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Cambridge (Central Sq. Kendall Inman) Recs

I am looking for a place to grab a bite early tomorrow evening in Cambridge. I'm trying to decide between the following 5....

Hungry Mother
East Coast Grill
Central Kitchen
Green Street
Rendezvous

To be more specific, I am having dinner with my folks. All of us like good quality cocktails (Green Street & Hungry Mother look to be the best in this department), raw bar (ECG) and we are all relatively adventurous eaters (offal and all that good stuff).

I've heard good things from all of these spots, but which one would you all choose in my position? Are any of these restaurants to be avoided on a Friday night?

I'm sure we would do just fine at any of them, but I'd like to hear some input from you all.

Thanks!

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East Coast Grill and Raw Bar
1271 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

Central Kitchen
567 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

Hungry Mother
Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

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  1. ECG is awesome, but no reservations. If you're there early though, especially if you don't mind having oysters at the bar while you wait, it shouldn't be bad. ECG isn't a slouch when it comes to cocktails, but they're no Green Street.

    1 Reply
    1. re: emannths

      Is there a reason Craigie on Main is not on your list? Seems to meet all your criteria: cocktails, offal, adventure.

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      Craigie on Main
      853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

    2. You won't get into Hungry Mother on a Friday night without a reservation.
      Central Kitchen is ok, but it's sort of French bistro food so not really adventurous.
      Rendezvous is bigger than HM, so there is a chance you can get in on a Friday night, but I would make a rez if you can. Not as adventurous, but underrated cocktails and really good if subtly adventurous chow.
      Green Street - most likely of the five to get in without too much trouble - best cocktails of the bunch - food not so adventurous.
      ECG is probably the way to go - most adventurous, at least in terms of spicy.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Bob Dobalina

        ECG has a parking lot; Rendevous is very close to the T; i like it though not as much as Craigie which is similar.

      2. Off of that list, I've had the best food at Hungry Mother and Rendezvous. Both are great, Hungry Mother is more hip and interesting to my mind, Rendezvous a lot less stylized. And I liked HM's drinks better, though neither is a slouch in that department. You can't go wrong either way.

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        Hungry Mother
        Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

        12 Replies
        1. re: celeriac

          Thanks for all the feedback!

          As for Cragie: I've been and to be honest I wasn't very impressed. The burger and drinks were good but all of the other entrees ordered (2 chicken, 1 fish) and appetizers (crispy pig tails) were ordinary and not what I would expect at that pricepoint. I also found the vibe and service to be a little bit too precious.

          I'd like to try the tasting menu at some point, but its high pricepoint reserves it for a special occassion.

          I think it's going to be between ECG and HM, at which I already have a table reserved.

          1. re: dmass1

            You'll have to explain how crispy pig tails could be "ordinary."

            I've been to both Hungry Mother and ECG with parents, and both are great places for that or any other occasion. You can't really go wrong--do you want a little more subtle and quieter (HM) or more rambunctious and lively (ECG)?

            1. re: hckybg

              Perhaps "ordinary" was the wrong description for the crispy fried pig tails. I was referring more to our entrees.

              Regarding the pig tails, they were tasty, but in terms of flavor I thought that they were good, but not a real standout dish. Maybe it's my palate or maybe an off night for them, but my DCs all agreed. Or perhaps we went in with expectations that were set a little bit too high.... Either way, I was not impressed with Cragie and I'm hesitant to give it another shot at such a high pricepoint. I will probably go back to try one of the tasting menus at some point.

              Still undecided for tonight, but as many of you said I don't think I can go wrong.

              Thanks again for all the feedback - I will report back.

              1. re: dmass1

                It might be obnoxious to offer my opinion twice, but if you're still undecided, I'll offer a more direct comparison and say that in my experience the food at Hungry Mother is several notches above that of ECG. The ingredient quality seems far higher, the food more thoughtful and the general concept and vibe infinitely more sophisticated and interesting. ECG, to me, often feels like leftovers from the 90s. A somewhat incoherent mish-mash of styles trying too hard to be cool.

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                Hungry Mother
                Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

                1. re: celeriac

                  I would agree with your statement. I don't see these two places as being directly comparable whatsoever. I like 'em both, but they're scratching different itches. ECG is more of a fun & lively atmosphere while HM simply has better food.

                  Honestly I think that ECG is fairly overpriced for what you get on a day-to-day basis, I prefer their special events & brunch much more.

                  1. re: celeriac

                    I think this is right, and that they definitely aspire to different ends. I love both places for different reasons.

