Latin American: Olé
11 Springfield St., (617) 492-4495
Middle Eastern, Place to Splurge, & Outdoor Dining: Oleana
134 Hampshire St.
At Oleana, Turkish and Middle Eastern flavors are more than influences—they are muses, and Executive Chef Ana Sortun has her entire menu dancing to their tunes. Her kebobs of Vermont quail are seasoned with the aromatic spice mix known as baharat, and her monkfish and summer squash shish is served with a sauce of tomato and hawaij, a Yemeni seasoning blend. The dessert menu is no less evocative of far-off regions with dishes like bici bici, a pink peppercorn milk pudding with blackberries, rose petal jam, and cucumber granité. Or just gather on the patio and share some meze—small plates of delicacies like whipped feta, imam bayildi (stuffed eggplant), and lamb lamejun with shishito peppers.
Greek: Greek Corner Restaurant
2366 Massachusetts Ave., (617) 661-5655
By Reena Karasin
Entering Greek Corner feels like being transported. A mural of Grecian seas and buildings stretches throughout the dining room, and the food reflects an intimate knowledge of Mediterranean cuisine. The family behind the restaurant hails from Sparta, Greece, and brings over spices and olive oil from its home country. Menu highlights include avgolemono soup, souvlaki, pastitso, and gyros smothered with the best tzatziki around.
Sweet Tooth Satisfier: Christina’s Homemade Ice Cream
1255 Cambridge St., (617) 492-7021
Restaurant in Inman Square & Server – Sam: City Girl Café
204 Hampshire St., (617) 864-2809
You want brunch, right? OK, here’s the ticket: a goat cheese, bacon, and caramelized onion sandwich. That’s what you need—the creamy tang of the goat cheese contrasted with the salty punch of the bacon, balanced by the sweetness of the onion. Or go the Italian route with il meglio—toasted focaccia topped with asparagus, fontina, prosciutto, house aioli, and two eggs. Or maybe you want pizza, the beautiful simplicity of a classic margherita—tomato, mozz, basil, garlic, what more do you really need?—served in a cozy and kitchy cafe.
Restaurant in Area Four & Pizza: Area Four
292 Massachusetts Ave. & 500 Technology Square, (617) 758-4444
Look at the menu. Just look at it. Know what that is? That’s attitude, and Area Four’s pizzas just scream with it. What kind of place names one of their pies “Not Pepperoni”? An awesome place, that’s what, with a kitchen that’s also bold enough to put Wellfleet cherrystone clams and hot peppers on the same crust. One that isn’t afraid to ask the question, “You want to add marinated white anchovies to that?” One that makes both carnivore-friendly and vegetarian-friendly breakfast jumbles that can only be called the Hot Mess. At Area Four, fervent disregard for boring pizza (or brunch dishes) is a way of life.
Restaurant in Kendall Square: Mamaleh’s Delicatessen
One Kendall Square, (617) 958-3354
The cultural institution that is the Jewish deli comes with expectations: bagels, smoked salmon, blintzes, schmaltz. Mamaleh’s delivers on all of these (plus Yiddish lessons on its website). “Eat something already,” it admonishes us, and who are we to say no? A pumpernickel bagel and house-made lox with the requisite dill cream cheese, red onions, tomato, and capers—it may not get more Jewish deli than that. But if that’s too familiar, maybe try the Barney Greengrass with smoked sturgeon on bialy. Or at dinner, have the arctic char with chraime sauce, served with couscous and summer squash, or a Jewish pupu platter (chopped liver, gribenes, knishes, and kreplach). And please, call your mother, she misses you.
Restaurant in East Cambridge: Atwood’s Tavern
877 Cambridge Street, (617) 864-2792
Dark wood, a long bar stocked with great labels, a stage for live music, a cozy patio out back, and a kitchen that turns out great food until almost midnight. You want tofu and veggies (like shiitake, broccoli, and scallions) over rice during opening act, and a grilled pork chop with cheddar grits for the headliner’s last set? Done! Or pick your sandwich, from grass-finished burgers to BLTs with applewood-smoked bacon to crab cakes on brioche. Who could ask for more from a neighborhood joint?
Restaurant in Harvard Square & American: Russell House Tavern
14 John F. Kennedy St., (517) 500-3055
New England is where the American tavern was born, and Russell House is committed to perfecting the form. Its menu is a celebration of tavern food and regional cuisine, and the atmosphere invites conviviality. In fact, you and your hungriest friends can tackle the RHT Tower (four half lobster tails, 16 oysters, eight clams, eight shrimp), if you’re feeling particularly peckish. Or if your appetite is more modest, start with the warm farro salad (with roasted mushrooms, Swiss chard, ricotta, and a harissa vinaigrette) and then the coffee-braised short ribs (served with potato puree and an orange gremolata). Or wander in late and enjoy buck-a-shuck East Coast oysters.
Restaurant in Huron Village: Hi-Rise Bread Company
208 Concord Ave., (517) 876-8766
The staff of life and the stuff of dreams, with amazing food literally served by the numbers. Chalkboards above the counter count off your options: Today you’ll have No. 13, Mahatma Gloves—curried chicken salad with cashews and mango chutney on sprouted wheat sourdough. Tomorrow, it’s No. 60, Esmé Etolle—roasted sweet potato, goat cheese, basil pesto, pickled onion, and arugula on a baguette. Next visit, perhaps No. 51, the Dapper Dutchman—a quarter pound (!) of smoked salmon on toasted corn bread with capers, red onion, and tarragon mayo. Or, just maybe, you’ll stand around inhaling the aroma of baking for awhile, then go home with a simple loaf that never fails to exceed your family’s expectations.
Restaurant in North Cambridge: The Table at Season to Taste
2447 Massachusetts Ave., (617) 871-9468
Just 20 seats, a prix fixe menu, and an open kitchen. That takes confidence from both chef and diner, and it is amply rewarded here. The four-course menu highlights both Chef Carl Dooley’s French cuisine training and an unbridled imagination. That menu changes with the seasons, but currently you’ll have green chile lamb enchiladas in a tomatillo salsa with goat cheese and an earthy huitlacoche, and later a glazed scallop green curry with okra, roasted peanuts, Thai basil, and Kefir lime. Or order a la carte at the wine bar—the house-made fettuccine with local clams has sun gold tomatoes, Calabrian chile, and nasturtiums.
Restaurant in Porter Square & Italian: Giulia
1682 Massachusetts Ave., (617) 441-2800
You can’t get much more Italian than a restaurant that had a table purpose-built for making pasta on it … and for feeding that pasta to large groups at dinner. Gather around and don’t be shy with the antipasti—black bass crudo with marinated agretti, cucumber, dried lime, and chiles; grilled octopus with pesto alla trapanese and almonds; or a salumi platter with mortadella, finocchiona, speck, and soppressata. And that pasta? Try the pappardelle with wild boar, black trumpet mushrooms, and juniper. They will happily grill you a whole mackerel (served with bagnet vert, broccoli, and capers) as well. And dolci? Well, since you ask: We’ll have the pistachio gelato with marinated cherries and anise pizzelle.