Yeah, we know these are the winners you’ve been waiting for. The city’s best eats, as voted by Scout Cambridge readers, are rounded up here!
RESTAURANT IN CENTRAL SQUARE
GREENSTREETGRILL.COM | (617) 876-1655
Green Street holds the city’s longest-standing liquor license, so is it any wonder that the cocktails keep patrons perennially perched on the barstools at this neighborhood watering hole? The A to Z drink offerings (literally—ask for the list) showcase classic and creative beverages from the restaurant’s history and highlight the skills of current and former bar geniuses who’ve been behind the stick. Add to that the snug, cozy atmosphere and the inspired, seasonally-changing menu, and it’s clear why Green Street is the go-to Central stop.
RESTAURANT IN NORTH CAMBRIDGE
SOFRABAKERY.COM | (617) 661-3161
Part bakery, part café, part specialty food shop, Sofra caters to the needs of North Cambridge eaters with an array of Eastern Mediterranean options. Chefs Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick named their joint venture for a Turkish word tied up in intimate culinary experiences. They deliver on that promise with exotic meze plates, breakfast pastries, warming shawarmas and more. The shop stocks international spices and locally made provisions, including the very local house-made preserves, making Sofra an inviting getaway for savories, sweets and snacks.
OLEANARESTAURANT.COM | (617) 661-0505
For more than 15 years, chef Ana Sortun has been delighting Cambridge diners with Oleana’s thoughtful, flavorful cuisine—a blend of Middle Eastern spice and seasonal New England produce. From small plates to homemade sweets, the James Beard Award-winning chef and her kitchen team weave a tapestry of inspired tastes, while the lush, shaded patio, complete with fountain and fig tree, is an urban oasis for city-dwellers, taking visitors to Turkey and beyond without ever leaving the table.
RESTAURANT IN PORTER SQUARE
CHRISTOPHERSCAMBRIDGE.COM | (617) 876-9180
Christopher’s is a familiar face in the Porter Square landscape, celebrating 35 years on Mass. Ave. in 2016. How has the restaurant held its own for so many decades? Christopher’s aims to please, with an expansive menu of American classics made with a modern bent. There’s something for every diner, whether that’s hearty chicken pot pie by the fireplace on a chilly night or original burgers and cold craft beers outside on a summer day. The casual eatery has kept up with the times, making its two-floor establishment a haven for hungry guests.
RESTAURANT IN KENDALL SQUARE
THE FRIENDLY TOAST
THEFRIENDLYTOAST.COM | (617) 621-1200
Kitsch and kitchen go hand-in-hand at the Kendall Square location of The Friendly Toast. The colorful, retro décor—vintage advertisements, patterned tables—is matched by the creative comfort food. Big, all-day brunch plates, like loaded eggs Bennies, have lines out the door on weekend mornings. The eclectic diner vibes and wide-ranging menu options make for a neighborhood spot that’s, well, downright friendly.
RESTAURANT IN AREA FOUR
AREAFOUR.COM | (617) 758-4444
Area Four keeps its bustling namesake neighborhood fueled with a steady stream of caffiene, cocktails and wood-fired fare. Daytime hours find the adjoining café slinging espresso pulls and pastries while the restaurant gears up for lunch and dinner service. The staples of the menu? Perfect pizzas made with simple, standout ingredients like a 12-year-old sourdough starter, plus outstanding comfort foods like mac and cheese and garlic knots, all prepped for pairing with a frosty beverage.
RESTAURANT IN HARVARD SQUARE
ALDEN & HARLOW
ALDENHARLOW.COM | (617) 864-2100
Dining at Alden & Harlow is like sitting down to the table at chef-owner Michael Scelfo’s home. The subterranean establishment is dimly lit, but the plates—spurred by Scelfo’s personal cooking for friends and family—are bright, with balanced, bold flavors and farm-fresh ingredients. The beverage program matches the bites beat for beat, with equally well-thought-out inventions. Both the table and the bar top see a blend of funky, smart and friendly tastes—much like Harvard Square itself.
RESTAURANT IN HURON VILLAGE
TWFOODRESTAURANT.COM | (617) 864-4745
Nestled away in Huron Village, T.W. Food offers artisanal dishes artfully crafted by chef Tim Wiechmann and an inviting dining atmosphere curated by Bronwyn Wiechmann. The plates are globally minded, with a strong foundation in culinary technique, but they’re locally based, starring seasonal ingredients from New England producers. The prix fixe menus change frequently but are consistently delicious, giving guests good reason to visit again and again. And again.