                    I wonder though if it is right to say that ECG is "trying too hard to be cool." I always thought it helped establish its genre in an earlier decade and has kept up that mantle, innovating without abandoning the kinds of flavors and styles they employ. Those flavors and the space itself are brash, and I think that has been widely copied since, but I think ECG deserves credit for its originality.

                    1. re: hckybg

                      I agree. ECG is not trying to be cool....Chris S is so far from trying to be cool. The flavors and styles there never get old to me. But then I'm about Chris's age...I agree the brunch is a greater value, and that ECG did a lot to great a really good chow scene in Boston...but I don't go back time after time for nostalgia, I go back because it's great food. It's too loud for me but the folks there are real pros at every position and that parking lot across the street makes it easier.

                      I like Chris am a native southerner, and I was so eager to go to HM. Fried oyster, pimento cheese, I loved. But despite several visits I never warmed to HM...I am in the vast minority here. They are wildly successful. I get the great ingredients but the mains never melded into something special for me.

                      1. re: Madrid

                        OK, I'll admit that "trying to be hard to be cool" is probably the wrong way to describe it. I'm struggling to express myself well, but I think that the OP is getting the information that they need, so I'll stop the verbal flailing. And yes, totally agree on ECG being a pretty lousy value at dinner.

                        All that said: ECG's buffalo shrimp are freaking awesome.

                        1. re: celeriac

                          ECG's values at dinner for me are:
                          * apps, apps, apps.
                          * raw bar
                          * the all-veggie experience of the day, for vegetarian friends.
                          * and wisely chosen daily fish dinner entrees.

                          1. re: Bob Dobalina

                            Also the BBQ side of the menu, and Taco Tuesdays. We go there somewhat frequently and stay on that side of the menu...with a cheap beer and a shared appetizer two can eat there for around 50.

                            1. re: Bob Dobalina

                              I'm with Bob on the appeal of ECG. Once you learn the menu, you can do pretty darn well there. It'll never be a cheap eats kinda place, but one can have a delicious meal at a reasonable price.

                              (I'll also add their bbq to Bob's list. It might not appeal to the hard core St. Louis/KC/NC/Texas types, but for those of us who grew up thinking that Tony Roma's was a place for ribs, ECG bbq is pretty awesome. And sometimes I just crave that burnt ends sandwich smothered in inner beauty!)

                          2. re: Madrid

                            Not even the catfish? I freakin' love that dish... I thought the potlikker was pretty good, too. Also, best cornbread in Boston by light years.

              2. What about Blue Room? Menu fits the bill (except no real raw bar, that I know of). I seem to recall having some decent cocktails there a while ago, but honestly, I usually go there for their very thoughtful (and reasonably priced) wine list.

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                The Blue Room
                Hampshire and Portland streets, Cambridge, MA 02139

                4 Replies
                1. re: ziggles

                  Hadn't considered Blue Room. The menu looks good and I've heard good things, but I've been meaning to try ECG and HM for a long time.

                  I definitely see the two as being different tpes of cuisine and not directly comparable (although both certainly are unique to the area). I gather that the quality of the meal is a little bit higher at Hungry Mother, but the menu at ECG looks a little bit more enticing to me and has a lot more variety.

                  Does anyone else think that Hungry Mother's menu is small? Do they typically have nightly specials not listed on the website?

                  What are your favorite dishes at both restaurants?

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                  Hungry Mother
                  Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

                  The Blue Room
                  Hampshire and Portland streets, Cambridge, MA 02139

                  1. re: dmass1

                    I don't recall there being nightly specials when I've gone to HM. It definitely is a small, understated/simple menu. It reflects on the entire place, IMO. Look at the menu, it seems underwhelming & simple. Look at the space, it seems a bit simple. Look at the food when it comes out, it looks underwhelming & simple.

                    But then you taste the food, and it ain't underwhelming & simple.

                    I like that.

                    1. re: jgg13

                      Like I said, it works for a lot of people!

                      1. re: jgg13

                        "Look at the menu, it seems underwhelming & simple. Look at the space, it seems a bit simple. Look at the food when it comes out, it looks underwhelming & simple.

                        But then you taste the food, and it ain't underwhelming & simple."

                        ^ This is a great description of the place. Totally understated, but everything we had was fantastic. We ordered the Beef Tongue, Shrimp & Grits, Catfish & Trout. The fried catfish was my favorite, but everything was delicious. For desert we had the upside down bourbon cake, which was also excellent.

                        We will be back...