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Jul 18, 2014 03:49 PM

Best new ethnic restaurants in Cambridge/Somerville?

My son and I are going to a movie in Cambridge tomorrow and want to try a new restaurant afterwards -- some sort of ethnic restaurant, nothing fancy, must be veg friendly.

Any suggestions?

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  1. Sarma is a short drive. Owned by former chef of Oleana, mostly Turkish and Middle Eastern influenced small plates. Large menu, bustling, lots of fun, very popular,VERY veg friendly. Best to make reservations.
    Do a CH Search for detailed recs there.
    Atwood's Tavern is close by, very popular, eclectic menu. Mary Chung in Central Sq does wonderful dim sum til 3pm and regular menu all day. Gourmet Dumpling House is very new, Mass Ave between Central and Harv Sq., v. popular on CH.

    oh, where did you end up going last sept when we rec'd GDHouse and you asked about Maharajah?

    11 Replies
    1. re: opinionatedchef

      Neither Atwoods nor MC qualify as "new". And as much as I'd *love* to be snarky about the horrible 'ethnic' term, Atwoods doesn't qualify on that front either.

      1. re: jgg13

        There's always a few people who contest my use of ethnic. What is so horrible about that term? As an academic, I don't really go on Chowhound to get in academic arguments.

        But here's one definition that rings pretty true to me: "A shared cultural identity held by a group of people with a common background or history, often as a minority group within a larger society." I wouldn't consider general American food as "ethnic" in this country, though certainly the food of some American groups would be.

        But, of course, anyone is entitled to interpret the term as they choose. However, I suspect most people know what I mean.

        1. re: BlakeGumprecht

          To answer the question you probably intended, I dig Istanbul’lu (turkish Teele Square, not far from the Alewife theater) and Montecristo (East Somerville, not far from Assembly Square Theater)

          In order to avoid derailing the thread, I’ll try to keep it to a sentence: “ethnic” implies thoughtless ethnocentrism, as if your ethnicity were “normal” and others were “not normal,” which tends to drift into “abnormal” even if you don’t intend it.

          You probably didn't want me to suggest Orleans or The Pub, but they’re ethnic too.

          1. re: enhF94

            I also really like Istanbul'lu. Lots of vegetable dishes, very good.

            1. re: Madrid

              I like it as well, although I don't know if it qualifies as new.

            2. re: enhF94

              I've been to Instanbul'lu -- loved it the first time, liked it the second.

              I disagree that "ethnic" suggests "ethnocentricism." You can value your own ethnicity without denigrating others. Sure, ethnocentrism has produced some horrible human behavior over time, but that doesn't mean the word "ethnic" or "ethnicity" shouldn't be used or have no value. The words aren't the problem.

              1. re: BlakeGumprecht

                You never stated your ethnicity, so how is one to know what is "ethnic" to you?

                I have a feeling when most people ask about "ethnic' food they don't mean Italian for French, even if they are American.

              2. re: enhF94

                This combined with the odd lumping effect w/o direction at almost never really means what the person intends

          2. re: opinionatedchef

            Wow -- I didn't realize Gourmet Dumpling House opened in Cambridge. We love the Chinatown one, so will try the Cambridge one, but maybe not today. I want something completely new to me.

            I don't remember where I went after seeking a similar rec last fall. I might have opted for an old standby, Mulan, since it's close to the movie theater and because I like it very much.

            1. re: BlakeGumprecht

              The restaurant in Cambridge is called just "Dumpling House" (no "Gourmet"), and it's at 950 Mass Ave. it does have some connection with Gourmet Dumpling House in Chinatown, but the Cambridge place is more spacious and comfortable. Highly recommended!

              1. re: owades

                This article may (or may not) clear up the connection between Cambridge's Dumpling House and Chinatown's Gourmet Dumpling House:


          3. You could check out Alden & Harlow, they're of the american ethnicity.

            Less facetious in the category of what you really mean, Moroccan Hospitality just opened up on Somerville ave across from conway field. We've only gone once but enjoyed it and the woman running the FOH was extremely nice. Note though that this is merely "new to us" as it used to be open in Malden, but moved.

            14 Replies
            1. re: jgg13

              I didn't realize Moroccan Hospitality had moved, so thanks for that information. But, as I recall, its menu isn't very veg friendly. I went once at their old location, but there was little if anything I could eat.

              1. re: BlakeGumprecht

                you might want to give them a call and see if they can do a veg dish for you. I might have misheard, but when I was there, a woman came in to pick up a take out order that I think included a vegetable tagine.

                1. re: Madrid

                  They do indeed have at least a couple veg (perhaps not vegan) dishes on the menu. My understanding is the menu is expanded a but from the original

                  1. re: jgg13

                    Good to know. Thanks. I will try them again.

                    1. re: jgg13

                      Just checked out Moroccan Hospitality's menu online and, indeed, they do now have two vegetarian entres. I will definitely go, if not today (my son wants to try a new Mexican restaurant in Somerville) then soon! Thanks again.

