Wining/Dining in Cambridge, MA?
June 19, 2008 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Dining and entertainment options in Cambridge, MA, this weekend?

My girlfriend, I, and some friends are going to be in Cambridge, MA this weekend. We're staying at the Sonesta, and they're staying at the Kendall. I'm looking for suggestions about a good place to grab dinner on Saturday night in that area, as well as possible post-dinner entertainment options.

For dinner, I'd be interested in places that are not vegetarian necessarily, but which offer substantial and good vegetarian options, as well as a good wine list. For entertainment, bonus points will be awarded for gay/lesbian bars where you can hear yourself think (we're probably too old for the thumping night clubs, I fear).

If you also feel like telling me that there's something going on Sunday morning in that area that I absolutely must see before we come back to NY, I'd love to hear your thoughts on that too. Thanks in advance for suggestions.
posted by lassie to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
posted by mshields at 8:47 AM on June 19, 2008

East Cambridge and Kendall Square is a little bit outside of Cambridge's center. The Sonesta is a bit of a hike from the Kendall, but it's not terrible. If you're going to eat close to the Sonesta, the best restaurant in the area is The Helmand, an Afghani place that's actually owned by relatives of Hamid Karzai. Their kaddo is the tastiest pumpkin I have ever eaten. Wine list, however, is decent but generally unimpressive.

If you don't mind walking from The Kendall, then a great vegetarian friendly restaurant is Oleana on Hampshire St. near Inman Square.
posted by bl1nk at 8:54 AM on June 19, 2008

As far as food is concerned, Oleana is quite good, middle-eastern influenced food.

But close to Kendall, you can also try the hot new Hungry Mother, fusion Appalachian-French food, if you can believe it.

My favorite Cambridge restaurant, though, is Craigie Street Bistrot, which has good veggie options, insanely good wine, and terrific, if moderately pricey, very inventive food.

There is also a great Afghan place right by your hotel, Helmund, that is owned by Hamid Karzai's sister-in-law.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:58 AM on June 19, 2008

Oh, and if you stay Sunday, brunch at the Blue Room is excellent, and a short distance from your hotel.

The best thing in Cambridge on a Sunday morning is to walk along the river at Memorial Drive by Harvard. The street is closed to traffic and bikers and walkers take over. You can then wander through Harvard Square and walk back to your hotel along Mass Avenue, about 45 minutes, that will take you through Central Square and MIT.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:03 AM on June 19, 2008

just as an adjunct to blahblahblah's point, Hungry Mother has a lot of buzz, and their food is interesting, but they don't satisfy the 'substantial vegetarian options' requirement. They do pretty good in the wine list category, though.

Craigie is also generally excellent, and their food is always market fresh and intriguing. Tony Maws is also an unabashed carnivore, big on nose-to-tail and proud of his love for juicy, tasty pork. So, again, dearth of substantial veg options, but the food's tasty.

However, at the moment, they're still located a short walk out of Harvard Square, which isn't exactly in the same neighborhood as the Kendall; and if you're going to widen the scope that much, might as well include Dali's near Inman, Radius in Boston and The Elephant Walk in Porter square; which are all excellent restaurants and tend to have better vegetarian options.
posted by bl1nk at 9:35 AM on June 19, 2008

Ah, the Elephant Walk's still around, then? I remember eating there when it was in Sommerville (that's the same one, right?), and I loved it.

As far as radius is concerned, we're adventurous people and not scared of public transportation, so anything that's not back in Boston (where we'll be during the day on Saturday) and is not too far from where we're staying is okay.

Also, since I'm not getting any thoughts on post-dinner options, let me clarify that the GLBT part is not an absolute requirement -- we like good bars with extensive draft selections and I'm particularly partial to beautiful, old bars. So please feel free to suggest your favorite place to have a pint, gay or not.

