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Conference in Cambridge by day, visiting museums at night - Where to eat? (Tight budget!!!)

I'm attending a weekend conference at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge, on Memorial Drive. I hope to have time for evening visits to the Museum of Fine Arts and the Gardner.

Are there any decent eating places near that hotel and the museums? I really prefer vegetarian food or "ethnic" food (Indian, Latin, etc) but I'm game for any place that offers a good meal affordable for someone on a student-type budget.

Willing to take train or bus to a great place, as long as it's not too far from the hotel, since time will be limited.

Thanks in advance, folks. It's my first time in the area so I'll really, really appreciate any advice...
Rina S.

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  1. you are reasonably close to Central Square, Kendall Square, the MIT area, and if you are a walker you can cross the bridge at Mass Ave and be in Back Bay and Kenmore Square reasonably easily.
    Unfortunately there's not much right by either Museum though both have cafes and the MFA has a pricey and not all that interesting restaurant. In Central Square Cafe Baraka is reasonable and quite good tunisian food with good vegetarian options. More expensive but very good is Helmand's. Court House Square is good and affordable seafood. Basta Pasta is good cheap Italian.

    1. From the MFA/Gardner Museum, it's not too far a walk to the restaurant row on Peterborough Street. There's a shabu place, El Pelon for cheap Mexican food, or Rod Dee for Thai.

      1. the gardner is only open late on thursdays. both museums have cafes, but i have yet to try the new one at the gardner.

        near your hotel is similan's for thai. i find most of the food too sweet but it is well -received by many.

        you're also an easy walk to kendall square. i'll let others chime in for indian and veg rec's for that neighb. not my preference.

        1. There are several reasonably-priced places to eat in Harvard Sq. (Sorry, these aren't ethnic but fit your budget and might come in handy.)

          Grendel's Den offers half-prices on all food between 5:00 and 7:30, and again at 9 until 11:30. The prices are reasonable to begin with, so it's a deal and you can find something decent. I think you have to buy a drink for at least $3. I'd avoid the hamburgers, but you can get Salvadoran veggies and tofu with quinoa or rice for $4, or pasta with pesto or gorgonzola sauce for $3.25. Nothing amazing, but okay and the place has a certain Harvard Sq. flavor.

          For quick bites:

          Flat Patties has a couple of vegetarian choices and offers tasty food at really cheap prices. Felipe's (same owners, I believe) has solid burritos, again for a quick bite.

          The Clover Food Lab on Dunster St. is a casual, affordable vegetarian place.

          In the Holyoke Arcade Building, Oggi Gourmet offers respectable cheese pizzas for $5 on Mondays.

          Have a great visit!

          Oh, and please report back when you have a minute so we can know what worked and what didn't. That way your experience can help another hound in the future.

          1 Reply
          1. re: bear

            Thanks, bear (and everyone else!) I'll definitely report back.

          2. It's been a long time since I was a student, and I'm not sure what passes for a student budget these days in this town, but if I was limited roughly to the corridor between your hotel and the museums, here is what I would do. If you like to walk, it is probably a 30-45 minute walk from your hotel to the museum, and fairly pleasant. You are also right near the 47 bus line that goes outbound to the museums and inbound to Central Square.

            Heading toward the museum, you cross the river and come first to Commonwealth Avenue and the Green Line 'B' branch subway. It is the middle of Boston University and there is not much there besides typical student-type places. About 6 blocks to the right though is a good and modestly priced Thai place, Brown Sugar Cafe, that has a vegetarian corner on its menu. You can walk there or take the subway.(which is an above-ground trolley at that point). You can take the Green Line still farther out and get out at Harvard Street for the good chinese Shanghai Gate.

            If instead you keep heading towards the museum, though, about halfway there is Beacon Street (a stop on the bus line 47 too). There is the nice French/Cambodian place Elephant Walk right there that has a lot of vegetarian options - it is a step above the Brown Sugar Cafe and a few dollars more on the menu, but still manageable - lots of BU students and faculty go there for a nice night out.. A block or two away (to the right) is Sichuan Garden, a modest priced Chinese know for its spicy fare and the slightly more expensive Japanese Ginza, both of which could probably provide some decent vegetarian food.

            The next cluster is probably the Peterborough Street restaurants mentioned by other posters. They are about halfway again between Beacon Street and the museum, probably 10-15 minutes walk from either way (Brookline Avenue and Pilgrim Road would be the closest bus stop on the 47 line.). I haven't eaten there since they reopened this past year after a fire, but they are popular with students. I agree that there is not much around the museums themselves.

            If you go the other direction from your hotel to Central Square, there is a vegetarian diner that I know nothing about, Veggie Galaxy diner, and a new more upscale place Moksa that has good Asian small plates. Others will have to say more about that area though.

            Enjoy your visit and do let us know what works for you.

            Q

            1 Reply
            1. re: QCumber

              Great post, QCumber. Your mention of Veggie Galaxy made me think about Veggie Planet in Harvard Square. Di Di Emmons is the chef at both places.

              Veggie Planet is in Club Passim, a historic Harvard Square folk club. It offers good grilled pizzas and rice dishes, and it's fun to think of all the wonderful talent that has passed through over the years. It might be a good choice for lunch. I'm pretty sure that you have to attend the show to have dinner there. Not that that wouldn't be fun, too.

            2. Your hotel is less than a mile from two interesting options in Cambridgeport: Coast Cafe on River Street (http://coastsoulcafe.com/), with fine Southern/soul food, and Alive and Kicking Lobsters, which offers a terrific and somewhat non-standard lobster roll.

              1. Your hotel is less than a mile's walk from two worthy, and inexpensive, places in Cambridgeport: Coast Cafe (http://coastsoulcafe.com/), offering fine Southern/soul food, and Alive and Kicking Lobsters, a fish market that sells a terrific, if somewhat non-canonical, lobster roll.

                1. Veggie Galaxy in Central Square is an affordable family favorite. (Vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters alike.) It's packed at noon and again starting at about 6 so be prepared for a wait. But the service is speedy and the food is delicious. Also consider the huge variety of affordable restaurants along Cambridge Street stretching from Inman Square down to the Museum of Science. Muqueca is one of our favorites along that route.

                  I stayed at that hotel once and the location is not so great for just popping out the door and finding things right nearby, but they did offer a driver to take me up to Harvard Square. (Free service....but they were not able to bring me back!) From Harvard Square you can get anywhere on the Red Line or by bus.

                  Have fun!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mvi

                    Thanks, thanks everyone for those wonderfully detailed replies. I feel a bit less lost now. I'll probably end up making my own map with all of your recommendations! Thanks so much.

                  2. Thailand Cafe is a 20 minute walk or a quick bus ride away on Mass Ave. Steer clear of the Thai menu and order some of the pretty respectable Sichuan food.