                      Here's the menu for those interested:

                      1. re: BlakeGumprecht

                        I live in Somerville and I'm wondering what new Mexican restaurant? (Didn't know there was one!).

                        1. re: Madrid

                          Could possibly be Rincón Mexicano, which is pretty new.

                          1. re: Madrid

                            Rincon Mexicano? I have been posting about this new restaurant in the Best Burrito in Somerville thread, which is a horrible title for the content of the thread. Rincon's burritos are not all that, but the chicken with mole, and carnitas plate are stellar!

                            1. re: smtucker

                              I like Rincon Mexicano a lot too, but in the context of this thread, it didn't seem particularly vegetarian-friendly to me.

                              1. re: LeoLioness

                                I agree. I was trying to respond to Madrid.... threading is complicated. Sorry for the noise.

                                1. re: LeoLioness

                                  In response to the posts about Rincon Mexican:

                                  My son wanted Mexican and sometimes as a parent you give in to their desires. Rincon Mexican does have multiple vegetarian options and the people who run it were very flexible, making my beans without pork, making me cheese enchiladas even though they weren't on the menu.

                                  In the end I wish we'd gone to Moroccan Hospitality. I wanted very much to like Rincon Mexicano because the folks who work there were so nice and because it is the rare Mexican restaurant in Boston actually run by Mexicans. But it wasn't great. The chips appeared manufactured. The mole didn't taste anything any other mole I've ever had and was unexceptional.

                                  Since he wanted Mexican, I should have taken him to Tu y Yo. But I'm glad I tried Rincon, even if I'm unlikely to go back.

                                  1. re: BlakeGumprecht

                                    I like Rincon (though I've only had meat dishes) so it's good to know that they have some vegetarian options. I agree, they are really nice there.

                        2. re: Madrid

                          I'm one of those horrible vegetarians who doesn't go to restaurants where I have to ask for something special (no choice, no variety) or where there's only one entry on the menu I can eat. I make exceptions if I go somewhere with carnivores, but it's no fun going out to eat when you have zero choice.

                          1. re: BlakeGumprecht

                            Though not in Somerville, the Alden & Harlow was a good rec, as they have quite a few great vegetarian dishes. American ethnic, but still very good.

                    2. I suppose you could avoid the terminology minefield by identifying your own ethnicity and thus clarifying what counts as an ethnic restaurant to you. I think the sensitivity is around the default assumption that it only counts as ethnic if it's not American or Western European.

                      Some ideas: Royal Bengal, Noor, Shawarma Place, Some 'Ting Nice, Akai Ryu Shabu, Shabu and Mein, Dumpling House, Curry n Wok, Kaju Tofu House.


                      10 Replies
                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        though i think that this is ridiculously pc, you can say, i am looking for a restaurant that is not american or Western European or say, Asian or South American. But really, I do not think that the word ethnic is a slur; I do not see why it needs to be banned as every one has a pretty good idea what an ethnic restaurant is plus or minus.

                        My guess is that O Ya would not be considered ethnic due to price.

                        1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                          so even though the food is Asian, O Ya would be considered non ethnic because it is so expensive? Ethnic = cheap food?

                        2. As I've posted many times before Tu y Yo was great soon after it first opened. Real mole, the other sauces were "real", they had made their own chipotles en adobo. Real spice! Then they got publicity and all the spice and the authenticity went away. We asked about it and were told, "this is how Americans like it." We didn't go back for a good many years and the last time we went, about a year ago, even though we asked for spicy, the pork basically tasted like American food. So sad.....we will not be back.

                          We only had soup and hummus at the new Moroccan Hospitality location, and thought both were excellent. We will be back.

                          1. re: Madrid

                            Just had a pretty good chile relleno at Tu y Yo.
                            Just saying.
                            Nice sauce, like the pomegranate.

                          2. I haven't been to Tu y Yo in a while, so it's certainly possible that it's gone downhill. But I've been many times in the past and rarely have been disappointed.

                            1. re: BlakeGumprecht

                              Oooh, my two recent experiences indicate a huge slide from experiences in years past. The food is dull, underseasoned and apart from being uninviting is poorly executed. I have had my last meal there. Sad.

                            2. re: MC Slim JB

                              I'm pretty sure Curry N Wok closed.

                              1. re: jgg13

                                That is news. Looking back, I see a June 5, 2014 Chowhound post that said Curry N Wok had "closed for renovations". Has that gone from temporary to permanent?


                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  They've got his posted on google+ from a couple of weeks ago " We are closed.Working on the new concept.We will update the opening date soon.For any catering order please contact 508-314-3509."

                                  So not permanent but it sounds like it'll be different when it returns

                            3. Folks, could we let the digressions about whether ethnic is or isn't an appropriate term to use go, please? If you genuinely don't know what someone means, it's fine to ask, but if you do know, and just object to the term, please either ignore it or skip the thread entirely rather than making a point of telling people you don't like their language choice. Thanks.