And thanks to everyone who's chimed in thus far -- all those suggestions were making me hungry, so I had to leave to go get lunch. :)
posted by lassie at 10:00 AM on June 19, 2008

posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 10:21 AM on June 19, 2008

For after dinner, try the B-Side Lounge at 92 Hampshire St. It's my favorite bar in the whole world; I pine for it continually out here on the other coast. If I recall, they've got a nice draft selection. I know for sure they've got a long list of old school, interesting, serious cocktails that'll knock your socks off and an atmosphere so cool and laid back it's hard to feel out of place. There aren't a lot of bars where punks and Harvard professors all hang out together, but the B-Side is one.
posted by mostlymartha at 10:37 AM on June 19, 2008

There's Dante (in the Sonesta) with limited vegetarian options. They have outdoor seating on the Charles River. Across the street from the Sonesta is Bambara (at the Hotel Marlowe) -- also with limited vegetarian fare.
posted by ericb at 10:39 AM on June 19, 2008

All good suggestions. Also: The Charles Hotel, where you find Noir, Legal Seafood, Riato, Henrietta's Table and Regattabar. Good outdoor dining (and great jazz at Regattabar).
posted by psyche7 at 10:50 AM on June 19, 2008

Definitely Helmand. Only been there once, but it was delicious.

If you are around for brunch, you should try S&S in Inman Square. There can be a wait, but it's always worth it.

Not sure about the vegetarian options, but I'd also suggest Cuchi Cuchi.
posted by LittleLisi at 10:53 AM on June 19, 2008

BTW -- this Saturday and Sunday there is the Make Music Cambridge music festival (Harvard Square).

Regarding beer -- there's the American Craft Beer Fest (Seaport World Trade Center, Boston) this Friday and Saturday.
posted by ericb at 10:56 AM on June 19, 2008

we like good bars with extensive draft selections and I'm particularly partial to beautiful, old bars.

The Cambridge Brewing Company (1 Kendall Square, Bldg 100) is a few doors down from the Blue Room (mentioned above). Hardly a "beautiful, old bar," though.
posted by ericb at 11:01 AM on June 19, 2008

I agree with Ericb's weekend picks. The Make Music festival is big in my current plans, and the Craft Beer Fest is a must do if you're a beer geek.

outside of that ...

If your primary interest in a pub is an extensive and impressive beer list, then my picks north of the Charles are Bukowski's (but it gets pretty loud on a Saturday night), Redbones (ditto) and Charlie's Kitchen (a little less loud but still good raucous atmosphere)

If your primary interest is a place for a good conversation over a well poured pint and if that pint happens to be Guinness, then my pick changes to The Druid in Inman Square.

If your primary interest is in a good, interesting selection that isn't necessarily wide in beer, but also has wide options for cocktails and/or wine, then go with the B-Side as mentioned above and/or Green Street Grill in Central. My personal preference is for the cocktails and beer list at Green Street. Green Street also, has, in my opinion a better kitchen (though neither place do much for vegetarians). but I like the B-Side a lot, too. The ambiance at Green Street is much closer to gentrified neighborhood hangout, where the B-Side is a little more low-rent. Both atmospheres have their niches.
posted by bl1nk at 12:01 PM on June 19, 2008

final thing to add -- I'd certainly that B-Side's bar is old and character laden (vintage might not be a bad word for it); but Green Street's bar is just as old and has a nice veneer that tips it into beautiful (the 'antique' to B-Side's 'vintage')
posted by bl1nk at 12:03 PM on June 19, 2008

Came in here to suggest Helmand, so will instead enthusiastically support the already-made suggestion. I am a vegetarian, and it's by far my favorite restaurant in Cambridge.
posted by dizziest at 12:37 PM on June 19, 2008

lassie: "we like good bars with extensive draft selections"

It's not exactly near you, but that's the word-for-word definition of The Sunset Grill in Brookline. 100+ taps, 300+ microbrews. The 66 bus will bring you there from Harvard Square.
posted by Plutor at 12:39 PM on June 19, 2008

Fire and Ice in Harvard Square: all you can eat stir fry, with plenty of vegetable and meat options. They'll even cook your meal separately in the back if you don't want it touching meat.
posted by Melismata at 3:44 PM on June 19, 2008

Thumbs up: Helmand (consistently wonderful), Underbones (Red Bone's bar), Green Street (bl1nk totally pegged the differences between Green Street and B-Side - I like them both for different reasons), and Emma's.

