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Jan 5, 2012 07:06 AM

Cheap Lunch in Cambridge near Kendall Square?

Hey Everyone!

New employee working in the Kendall Square area by Cambridge Center. I've read a few threads on this, but I was wondering if anyone had new insight, new opinions, new recommendations etc.

I'm looking for 2 categories.

Under 8 dollar lunch AND under 16 dollar lunch (when I'm splurging)... yeah I'm an intern!

Please no Chinese food, but all other cuisines are good to go! No salads or small sandwich rip-offs, I eat A LOT.


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  1. When you say you eat a lot, do you mean you eat frequently, or you prefer giant portions? Would a small sandwich made with high-quality ingredients still qualify as a rip-off?

    1. If you exclude salads & small sandwich ripoffs and want to keep things within about a 10 min walking range, it's slim pickings. Most of the places I view as being both not sucky & not a ripoff are a bit of a walk for me and I'm closer to most of them than you are. Things that I view as fitting that bill:

      - Boca Grande
      - The Snack Bar (only for the man o' war sub)
      - Skampa (for the roast beef, three-way)
      - Izzys (particularly on friday for the pernil sub)
      - Emmas
      - Maybe Camies. I say maybe because the one time I went for lunch it *was* a ripoff, but I also wasn't aware of their fried pork sub. MCSlim has a review in the phoenix of the place but note that prices have gone up and portions have gone down
      - If food trucks are your thing, there's the Clover truck
      - Beantown Cafe in 1 Kendall isn't that bad of a deal but not my favorite (as opposed to Sebastians & Zigo which are massive rip offs).

      Most of these are going to push your $8 boundary by a bit, particularly if you get a drink. That's just how it is around here. I typically end up paying 8-10$ regardless of if I'm going to a ripoff/sucky place or not - even the fast food spots in the coop tend to be ~$8 if I get a drink.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jgg13

        Another place that just came to mind is Beautys which has pizza & subs. I think the subs are about $6.50.

        Again, with the "drink" caveat I gave above, if you get something to drink you're back to pushing 8-9$ again.

        1. re: jgg13

          That is where we order delivery pizza from. And the good thing about Beautys is the ordering online and the loyalty discount (yeah, not much but every little helps).

      2. Sandwiches from Area Four are $6, and they're a decent size.

        2 Replies
        1. re: mkfisher

          Speaking of A4, their breakfast sandwich is pretty good as well. IIRC it's also $6.

          1. re: mkfisher

            BTW the sandwiches are no longer served at the coffee shop, they only have pizzas and salads now.

          2. [Bun] Ga nuong from the Vietnamese/Gooseberry's food truck is pretty good. I don't think I'd deem anything else I've eaten from them good, or even passable, but that particular dish is tasty.

            1. Thanks for the answers so far. Yeah, I specifically meant a large lunch, otherwise I'm hungry all day. I moved from NYC in southern midtown, and everything there was incredible value not only in terms of portion, but also in terms of quality. It is very sad to see that Boston and this area of Cambridge is so expensive for overall incredibly subpar lunch.

              21 Replies
              1. re: Andrassebestyen89

                If you have access to a bike or are willing to walk further out you can expand your options to Inman, Central, and East Cambridge (or even across the River).

                All Star Sandwich in Inman had large sandwiches in the 7.95 to 8.95 range


                In Kendall:

                There are the food trunk by the Kendall T Stop and the Redbones hut (or is that seasonal?


                In the $10-16 range w/large portions there is the Friendly Toast @ Kendall 1.

                In the $10-16 range w/smaller portions there is CBC also @ Kendall 1.

                I'll frequently see Groupons for Tommy Doyles

                And when the weather is nice don't forget to check out the rooftop garden and the benches by the Charles as nice places to eat your take out.

                Over towards in East Cambridge there are

                Desfina for Greek. Sandwiches around $7 and combo plates around $10


                2nd Street Cafe for Sandwiches and Salads around $8


                And on First Street there is the Similans for Thai and a burrito place. I haven't been to either, but I will assume that they fall in either of your price ranges

                Towards Central:
                Flour Bakery for $8 sandwiches. Smaller than the other two suggestions, but better tasting. But only works in your budget if you are willing to pass up the baked goodies.

                I don't know the prices for Floating Rocks lunch, but it might fall w/in your $16 limit.

                Same thing for Thelonious Monkfish.

                And you might want to take a look @ the Groupon Now! Deals. I' ve seen a couple of the Indian Restaurants in Central pop up w/lunch time discounts. Indian Pavillion, Dosa Factory.

                1. re: viperlush

                  The Redbones in Kendall is going to be open all winter. The skating rink is right there, so they've been getting a good bit of business from that.

