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Jul 25, 2009 11:29 AM

Tasty, affordable eats near the Le Meridian in Cambridge?

I'll be in town next week to catch a Red Sox game, and we're staying at the Le Meridian on Sidney Street. Any recommendations for an early Monday night dinner? We'll be with my father-in-law, who likes Chinese and Italian and especially loves a good deal.

I saw some favorable mentions of Mary Chung, which seems to be right around the block from the hotel.

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  1. On Mass Ave right near your hotel is a small bar/restaurant called Miracle of Science. Pretty simple inexpensive fresh food: a great grilled chicken sandwich; grilled pita and veggies with hummus; various meat kebabs with sides; decent chicken quesadilla. It's really casual but decent, simple food and super close to where you are. They also serve breakfast which I have heard is good but have not had myself. Have a good visit!

    1. Here are a couple of ideas for you, particularly since you'll likely be taking the T (subway) to get to the game. Parking is nuts and crazy expensive near Fenway on game day...
      1. You can head toward Chinatown and grab a bite at any of a number of places around there - great options (price:quality:taste) include Xinh Xinh, Pho Hoa, Peach Farm, Taiwan Cafe, and the list goes on and on. A quick search of Chinatown will give you lots of different choices.
      2. Near you at Central Square (5 min. walk from hotel) is India Pavillion which is super cheap and just great Indian. There's also Rangzen Tibet nearby and Dolphin Seafood closer to Harvard Square.
      3. Another option I'd like to suggest is heading over to Elephant Walk, which is just past Fenway Park on the Green C line at the St. Mary's stop. This is a Cambodian-French fusion place, a little pricier than others on the list BUT - you can get a $25-$50 gift certificate off of and save loads on dinner there. Chef Chang's house, just near EW, is also a great option for Chinese with wonderful quality ingredients. You can then take a 15 minute walk back to Fenway Park.

      Just one note, though. You're right near Toscanini's, an ice cream parlor like no other, which is a 3 minute walk from your hotel. Make sure to go there!
      Hope you enjoy Boston!

      10 Replies
      1. re: nader

        Thanks for recommendations, the ice cream rec, especially. "Best ice cream in the world" according to the New York Times? We're spoiled for ice cream and gelato in the Bay Area, but this I'll definitely have to check out. Any particular flavors to not miss out on?

        1. re: abstractpoet

          I've always enjoyed their chocolate flavors. Their strawberry is suppose to be the best of Boston. The Burnt Caramel is what they are known for. If you like gingerbread the Ginger Snap Molasses is spot on. Really I've never been disappointed with any of the flavors and they do give samples.

        2. re: nader

          Is India Pavillion actually any good? Most of the central square places are mediocre at best.

          1. re: StriperGuy

            I've been there twice, both times with lots of people drinking lots of Taj Mahal, and have always had a great experience. The food comes out with varying levels of heat and always seems to hit the right notes - each dish is not cookie-cutter like some other places in town. And at the price, it's well worth a trip when in the area.

            1. re: nader

              Hmmm, who would have guessed. Have you been to Guru the Caterer, or Kathmandu Spice?

              1. re: StriperGuy

                not yet. kspice is a little out of the way for me and would have to be a planned outing and guru has weird hours (i'm a late eater, and tend to be in cambridge/somerville on weekends only). i have both on my list of places to try, though, but have found a new go-to indian resto in tamarind bay in brookline, which is not only close to home but also a great meal...

                1. re: nader

                  Hmmm, when the TB in Cambridge is good, it is very good. Do you rank India Pavilion on that level?

                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    My colleagues and I (a few of us whom are either Indian or have lots of Indian food experience) recently had a tasty lunch at India Pavillion. We all chose the buffet route - everything I had was tasty and not too ghee-ful (I don't eat meat). Everyone else seemed happy with their food.

                    1. re: StriperGuy

                      interesting question.... i'd say that the price to quality ratios are equal when both are on their games. that being said, TB is at a different level when it comes to the ingredients used, which usually leads to better tasting food. the spice and taste factor at IP are very good though, which more than makes up for what they lack in ingredient quality (hence the price differences).

