Mother the most barlike atmosphere, IME. Awesome cocktails, great food, but a very specific taste. If you have a veg or a non-pork eater, there will be deliciousness but only a few choices.

            1. I like all those places (certainly have never caught the odor that one poster detects at Green Street). I'd say Hungry Mother has the nicest, most original food, Green Street the best cocktails. Central Kitchen only has beer/wine, but the food is still very good.

              I'd also add Rendezvous to that list; they have a nice mix of excellent food and very good cocktails (probably second on that list). Also high in my estimation is the new Craigie on Main (cocktails second to Green Street, and better than Rendezvous), but its food while excellent is the priciest of the bunch. Were you willing to spend at that level, you should also consider Salts, which is fabulous (but also beer/wine only).

              6 Replies
              1. re: MC Slim JB

                A huge group of us dined at GSG the other night and had a wonderful time. Dylan and staff were incredibly nice. While most of us went the beer route, several were raving about the Daisy Black (not on the menu but a family recipe of Dylan's he turned us onto several months ago.)

                We ordered a number of apps, from lobster fritters - incredible... to a wonderful tuna tartate to the offal of the day (chicken liver crostini - great...) to a curried mussel - the only bummer, smelt slightly off.

                All but one of us loved our entree - my friend said his steak was slightly overcooked and was chewy. I had the fennel sausage and clam stew, which I would eat 100 times and not get bored of.

                I can't speak for Hungry Mother and loved Highland Kitchen - catfish po boy is wonderful.

                1. re: Mr Bigglesworth

                  I could have sworn that I've seen the daisy black on the drink menu @ green street. Do you mean that it wasn't on the short menu or was it actually not in that big giant book they have?

                  1. re: jgg13

                    The short cocktail menu changes regularly; the Daisy Black (named after Dylan's great-grandfatther, a bartender) is always on the longer cocktail "bible" there.

                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      Ah, good to know. I haven't seen the short menu for a long while, I always seem to find myself either already knowing what I want or in there when it is so packed that it'd be annoying to track one down.

                2. re: MC Slim JB

                  Central Kitchen does have serve cocktails! They do some of them quite nicely--I've had great margaritas there, for ex, and a decent mojito. It's just not their forte.

                  Unless something has changed in the last couple of months?

                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    After going to the new Craigie a few times and many trips to Green St. sans Misty, I would say that Craigie is the best cocktail spot in Cambridge now (and by a noticeable margin). Tom is a serious talent and may be the most ambitious barperson in the area. Last time I went, he nearly burned the bar down, but the drinks were spectacular. Of particular note was a drink of 3 parts brandy, one part cynar, one part pimento dram, one part green chartreuse (i think those were the ratios) in a glass that received a flamed Becherovka rinse. He also made a scotch sazerac with a flamed lebanese arrack rinse.

                    Ordering off the Craigie bar menu, which includes their amazing burger, would set you back the same or less for food than the other places mentioned.

                  2. Just one? Tough to choose between those options, especially adding in Craigie. The first to go for me would be Central Kitchen (not bad, but the cocktail requirement quickly knocks them out).

                    Between Craigie and Green St I'd probably say it's a toss-up. I'd actually respectfully disagree with an earlier poster and say Craigie has the better cocktails now, but it is dependent upon who's working when. Green St sans Misty is still no slouch, has much better beer and more consistent service, the atmosphere is a bit more relaxed and I'd put the food in the more comfort category (oh, it's much cheaper too!).

                    I'd probably do dinner at one followed by drinks at the other.

                    Hungry Mother is great food (likely my fave of the bunch, by a hair), the cocktails on my two trips are well below Green St and Craigie (not bad, just not that remarkable). It's also a little farther away, eliminating a quick walk to sample another place.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: sailormouth

                      I can confirm with authority that Central Kitchen does indeed have a full liquor license and has had one for about five years (concurrent with the opening of the Enormous Room).

                      We have wine too.

                      Call this a commercial post.

                      1. re: sailormouth

                        I agree re Green St sans Misty & Craigie. From my post-Misty experiences (and earlier times when she just wasn't there) I'd put GS just a bit behind Craigie.

                        1. re: jgg13

                          I guess I'll go out on a limb and say that Craigie now is better than the Misty-era Green Street for cocktails. It is a hard comparison to make since their times did not overlap and the supporting institutions are in different price classes (providing for, I think, a wider variety of ingredients at Craigie).

                          Don't get me wrong, I loved Misty at Green Street (though I haven't made it to Drink yet). But I always thought she was a little chartreuse happy, and that was reflected in both the rotating cocktail menus during her "reign" and what she would suggest when I asked for something off menu. While I like the occasional green every once and awhile, I always felt it was too overpowering for cocktails. Tom seems not to be too entranced by any one ingredient--though I haven't been to Craigie enough to say that with too much confidence, and I get the feeling he likes to experiment with vermouth.

                          In terms of food, Hungry Mother is the choice over Green Street. Since I've never made it to Central Kitchen I can't comment on where they sit in this group.

                          1. re: jgg13

                            My guess is that if you put on a blindfold and tasted cocktails made by Misty, as well as some of the bartenders presently at Green Street, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Misty is an amazing bartender. I simply think that this is all subjective, and if you see Misty making your drink you assume the drink is going to be excellent based on her skill.

                            1. re: phosho

                              Based on a couple of post-Misty visits to Green Street, I have to concur: the new crew isn't a step down at all. Doubtless each bartender will steer you down his own path once you start asking for guidance.

                              I haven't been to Craigie often enough to get a strong impression of the staff's skills yet. My initial impression is that at the moment, it's a one-man show, and Tom doesn't have the bandwidth to prevent service from being very, very slow. It should be interesting to see how they fare once the rest of his team gets up to speed. I certainly enjoy their Antica Formula knock-off.

