Rei's Cambridge/Boston Food Picks
Rei's Random List of Cambridge/Boston Food Picks
These are my personal top-pick places to go, after having lived
in the Boston/Cambridge area for about 10 years and having sampled
various places. Newly revised and updated with some phone numbers
in 2002. Last update: 1/03
For menus, go to wchuang's menu list.
- Mary Chung's (617-864-1991. 464 Mass Ave, Central Square,
Cambridge). When they closed for 3 years they had a line down the
street. When they reopened they had a line down the street. Their
arguably most famous dishes are their appetizers: Fried Peking Ravioli
(Potstickers) served with special rav sauce, and their Suan La Chow
Shau (meat dumplings on sprouts with spicy suan sauce). Basically,
their pungent, dark, sweet, hot, garlicky sauce is famous. The "new"
Mary's has good General Gau's chicken, too, and consistently good
dishes in general. They are a local legend, especially for MIT folk.
I think they are closed on Tuesdays - a sad day of the week
for their fans - call and check first.
- King Fung Garden (known as Brezhnev's to MIT folk) (617-357-5262.
74 Kneeland St (near Hudson St.), Chinatown, Boston). CHEAP, GREASY,
DISGUSTINGLY GOOD, and all in a converted gas station! Hot, fat
Peking Ravioli, though no special Mary Chung's dipping sauce, so soy
sauce and vinegar will suffice. Their scallion pancakes are deep
fried and tasty with vinegar and soy sauce and their little plate of
hot pepper garlic sauce, and their beef chow mein is the best anywhere
- authentically greasy and tasty! Fat homemade noodles just coated
with beef flavor. A great meal is made up of an order of ravs,
scallion pancakes, and beef chow mein. Citysearch
- I haven't been to a lot of Chinatown. There are lots of places
that do Sunday Dim Sum. Some places do sushi, too. Anyway,
you need to go to Chinatown if you like Chinese food.
- Stuck in the suburbs? If you're near the
Arlington/Waltham/Belmont area, New Asia is decent, and they deliver.
(A lot more than I can say for some other local places.) Ling
Garden has some nice Szechuan dumplings (a lot like Mary's
Suan La Chow Shau, but in peanut sauce), but the quality ranges
from great to a little off.
- India Pavillion (617-547-7463 near Mass
Ave, at 17 Central Square, Central Square, Cambridge). By far the
best on the block - and it's a "block" with lots of competition!
There's like 5 or 6 Indian restaurants in that area - I went to most
of them, and starting saying "why bother." India Pavillion has the
creamiest, richest-tasting Indian fare I've ever had anywhere.
You must try the poori-rice-sauce-onion chutney combination.
- Best clam chowder: Legal's Seafood (Kendall Square, Cambridge) and The
Sail Loft (Kendall Square, Cambridge). I'm surprised anything came
close to Legal's, much less matched it. That stuff is good!
- Best overall seafood: Legal's Seafood (Kendall Square, Cambridge).
Really fresh fish, cooked expertly to the right "moist tenderness"
(sound like an ad yet?). BTW I did go to a BAD Legal's out in
Framingham or Natick or somesuch once, where the fish was overcooked
to cardboard. Stay close to Boston, and the quality's much better.
- Note to self: look up the nice seafood shop in downtown Belmont.
(There're several local fish (raw + cooked) markets in these towns
surrounding Boston/Cambridge, but quality varies tremendously.)
- Japanese-style seafood: Ittyo's broiled saba (mackerel). Blue
Fin's broiled fish may be comparable. See below.
- Hana Sushi (617-868-2121. 2372 Mass Ave, Cambridge). Actually,
most places have good sushi around here, but I'm really fond of Hana's
maki rolls. They usually have good quality on almost everything.
(Oh, and the staff is not actually Japanese, so don't try out your
Japanese skills on them.)
- Fugakyu (617-734-1268. 1280 Beacon Street, Brookline). Fugakyu
is on another level entirely - also another price level - but the one
time I went, there were huge, firm chunks of very fresh fish. It's a
bit too "stuffy" in terms of atmosphere, but the food is worth it if
you can afford it. Citysearch
listing ... (and the owners here are not Japanese either.)
- Asai (30 Leonard St., Belmont) I'll mention because if you're
stuck out in the suburbs, it's not a bad place to go rather than
drive all the way into Cambridge or Boston. The bulk of their
fare is actually Korean - and apparently their chef came from
Jae's (a noteworthy local Boston chain known for both decent
sushi and Korean-ish food). Again, don't try
your Japanese language skills here.
- For CHEAP sushi that's better than supermarket deli section fare,
go to Kotobukiya (Porter Square Exchange on 1815 Mass Ave, Porter Square,
Cambridge). (Porter Square Exchange also has Blue Fin, which is
OK, but I still prefer Hana Sushi over Blue Fin.) Yes, if you
want to practice your Japanese language skills, you can do it here.
