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Jan 9, 2012 08:04 AM

What is the best restaurant in Cambridge?

Getting ready for guests from Europe. We are hosting. Affordable is helpful but quality trumps. Ideas?

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  1. Are you looking for a specific section of Cambridge? What do you consider affordable? Any type of cuisine you'd prefer?

    4 Replies
    1. re: mkfisher

      All Cambridge possible. Salts is where we go typically for celebrations.

      1. re: bsrh

        Do you want a celebration place or affordable? I'm confused. Salts is fantastic, but definitely not affordable. As Luther mentioned, Craigie and Bondir are two places that might be good options if you want to stay in that higher price point. You could probably add Oleana to the list as well if you stay in that general area.

        Getting back to your original point. I'd probably steer you towards a place like Area Four or Abigail's. They're both at a much lower price point than those previously mentioned. Both have decent beer lists. The cocktails are better at Abigail's. I prefer the food at Area Four. Both places are a solid value in my book.

        1. re: mkfisher

          Confusion understandable. Salts is our choice when we have been hosted by others.

          1. re: mkfisher

            Bondir really isn't a great deal more expensive than a place like Area Four. In its class, I'd even say that Bondir is affordable. Six half-plates give two guests a great range of tastes for about 90 dollars. That's not a bad deal compared to what you'd pay at Rialto or Craigie.

      2. Craigie on Main, Bondir. And I really want to say Cafe Mami.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Luther

          a notch down from craigie in price but always wonderful are rendez-vous and the blue room.

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            Rendezvous added to our list of places to try.

          2. re: Luther

            Got it. Bondir and Cafe Miami would be new for us. thanks.

            1. re: Luther

              I think Cafe Mami is somewhat tongue in cheek. Not to say their food isn't delicious and probably way different than the typical French/Italian/American recommendations you'll get, but consider only if you don't mind sitting in an area that seats 6, and having your guests sit in your lap throughout the meal.

              Of the ones mentioned, I think Rendezvous is the best quality for value, especially if you do the Sunday meal. If you don't mind a bit of geographical cheating, right on the Cambridge/Somerville border is Bergamot, where I've had some lovely meals.

            2. And I really want to say Oleana.

              18 Replies
              1. re: Madrid

                where in europe? Why go with European food?

                How about Helmand or further down scale Rod Dee? Oleana fits in with these choices, too.

                1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                  my friends from Europe love the East Coast Grill - nothing like it at home. Rendezvous is always good, and Hungry Mother and Tupelo are also "american and unique" according to them (they are from France and they really don't want French food when they come here). They like our thai and portuguese food also, and love our seafood (yes, including Legals) and steaks (again, nothing quite like Grill 23 in France).

                  1. re: teezeetoo

                    yeah, ECG should be added on the something different level; i should have mentioned it.

                    you can eat steaks in france.

                    1. re: teezeetoo

                      great call on hungry mother! i love that place.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        Hungry mother and egg again new additions, thanks all.

                      2. re: teezeetoo

                        Eating from the fish side of the menu at ECG, I've had nothing but excellent meals there (I personally think the BBQ isn't that great, but those who've ordered it seem to enjoy it). If you don't mind $25 entrees in a very casual atmosphere (I don't, and the portions are usually larger than fine-dining portions), it's a nice option. I wouldn't argue that it's better than a place like Bondir or Craigie, but it's probably more unique.

                        1. re: emannths

                          I do believe their fish is awesome. Agree with your review -- BBQ ranges from fantastic to okay -- just depends on the night and the recipe. The fish has always been a standout - unique ideas - not over-the-top that you lose perspective on the native fish but really fun enhancements to compliment the fish. I have friends that think ECG is the only place to go for an awesome dinner (though the lines can be a little long so a reservation on a weeknight might be the way to go if you can arrange it...???)

                      3. re: cambridgedoctpr

                        have tried rod dee a couple times. the southeast asian in lowell blows it out of the water. plus, up there, you can legally byob.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          too bad that getting to lowell is such a pain; i would love to try something better than rod dee here in boston. i did like Vong in nyc, but i really liked arun, a restaurant that j-g von gerichten called the best thai restaurant that he had ever tried.

                          while i am a fan of byob, i do not think that thai food is one of the more wine friendly cuisines though some belgian ale or even better Pilsner Urquell would hit the spot

                          1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                            the b/f usually brings beer, i bring an alsatian white, which is very friendly with this kind of food.

                        2. re: cambridgedoctpr

                          Helmand was on the list. Have not been there is awhile. good to know it's holding up.
                          Roe deer added to our to try list. thanx.

                            1. re: bsrh

                              I was a big fan of Helmand for a while. I don't think it has held up at all. It's just ok now, I think. With some entrees at $27, I don't see the great value anymore. There is little care in cooking, the service is mediocre, and there really isn't anything new to be found there.

                          1. re: Madrid

                            Oleana was on our list. wanted to see if it got any votes, and here is yours.

                            1. re: bsrh

                              On behalf of my DW, I also vote for Oleana.

                              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                Add another vote for Oleana, especially the apps and meze. As I wrote above, I am definitely not in the Helmand camp that a few people have suggested.

                                1. re: DoubleMan

                                  Add me to Oleana.

                                  2 X Man: when did you last eat at Helmand? You're right, as you say above, that the menu is unchanging, but my experience has been that it's unchangingly good. I last ate there about 6 months ago, though, and it's possible it's gone downhill since.

                                  1. re: FoodDabbler

                                    One month ago. The best things we ate were the condiments for the flatbread. It had been about 18 months since I had dined there. I don't know that it has gone downhill in recent months (except in value, with it's current high prices). I don't like it as much as I used to, but I think that is mostly a function of the development of my own tastes as well as the general increase in food quality we've seen in the area over the last few years.

                                    I ordered the chowpan, which was three small, overcooked lamb rib chops (probably 3-4 ounces of meat total), pallow rice clearly just cranked out in huge batches and left to sit and dry out, and a pretty tasty sauteed eggplant. If this was $15-17, I'd feel alright about it, but at $27, I was totally burned. The kaddo was fine (and super sweet) as usual. My dining companions both declared their dinners to be "fine."

                                    The other thing that gets me about what I think are very high prices is that they aren't (as far as I know) providing superior quality or organic or local vegetables and meat. I could go to Oleana and get their local lamb entree for a dollar less, enjoy much better food, better service, vastly better beverage options, a nicer ambiance, and much better desserts than Helmand's lame flans.

                                    I think it's average quality for "ethnic" restaurants in the area (compared to Indian and Turkish options with some similar ingredients and spices, it's tough to compare it just to the limited other Afghan options), but now noticeably more expensive. The indifferent service and weak wine list don't help things, even if the space is pleasant, except when relegated to the sad back room. I just think that Helmand is now clearly in the overrated category as it has remained unchanged (except for prices) while the overall dining scene has stepped up quite a bit in the last few years. A couple years ago I would have directed friends there, now I won't. I think t's just resting on its laurels, which is sad for any restaurant. I definitely won't be going back anytime soon or ever because it probably won't change except for break the $30 barrier in a few years.

                          2. Wow. Thanks all. The eating out homework can begin. Fortunately, we have until May to do it.

                            1. Agree about Helmand - love it. How about Atasca (Portugese) near Kendall Square? I also love Rialto (but would be remiss if I said it was "affordable"). Across the hallway from Rialto - Henrietta's Table is fun and great food (more affordable). Red House on Winthrop Street is really nice and great food. What kind of food do you think your guests want to try? Cambridge is a big place - and there are lots of varieties of foods and styles from which to select.