Cambridge Brewing Company is okay - they do have their own beers that are pretty good, but it's not a huge selection since they only serve their own stuff. The food is good but not great.

I also really enjoy the East Coast Grill, but it's almost entirely fish which is likely not great for the vegetarians in your group. It's next door to Bukowski's so you could very easily hit both in one night.
posted by heresiarch at 3:51 PM on June 19, 2008

Wow! I'm coming back to so many awesome sounding suggestions. Thanks so much, everyone. I will try very hard to hit as many of these places as possible and report back on Monday. In the meanwhile, I deeply appreciate each and every comment and thank you for the time you all took to weigh in.

Really? No gay stuff in Cambridge? Or maybe no Cambridge-based Mefites are in this thread. Oh, well, I'll set that for myself as a little research project so I can respond the next time someone raises this issue.
posted by lassie at 4:05 PM on June 19, 2008

Sorry, that should have said, "No gay Cambridge-based Mefites," of course.
posted by lassie at 4:30 PM on June 19, 2008

Gay here. Cambridge's "gay scene," like that of Boston, has seen many bar/club closings over the past few years. ManRay/Campus is "no more," although a resurrection appears underway. There's still Paradise for "the boys." Shine Lounge (also at One Kendall Square -- near the Blue Room and The Cambridge Brewing Company) has Wet @ Shine Saturdays Woman's Night ("Boston's Hottest Lesbian Dance Party")
posted by ericb at 6:44 PM on June 19, 2008

actually, rumours of Manray's resurrection have swirled since two months before the club even closed. I'm not believing anything until I see a date, a street address and the name of at least one recognizable promoter on a flyer. Everything else is just Don and his ex-staff trying to keep the memory on life support
posted by bl1nk at 7:01 PM on June 19, 2008

Specifically Gay/Lesbian joints: I wish I could address this. They seem to be less prevalent than they are in NYC (naturally, I guess). But, perhaps this would help:

Best Gay and Lesbian Bar 2007 and a Yelp search that yielded some possibilities.

This seems to be the closest to what you're looking for (3rd from the first list above), but it also doesn't really seem to be specifically Gay or Lesbian...or maybe I'm missing something:

West Side Lounge (and here's their annoying flash-nav web site).

In any case, sounds like you've got plenty of food and general bar options, but good luck also in your "gay stuff in Cambridge" research project! Looks like you've already got some more educated hits than me (straight guy) since I hit preview...

Oh, and from what I can tell, Shine sucks donkey balls and is a pain in the butt to get to. But that's just what all the reviewers here said, I have no personal experience with the joint.
posted by dubitable at 7:26 PM on June 19, 2008

Just have to second the OMG HELMAND people. Eat the pumpkin-yogurt-mint appetizer for sure (must be kaddo, I can never remember the name). But be forewarned! You should
-call for reservations
-expect to wait
-expect dinner to take most of the evening.
This is a very middle Eastern restaurant; and the staff will let you talk and eat and whatever for hours without bothering you if you let them.

Instead of the Blue Room for brunch, though, I'd take the T or a cab to Sound Bites, in Somerville. People wait outside for an hour in the winter to eat there, it's that good. And a lot cheaper, and very cozy diner-esque. Have an order of pear-and-goat-cheese-french-toast for me.
posted by whatzit at 8:21 PM on June 19, 2008

Plutor - the Sunset Grill does have a huge selection of beer, but it's in Allston, not Brookline :)
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 9:59 PM on June 19, 2008

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