                              1. re: phosho

                                That's a possibility, expectations do always color one's thoughts. What I'm basing my statement on is that often (but not always, and sometimes the other way around) I find the same drink to not taste quite as good from andy/bice. Not a huge difference, but just something that leaves me saying, "Wow, I like it better when XYZ makes it".

                                Heck, I've seen it happen with folks who really don't know who any of these people are when they've gone with me to both Drink & GS (or even between the folks at Drink, but that's not really the discussion here) commenting, "I liked the one I had better when so-and-so made it".

                          2. OK... we're sticking with the original plan so I booked at table at Green Street. Thanks for the helpful comments. I'll report back!!

                            1. I would take Central Kitchen over Green Street hands-down. While the menu has fewer items, the execution and consistency at Central Kitchen are superior. Also, I really enjoy the music. It gives the place a much cooler vibe. Either way, you will not have a bad meal at either. I think Craigie is great, but much more expensive.

                              1. You really have three great places in consideration. For food alone, GS would be my third choice, but I have always had a great time at all three. Try the Parisian Orchid cocktail at GS. I think GS has the best cocktails of the three, HM has the best food, and CK the best wines.

                                Hungry Mother recently surpassed CK as my #1, but my, you have to be so on the ball to get a reservation there!

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: ginafly

                                  Just made a reservation at Hungry Mother for early March, having heard how difficult it was to nab one on short notice. Can't wait to try the cuisine there...everyone's been raving about this place since it opened, and I can't recall a restaurant that offered up French/Deep Southern-style fare.

                                  1. re: paulspalate

                                    I think Appalachian is probably closer than Deep Southern to the chef's influences; he's originally from southwestern Virginia. I'm very pleased that the restaurant caught on the way it has.

                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                      I'd agree with that description of the food.

                                      I've really been very pleased with Hungry Mother. And have experienced the best service in town after L'Espalier there. Not that I care about that compared to the food, but I still love how they try to hit the details.

                                      1. re: BostonCharles

                                        Had drinks and a light dinner at HM last night. I had the No. 43 (rye, port, maple syrup, bitters), which was excellent and probably the highlight of the meal. It was like drinking rye that was more rye than rye... if that makes any sense. Basically, all the flavors of rye were still there, except accentuated in a really fine way. This may seem like a small detail, but I appreciated the beautiful and classic rocks glass that it came in, and the single massive oval ice cube. Aesthetically and functionally the perfect presentation for the drink, and the kind of thing I think is generally overlooked.

                                        As for the food, my DC and I shared the biscuits with country ham (which was shaved thin like prosciutto and served with a pepper jelly that made for two perfect little bites), shrimp and grits (which I thought had a great texture and lots of really nice smoky flavors), and the french style gnocchi (might have been the low point, though still very good. The mushrooms were excellent, but I felt like the plate lacked a little substance... difficult to describe. Great flavors but it was maybe missing a bit of the oomph that one might expect from a main course). We finished with the lemon chess pie, which had a fantastic flaky pastry crust, a really delicious lemon curd and buttermilk ice cream, and it was all complemented very nicely with the herbal earl grey caramel.

                                        Overall, a great meal, though do note that the portions are a bit on the small side (though I did not have the steak or the chicken, which seemed to have larger portions). The front of the house service was fantastic. For example, I arrived before my DC and it was brutally cold outside so I asked to be seated and they made sure to get her name so that they could greet her and bring her to the table when she arrived. Our waitress was very friendly, but seemed a bit out of sorts (she seemed to have to work pretty hard to remember the specials and she just seemed a bit frazzled) but not nearly so much that it was a serious problem. I'll definitely be going back.

                                        1. re: TPistrix

                                          TPistrix - I couldn't agree with you more on the #43. We've been replicating it at home for about a month now (still not 100% correctly), but I never seem to get tired of it. <longing sigh>

                                2. We had a great time at Green Street on Saturday. We had fairly measured expectations after some of the comments on this thread, but overall GS met and exceeded our expectations.

                                  Mixology was indeed excellent. The Bulldog cocktail was the hit of our evening and we spent Sunday night trying to recreate it chez nous (we got pretty close... and we finally found a use for that bottle of cherry heering!).

                                  Food was very good. A short rib app was tasty but not first date food (we're way past the first date so picking up bones doesn't squidge us out). The green papaya slaw is a nice touch. Mr. Rabbit was really into his clam stew (with housemade sausage) and said he's go back for that dish. My red wine braised chicken was an Americanized coq of vin and hit the spot since I'd coincidentally been reading Julia's recipe that morning and had it on the brain. The tres leches cake was also a hit.

                                  We were prepared for service problems and indeed service did seem confused. We were repeatedly offered food and drink we hadn't ordered and various staff members kept appearing to ask if we'd ordered or to suss out what we ought to have coming next. There was a moment when I had an empty drink (which always makes me anxious), but there were enough staff orbiting that I solved that problem. "Pleasant ineptitude" is how Mr. Rab described it.

                                  Still, in terms of value for money we thought this place was a total hit and we'd definitely recommend or go back. I have some grainy photos posted at www.rabbitreporting.com (lights were dim so photos are a bit suck-y).

                                  Thanks for everyone's feedback on this thread. Next week we're off to Trattoria Toscana for Mr. Rab's birthday!

                                  1. My one time at Central Kitchen was one of the more memorable of my Fall '08, but it does ooze the romance. I'd second the recommendation of Highland Kitchen for a more low-key but still awesome food/drink outing. It's become a favorite. Try that Spicy Curry Goat Stew--whew, baby.

                                    1. Oops--I see that I'm a few weeks late. A-ha. Good work, everyone.