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Apr 2, 2012 02:45 PM

Inexpensive catering in Cambridge (on a student budget)

I'm planning a student organization's final banquet dinner and I'd like to shake things up a little with the catering. Usually we get Basta Pasta or similar - lasagna, caesar salad, etc. - and our budget is really tiny (preferably $10 or less per person, for ~50-60 people). Predictably, the food is never that good - boring, and usually not even tasty.

Can anyone recommend some more delicious, interesting alternatives? Indian/Thai/Vietnamese/Middle Eastern suggestions welcome, as is anything else (BBQ?). I have access to minimal kitchen facilities, if there are options that involve some preparation and cooking. Any help is much appreciated!

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  1. Sabra Grill or Guru the Caterer.

    1. I've done it twice but years ago: East Coast Grill. I remember brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken, cornbread and probably something else and it was incredibly reasonable, delicious, crowd-pleasing. The first time Chris himself helped us load it into the car.

      1. I'd consider Indian food. It's out of your official boundaries, but a few years ago I ordered from Bollywood Cafe in Lexington and they were great and pretty inexpensive! So I think Guru would be a good bet. Also, maybe you can call Greek Corner in N Cambridge?

        1. For Thai, I'd consider Rod Dee in Porter or Pad Thai Cafe just across the river. I know the latter caters and delivers, but I'm not sure about the former.

          I doubt you could do BBQ for $10pp, but I can't say I've tried.

          We did catering from Picante in Central Sq for a while (DIY taco bar with rice, beans, and meat). I think it was more than $10/pp, but I can't be sure.

          1. I assume at that price point its buffet?

            Several Brazilian restaurants in Somerville have a $10 or less fixed-price takeout offering and could probably do something on that budget for you. I'd suggest Gauchao which I can vouch for, but another to try is Valentim (they have "pamonha" which is like the Brazilian version of tamales, but using). Look into things like a roast meat (pernil, chicken?), vaca atolada (beef ribs and yuca) frango com quiabo (chicken with okra), costelinha de porco com canjiquinha (pork ribs with grits), feijao tropeiro (beans with sausage, collards, pork rinds, manioc meal) all filling and relatively inexpensive dishes. Rabada (oxtail) might be a bit more expensive, but one interesting preparation is "rabada com agriao" which is watercress. There are some vegetarian offerings --- collard greens (couve), hearts of palm salad, rice, beans. Cafe Brazil is generally a bit more expensive, but has offered simpler dishes as fixed takeout.

            I have done Christmas from Oasis in Medford with a full meal for $15pp (or possibly less -- I didn't set the budget), but wasn't happy with their catering because a lot of the protein was overcooked but it was ridiculously too much food. That included Chicken, Pork Loin "recheado," "Pernil" (really pork shoulder), feijao tropeiro. A better option that I have also used is Cake and CIA in Everett which had been my suggestion for that event, but they don't speak much English.

            I have also been to an event catered by J+J Restaurant (Portuguese) and their servings were ample, plus looking at their online catering menu you might be able to work something in your budget. Again, would need to think a bit about any vegetarian offerings.


            Taqueria La Mexicana is an option for tamales, enchiladas, and rice. From what I recall they are more economical if you have less options and the tamales are a lot more consistent than some of their other dishes.

            And on the Salvadoran end of things, Tapatio in Somerville or maybe Amigo's market (they sell a lot of prepared foods) could possibly set you up with Salvadoran tamales, pupusas, salvadoran fried chicken, rice, beans.

            Lastly not certain about catering prices, but Izzy's "pernil" is different and goes over well, good yellow rice with gandules, decent stewed goat... just about everything you could want Puerto Rican, but no mofongo.

            2 Replies
            1. re: itaunas

              I would try Garlic 'n Lemons or Family Restaurant for a middle eastern banquet. I think they might come in close to your price point and the food would be interesting. Check them on line.

              1. re: itaunas

                Hi--I noticed in your post that you have a lot of familiarity with Brazilian restaurants. Given that this post is now 2 years old, I would love to know your recommendations for a Brazilian caterer. I am hosting a last minute party for 15 or so people and want to get a local restaurant (I am in Cambridge) to provide buffet-style food. I believe this post will go on this blog. You can also email me directly at Thanks!