                  1. re: viperlush

                    Floating Rock doesn't do lunch anymore. They tried it briefly, then dropped it.
                    In and around Central Square, five different all-you-can-eat Indian buffets in the 8-10 range.
                    Best if you get to them early, right after the food's been put out--around 11:30.

                    Royal East (which gets no love on this board) on Main Street has pretty copious Chinese lunch specials between 6-8. Pupu HotPot (corner of Main Street at Sidney) has lunch specials including soup and some kind of stirfry with rice for $5-6.

                    1. re: femmevox

                      Pu Pu Hot Pot's lunch specials are probably the best lunch deal in a large radius. Of course now you're not even in the fuzzy area between Kendall & Central anymore but fully in the Central area. Depends on how far the OP is willing to travel, depending on exactly where they are it'd probably be a 10-12 min walk.

                      1. re: femmevox

                        Wow that didn't last long. I wonder how Floating Rock is doing.

                        1. re: viperlush

                          Hopefully poorly. They lost me when they pretty much turned it into a nightclub for college students and DBs.

                          1. re: jgg13

                            Well if they did stop serving lunch they do need to take the large banner down that says "Now Serving Lunch"

                        2. re: femmevox

                          floating rock is open for lunch weekdays 11:30am-2pm

                        3. re: viperlush

                          Nice recs, except I wouldn't recommend Tommy Doyle's for any meal. The food I've had at the one in Newton the couple of times I've been dragged with colleagues has been horrid. Maybe I needed to drink more beer first.

                          1. re: Stride

                            Yeah the food is adequate and the service can be horrendous, but w/a groupon they fall in the OPs price range and serve a large quantity of food. And without knowing if quality or quantity is more important to the the OP it's worth mentioning. And when the weather is nice they do have the outside seating,

                        4. re: Andrassebestyen89

                          I do think some of the problem is that you said no chinese. A lot of the good, cheap lunch options in the neighborhood are chinese.

                          1. re: VintageMolly

                            A lot? I think there are two reasonably good lunch options in the neighborhood - Mary Chungs and Thailand Cafe (Sichuan menu only) with both technically in Central. Any other 'Chinese' in the area is gross and not worth a penny IMO.

                            1. re: kobuta

                              MuLan is in the OPs area. I think they do cheap lunch specials and its not gross at all. Sadly they aren't looking for Chinese. Its one of my favorite places in that hood.

                              1. re: yumyum

                                True - I did forget about Mulan, which is a nearby favorite of mine. I tend to associate Mulan as Taiwanese, which is a bit different from the foods I think of for traditional Chinese places but Mulan is a good one, for sure.

                                1. re: kobuta

                                  The Mulan lunch specials seem to be mostly "American-friendly" foods. But when eating alone, getting an entree seems like a lot of one food. But recently, I have been working my way through the noodle soups, and these are bot h delicious and a reasonable lunch. For example, the Pork Noodle Soup is served in a huge bowl with broth, noodles, greens, hard-boiled egg and lots of bits, plus four thin-sliced pork chops on the side. For $8.00, this is two meals for me.

                                  Emma's sandwiches run from $6-9 and are HUGE. They are surprisingly well-balanced, and in fact, delicious. The chicken sandwich and BLT are particularly tasty. I only order these when I have someone to split the sandwich with since they don't reheat well.

                                2. re: yumyum

                                  Does anyone know what time their lunch prices are in effect for? I often find myself eating lunch later than typical which would be ideal as they'd be a lot less crowded at that time.

                                    1. re: galangatron

                                      oh good to know. i walked by there the other day around 2:30 and figured it'd be too late

                                      1. re: jgg13

                                        This was a pretty good deal compared to other stuff in the area. For $7-8 (plus T/T) I got tea, soup, a bowl of pickles, a bowl of peanuts, a bolw of rice and a hefty plate of food. And it was a hell of a lot better than similar options in the area.

                                3. re: kobuta

                                  The Chinese food truck in front of 500 Technology Square has some worthwhile offerings. The Chongqing dry hot chicken and other items off of the authentic Chinese side of the menu are pretty good for the $5 price. Their American-Chinese stuff, however, has always tasted like slightly sweetened water thickened with cornstarch. If you want to get sesame chicken, go to the Kendall food court instead.

                              2. re: Andrassebestyen89

                                It is unfortunate that $6-$8 for mostly boring sandwiches has become the norm in Kendall. Cosi and the Clover truck are the ones I tend to hit, but I bring my lunch to work most of the time.

                                Your statement that everything in midtown Manhattan is great and a good deal had me laughing. Typical NYer nostalgia.