RESTAURANT IN INMAN SQUARE
CITY GIRL CAFÉ
CITYGIRLCAFE.COM | (617) 864-2809
The delightfully quirky City Girl Café is tucked away in plain sight in Inman Square. The small, funky dining room features a chalkboard sign of specials: antipasto, pasta, pizza, beer and wine. The Italian-leaning menu is packed with savory treats (figs, prosciutto, mozzarella), and brunch and catering round out the offerings to make this the hidden gem of Inman.
RESTAURANT IN EAST CAMBRIDGE
LONE STAR TACO BAR
LONESTAR-BOSTON.COM | (857) 285-6179
The petite Lone Star Taco Bar packs a pretty big punch. The East Cambridge outpost of the Allston-based restaurant may be tiny in size, but the tastes have all the intensity diners have come to expect from the Lone Star/Deep Ellum culinary team. Four-dollar tacos reign supreme on a menu chock full of Mexican street eats—jalapeños and hot sauce abound—while the bar beats the heat with mezcal, margaritas, tequila and rotating craft brews.
ANNASTAQUERIA.COM | (617) 661-8500
Just because you’re strapped for cash doesn’t mean you can’t find a full meal in Cambridge. Anna’s Taqueria offers plates for practically a penny—tacos start at $3.45—so you can load up on tasty Mexican eats. And with so many fillings, you’ll never get Anna’s fatigue, finding new combos for a customized taco, quesadilla or burrito every time, well within that $10 budget.
PLACE TO SPLURGE
CRAIGIE ON MAIN
CRAIGIEONMAIN.COM | (617) 497-5511
Feeling flush with cash but also want the most meat (or fish, or veggies) for your money? Enter Craigie on Main. Chef Tony Maws takes a sustainable, local approach to fine dining with tasting menus made day-of with the freshest produce available. Opt for the seasonal Craigie Experience to get full courses showcasing what the talented chef can do—from whole animal butchery to organic vegetable cookery—at this Cambridge favorite.
MORGAN CARNEY, GRAFTON STREET
GRAFTONSTREETCAMBRIDGE.COM | (617) 497-0400
Morgan Carney is a fixture at Grafton Street. The born-and-raised Cambridge resident has never strayed far from home—he studied at Tufts and eventually went on to law school at Boston University. It was during his days at BU that Carney started working at Grafton Street, first as a server and eventually as a member of the bar staff. The rest, as they say, is history. He’s been tending bar there for 11 years now and has been the restaurant’s bar manager since 2011. We caught up with him to talk about his work behind the bar; find that feature here!
DATE NIGHT SPOT
BRICK & MORTAR
BRICKMORTARLTD.COM | (617) 491-0016
This sign-less speakeasy at 567 Mass. Ave. serves classic cocktails and boozy milkshakes so good that people often forget Brick & Mortar also serves food. Grab a date and climb the stairs to this dimly-lit second floor oasis, where creative drinks are carefully crafted by some of the cleverest bartenders around. And—not that you’d ever need to venture beyond the drink list—but the burgers are top-notch, the grilled octopus is unreal and the duck confit fries are worth coming in for on their own.
BUKOWSKITAVERN.NET | (617) 497-7077
“Stay with the beer,” Charles Bukowski once wrote. “Beer is continuous blood. A continuous lover.” Should you take that advice to heart, his eponymous tavern in Inman Square offers an unbeatable rotating draught list and bottle specials that’ll help you do so without getting bored. And for the beer-drinking, bragging-rights-loving regular, Bukowski Tavern is one of a short list of local bars that has a mug club.
BREWERY OR DISTILLERY
CAMBRIDGE BREWING COMPANY
CAMBRIDGEBREWINGCOMPANY.COM | (617) 494-1994
This neighborhood hub in the heart of Kendall Square has been bringing the best brews to Cambridge since 1989. With a seasonally-driven menu—both on the beverage and food side—CBC’s offerings are always changing. But their kindhearted staff is a guarantee, and so are the incredible beers. One Charles River Porter, please!
FLOURBAKERY.COM | (617) 225-2525
Take one step into chef Joanne Chang’s Flour Bakery + Café, and you’ll understand why their motto is “eat dessert first.” The menu boasts satisfying sandwiches, salads and soups, but it’s the pastry case that’s the star, overflowing with brioche buns, cookies and tarts. Chang has shared her sweet secrets in two Flour cookbooks, but there’s nothing like the original house-made articles, especially the gooey, mammoth-sized sticky bun. Start with dessert, finish with dessert, have dessert in the middle— however you do it, head into Flour to feed your sugar cravings.