          2. I work right in that area. Mary Chung's is definitely the best Chinese option nearby. They are cheap and good. Definitely get the suan la chow show and the dun dun noodles, their signature dish. Basta Pasta also has great pasta (they make their own pasta!) and is probably a 15 minute walk from your hotel. Miracle of Science (mentioned early in another post) is also great. Very reasonable prices and good food (lots of grill type stuff).

            You can also head across the river (which is on the way to Fenway) and check out places like Petit Robert or Eastern Standard.

            And finally, I totally agree about Toscanini's. You HAVE to try that place - it is my favorite ice cream place in Boston. The burnt sugar/burnt caramel ice cream is out of this world!


            1. Trattoria Toscana is a reasonably-priced, authentic, Tuscan, neighborhood place that gets excellent reviews here and elsewhere. It' an easy 3 block walk to Fenway Park.

              Coffee (or cappuccino or espresso) and burnt caramel are my favorites at Toscanini's. Whatever flavor you get, have hot fudge on top! It's the best hot fudge I've ever had. After many visits I've perfected my order: one scoop each of coffee and burnt caramel with hot fudge. Sigh.

              1 Reply
              1. re: pollystyrene

                You can get a micro sundae---a small scoop, hot fudge (agree so good), and real unsweetened whipped cream. In the summer, another thing I love to do is have them blend one of the sorbets of the day with seltzer water. I still dream about the grapefruit and the watermelon of past years.

                An alternative to Mary Chung's: There is a topic here on Chowhound on Szechuan food at the Thai Cafe on Mass Ave that is right by your hotel. The Thai food is lame (I have had that) but apparently the Chinese food is great. And the place is cheap.

              2. Thanks again for all the help, everyone. We ended up bypassing dinner and just eating at the ballpark (we had time to eat, but weren't hungry yet at 5:00-ish). However, we got up the next morning and walked over for breakfast at Miracle of Science, which a couple folks had recommended. Really low-key place on a weekday morning, with only a couple other diners (all seated at the bar). I was pleasantly surprised by how inexpensive everything was, with a steak and eggs option the priciest item at only $6.75. I had the basic two eggs (over easy), Canadian bacon, and breakfast potatoes combo. Everything was solidly prepared, and I thought the potatoes were especially tasty (well-browned with nicely sauteed onions). My father-in-law seemed to enjoy his breakfast wrap, and I tried a few bites of my wife's French toast with grilled banana--also good. All in all, a solid breakfast and a great recommendation.

                Not having any other opportunity, we opted for the unorthodox dessert-after-breakfast option and headed on over to Toscanini's, highly touted by many on this board. I have to say, I was mildly disappointed, but perhaps only because of the build-up ("best in the WORLD!!"). It was tasty ice cream, to be sure, what I associate as the classic All-American style of ice cream (on the sweeter side, not as subtle with the flavors), though that could just be the flavors I had. I had one scoop, split between burnt caramel and Belgian chocolate, with hot fudge on top. Of the two flavors, the burnt caramel was definitely the better (and quite good), but I wouldn't say that it knocked my socks off or was even particularly memorable. I kind of wish I hadn't gotten the hot fudge, which, while good, was so sweet that it kind of overwhelmed the other flavors--and considering the flavors I chose, it was probably redundant. I also tasted the strawberry and some kind of coffee candy-bar combination, and I wasn't impressed with either.

                If any of you make it over to the Bay Area, try the salted caramel at Bi-Rite Creamery (my gold standard for caramel ice cream flavors) or any of the flavors at Lush (a gelateria in Oakland). To my tastes, these are several notches above anything I tried at Toscanini's.

                2 Replies
                1. re: abstractpoet

                  Thanks for reporting back. Sorry you were disappointed with Toscanini's. I can't say it's because you didn't order right. I'm making a note of Bi-Rite for the next time I'm in the Bay Area. Salted caramel...yum.

                  1. re: abstractpoet

                    I have to say, I've felt like Toscanini's has been slipping -- perhaps since the tax debacle. I noticed a few months back that the texture of the burnt caramel wasn't how I remembered it, and noticed on the label that it now has carageenan in it...

                    Christina's remains excellent, though.