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Business dinner, Davis/Cambridge, 40 pp all inclusive (perhaps Barada?)

The accountants are clamping down on us at the flugelbindery (probably rightly so). I've got to arrange a business dinner in the Davis Square area (but Harvard or Central could be ok) with a max of $40 pp all inclusive (drinks, tax, tip) and we need to be able to afford a bottle of wine too. So if I'm doing the math right that works out to an almost-impossible $20 pp on the food.

(For comparison, based on board recs I took our last group to Scampo, which was very good but came out at $60 pp all inclusive. The accountant put me in solitary for a day.)

Finally, the place has to have a reasonable decor and be not too loud (so we can talk).

Is this mission impossible?

Ethnic eateries seemed to be a natural option, so I thought of Barada (Lebanese food having saved me from many a similar situation last year in London). Do you think it checks out by the above? The place needs to be sufficiently attractive so that clients don't think we are skimping, which I suppose we are (being forced to).

Any other thoughts? Ideally we would be in Davis, or say a 15/20 min drive from Davis (putting Harvard, Central, etc.) in range. (The time before we were at Green Street Grill, which almost fit the budget, since no one had dessert, but I'm hoping not to repeat that....)

Finally, for our next dinner I've booked Gran Gusto, again based on board recs -- might it fit the above?

Thanks for your ideas and suggestions!


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  1. Elephant Walk, Porter Sq?

    Elephant Walk
    2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140

    1. I think you could make Diva work but I don't know how many people you are talking about. I've always felt the decor there took it up a notch from most Indian places. Although on this board people seem to praise the food at Namaskar more highly, I've always been happy with meals there and I think for what you're looking for it might work better. If you have people inclined to share, their royal veggie dinner for 2 at $30 (last I checked- may be slightly more) includes samosas, naan, a dal soup course, 2 entrees and 2 desserts plus coffee or tea which is a great deal.

      1. Somewhere in the back of my mind I think I heard that Barada didn't serve alcohol. Maybe that info is outdated? But, they don't list any on their web site.

        You have a tall order there. The thing that makes it especially tough is "The place needs to be sufficiently attractive so that clients don't think we are skimping". I keep thinking of Frank's Steak House, but I don't know if it would pass that test. It's certainly light years away from a high-end steak house. The food is OK, but nothing special at all. But, it can be kind of a fun retro experience.

        1 Reply
        1. re: pemma

          How about Chang Sho on Mass. Ave? I haven't been in a while, but the food was always pretty good there and the decor a notch above they typical Chinese restaurant. Free parking in their lot across the street is a bonus.

        2. Check out this current thread on the new Zoe's location:
          BYO might work well for your liquor budget.

          1. Many thanks for the suggestions folks -- BB

            1. Not knowing how many people you're planning for, and how simple vs. more upscale the decor needs to be - A simple but very pleasant place near Davis: Annapurna, with Tibetan and other "mountainous" food; and more handsome, with good to great food, but farther, hard parking, and limited seating space: Cafe Baraka in Central Square...Gran Gusto is lovely and fun (a bit noisy, but can easily have conversations) will be more then $20pp for food - maybe can pre-order to keep costs within limits?

              1 Reply
              1. re: fredid

                I think Gran Gusto would work if people don't go overboard. You know your crowd. Atasca? You really have to share at Portuguese places, the portions are so big. A friend and I shared a few appetizers at the bar recently and the total including 2 glasses of wine was a little over $20 each; we were stuffed. The room was almost full but not that loud (from the bar). That was a weekend at prime time--I assume week nights would be less crowded.

              2. I love the people at Cafe Barada, and the food is fresh, homey and good. Their ful mudammus, lemony, garlicky brown beans to eat with pita, are really, really good. I think it might be too small and casual for what you want, though. You might want to see the place before you book there.

                You might consider ChangSho in Porter. I haven't been in a few years, but their sister restaurants Bamboo in Burlington/Bedford and Mandarin Reading have very good Americanized Chinese food, and I'm guessing that Changsho's food is on a par. The atmosphere would be good for a business meeting, and it wouldn't feel like skimping.

                1. Sagra (Italian) right in Davis Sq. would work. Its prices are lower than Green Street: $5-9 for apps; $10-19 for entrees. I think Sabur (Mediterranean) in Teele Sq. is just slightly more pricey than Sagra.

                  1. Thanks for these additional recommendations! I've been meaning to try GG since I've seen it written up on the boards for its wood-burning oven. That's where the next one is, and I've made note of your other suggestions -- many thanks.

                    A colleague arranged a similar dinner this week and took us to Elephant Walk. I recall this place from a previous stint (and century) in Boston, and thought the food was actually pretty decent.