LENA JOHNSON AT LOYAL 9
LOYALNINECAMBRIDGE.COM | (617) 945-2576
Whether she’s perfecting the pour over, pulling a precise espresso shot or whipping up something a little more offbeat like the Cascara Fizz—a bubbly iced beverage that’s great for cooling off on a hot afternoon—Loyal Nine cafe manager Lena Johnson is one of the baristas helping to elevate Cambridge’s coffee culture.
COFFEE SHOP OR CAFÉ
1369 COFFEE HOUSE
1369COFFEEHOUSE.COM | (617) 576-4600
At both its Inman and Central Square outposts, 1369 serves outstanding coffee and sweet treats—along with savory sandwiches and salads, if you’re into the whole healthy thing. It’s the perfect place to post up with a laptop, get caffeinated and power through some work or meet up with a few friends to chat over a perfectly poured latte.
TOSCANOBOSTON.COM | (617) 354-5250
Toscano’s Italian hospitality will have you feeling right at home in Harvard Square. The Florentine cuisine—handmade pastas, housemade sausages, robust wines—whisks you away to the Mediterranean. But it’s the service that settles you into the heart of Italy’s landscape. The attention to detail, enthusiasm for your experience and genuine kindness make eating here like dining under the warmth of the Tuscan sun.
SHANNON HATCH, MIRACLE OF SCIENCE
MIRACLEOFSCIENCE.US | (617) 868-2866
Miracle of Science’s smarts include hiring friendly, charming staffers like server and bartender Shannon Hatch. The almost three-year team member was singled out for the positivity she adds to the dining and drinking scene in Central Square. Humbly, Hatch passes on the compliment to her fellow employees: “Our staff is full of genuine and thoughtful people. It makes for a really nice environment to work in.” There might not be an exact science to customer service, but this corner bar and grill gets pretty close.
SWEET TOOTH SATISFIER
TOSCI.COM | (617) 491-5877
We’re not the only ones singing the praises of this gourmet ice cream joint—everyone from Bon Appétit magazine to the New York Times has recognized Toscanini’s as one of the best scoop shops nationwide. Inventive flavors like bourbon gingersnap and burnt caramel are tough to beat, and they’re perfect paired with Tosci’s coffees, teas and espresso drinks.
VEGAN OR VEGETARIAN
LIFEALIVE.COM | (617) 354-5433
Mealtime is a matter of more than just grab-and-go grub at Life Alive. The Central Square café brings a focus on whole-body wellness to the table, offering organic vegan and vegetarian dishes calibrated to combine health and convenience. The emphasis is on soul food in a more literal sense—good for you, good for the world—that’s also downright delicious, whether you’re well-versed in your veggies or not. Nourishing noodles, reviving juices and sustainable smoothies are just a few of the options to put the life back in your breakfast, lunch or dinner.
PUNJABIDHABA.ORG | (617) 547-8272
This Inman Square eatery serves up some of the best fast casual Indian fare in all of Greater Boston, with heaping portions available at low prices that might just have you coming back multiple times in a week. Punjabi Dhaba has a wide menu with tender meats, perfect spice blends and lots of options for vegetarians. Cheap, fast, tasty and filling—what more could you ask for in a takeout order?
BONMETRUCK.COM | (617) 945-2615
The bright, colorful Bon Me truck signifies good things for those on the go. In Harvard Square, the mobile eatery can be found helping hungry travelers keep their appetites at bay with inventive Vietnamese-leaning bites. The toasted baguette sandwiches are a modern take on a classic banh mi, but the fillings can also be had as a rice bowl, noodle dish or salad—with flavors as lively as their four-wheeled transport.
HENRIETTASTABLE.COM | (617) 661-5005
Hate having to choose between savories and sweets at brunch? Henrietta’s Table’s Sunday buffet lets early-afternooners have it all with a wide array of farm-to-table offerings beyond your everyday breakfast fare. There are carved meats, omelets, pates and hot entrees alongside waffles, desserts and a raw bar—all whipped up with the same attentive care to native ingredients and an awareness of the New England growing season.
SAVENORSMARKET.COM | (617) 576-6328
For those in the know—and Julia Child was famously one of them—Savenor’s is the place for prime cuts. The expert whole-animal butchers have been a mainstay in the Cambridge meat market for over 75 years, with a dedication to high-quality, humane products and high-touch customer service. The team at Savenor’s provides the nose-to-tail experience, whether assisting novice cooks, handling rare requests or supplying ingredients to some of the finest restaurants in the area.
This story originally appeared in the September/October print issue of Scout Cambridge, which is available for free at more than 240 locations throughout Cambridge and just beyond its borders or by subscription.