As the editor of Eater Boston, Rachel Leah Blumenthal knows a thing or two about food—and as a Camberville resident, there’s probably no one better versed on where to find the best bites north of the Charles right now.
We asked Rachel to single out some of Cambridge’s current must-try dishes, from wings to waffles. We’ll let her handle it from here…
1. Mamaleh’s is such fun. There are boozy milkshakes, a gift shop section stuffed with treats like “Orthodox Chews” taffy and excellent versions of so many Jewish delicatessen classics. These aren’t your bubbe’s boiled kreplach—they’re pan-fried and served with horseradish sour cream and pickled shallots.
2. Little Donkey was one of the hugely anticipated openings of the year thanks to the dream team behind it, Coppa/Toro owners Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer. The menu is all over the place, with a huge variety of global influences—and it actually works. Try the manti (“Istanbul meat ravioli”) and the Chinese sausage-stuffed, buttery, Parker House-style rolls. Pictured here, lobster lo mein from the ever-changing late-night menu.
3. I was thrilled when my colleague, Eater critic Bill Addison, declared Shepard to be one of the best new restaurants in America. With a Julia Child-inspired ethos, excellent sourcing, beautiful plating and a truly New England spirit, Shepard wows with every dish. And the menu changes often, so you’ll just have to keep going back. This summery dish (served on a plate from the beloved Chez Henri, which previously occupied the space) featured excellent fried calamari.
4. My heart breaks every time I pass by the shuttered A4 Pizza space in Somerville, but fortunately its big sibling, Area Four, is still going strong in Cambridge, churning out some of the best wood-fired pizzas around. Try the “not pepperoni” pizza, which features big, salty slices of soppressata.
5. Truly a hidden gem, Baraka Cafe has been quietly serving up excellent North African food just outside of Central Square for years. Admire the sparkly purple tablecloths as you dine on salmon tajine, which smells (and tastes) incredible. Don’t forget the cherbet, a rose petal lemonade.
6. Bergamot’s little sibling, BISq, is a wonderful spot on the edge of Inman Square that serves a variety of small plates and charcuterie. The N’awlins barbecue shrimp toast has been on the menu since the opening in spring 2015, and it’s a must-try. Its “sexy scallion” garnish pays homage to Lydia Shire—BISq owner Keith Pooler and executive chef Dan Bazzinotti used to work together at Shire’s Scampo, and she would insist on a very fine, “sexy” julienne.
7. Curio Coffee keeps things simple with a variety of coffee and tea beverages and just one item of food: brilliant Liège-style waffles, studded with sweet chunks of pearl sugar. If you find yourself at Lechmere, it’s well worth heading a few blocks down the street for a snack and some caffeine.
8. The arrival of The Smoke Shop to Kendall Square finally made me stop dwelling on whether Syracuse-based Dinosaur Bar-B-Que would ever end up expanding to the Boston area. Dino, I will always love you, but I may just have a new favorite spot. Brisket, ribs, cornbread—definitely try it all—but the ultimate showstopper on a recent visit was the wings, slathered in agave and pit spices.
This story originally appeared as part of the “Scout’s Honored” feature in our September/October print issue, which is available for free at more than 200 locations throughout Cambridge and just beyond its borders or by subscription.
You can find Rachel’s picks for the best bites in Somerville from our sister publication, Scout Somerville.