- Ittyo (Porter Square Exchange on 1815 Mass Ave, Porter Square,
Cambridge). Wow, if you want traditional Japanese food, you have to
have their broiled saba (mackerel), which comes with white rice,
grated daikon radish, and a small salad (eat the fish with rice,
radish, and soy sauce - watch for a few bones). This is THE classic
Japanese fare - cooked fish and rice. (Don't get the sanma, however,
if you don't want to deal with a bazillion little bones.) Their
traditional Japanese curry is good, too. Nice, rich sauce. Try it
with fried shrimp.
- Tampopo (Porter Square Exchange at 1815 Mass Ave, Porter Square,
Cambridge). Nice bento lunches, if heavy on the fried goods. Curry
croquettes are nice.
- Blue Fin (Porter Square Exchange at 1815 Mass Ave, Porter Square,
Cambridge) I think has some nice Japanese fare in a sit-down setting.
To be honest I have not tried their broiled fish, but most of their
stuff is decent and if you want a "real" restaurant, it could be worth
a shot. Their sushi is pretty good, though I don't quite like how
warm they serve it.
- Kotobukiya Grocery Store (617-354-6914. Porter Square Exchange
again) has rice balls (onigiri - the Japanese culinary equivalent of a
sandwich) for sale! Nostalgia!! Plus you can get Japanese junk food
and drinks here.
- (Yoshinoya (617-491-8221. 36 Prospect Street, Central Square) is
the largest Japanese grocery store in the area that I know of. Lots
of selection, including Japanese junk food and drinks. Not a
- Notice all the "Porter Square Exchange" listings above? It's
Cambridge's answer to a Little Tokyo. Half a dozen Japanese (and
other Asian) food shops crammed into one building, including an outlet
for a Japanese bakery, two sushi shops, a ramen shop, and a grocery
store. Porter Square Exchange is in a building that was once a Sears
building long ago, on Mass. Ave., right near the Porter Square T-Stop.
(Bonus: it's near Sasuga Japanese Book Store.)
- Grassfield's. (781-647-0844. 878 Lexington Street, Waltham)
Whether you want melt-in-your-mouth steak tips, a rack of lamb, or a
crab meat pie, plus a nice side of vegetables, Grassfield's is tops
for price and flavor. Most dishes do not exceed $15 as of 2002.
- There's a decent Chili's in Harvard Square and Burlington, if you
need to resort to that. (And yes, I consider Chili's to be
"Standard American" at this point.)
- Outback Steakhouse is still hard to beat for steaks and the like.
- The food trucks in the MIT 66-68 lot, and also
occasionally near 77 Mass Ave. Good food, great prices.
Fast lines and lots of variety.
- If in Chinatown, go to King Fung Garden, or go to the "Chinatown Eatery."
Cheap! Just watch out for some gristle in the chicken dishes.
- The Cambridge Brewery (Decent food, too) (Kendall
Square, Cambridge). Their ales are, well, excellent. I mean, there
are other brewery/bars, but this is probably the best, at least in my book.
- Toscanini's (617-491-5877 is
their primary number. Multiple locations in Cambridge, including 899
Main Street in Central Square, MIT and Harvard). The best local ice
cream. The founder's brother has a shop called Rancatore's (their
real last name) in Belmont, but I prefer "Tosci's" (as it is
affectionately called by MIT people). I think I prefer Ben & Jerry's
for some flavors, but otherwise, Tosci's is the place to
get ice cream.
- There's also Emack and Bolio's ice cream. Don't do a national
ice cream chain when you can do local!
- In Chinatown, try to find Wai Wai Ice Cream. Their
ginger ice cream is quite good.
- Uno's (Mass Ave, Porter Square, Cambridge). Really
fresh toppings on not-so-greasy pizzas; well-seasoned.
- Bertucci's is also pretty famous locally, though
I think I prefer Uno's.
- You do know about the North End in Boston? It's made up
of entire blocks of
Italian restaurants - you know, Little Italy style. They're good. Go there.
- Marino's in Cambridge (Mass Ave, near Arlington).
Had excellent calamari the one time I went there.
No breading; not fried! Wonderfully seasoned! With a bit of that
wonderful "scorched" flavor. Even tastes better than squid-as-sushi.
- Au Bon Pain (everywhere). Pricey but fast and
- There's a sub shop in downtown Belmont that I liked a great deal.
If I could only remember the name (there are several sub shops there)....
- I THINK there is a Fuddrucker's around in Boston. I know they
were decent in Virginia. In 1/03 I received email that recommends
Bartley's (Harvard Square) or White Star (Back Bay). I had forgotten
I'd eaten at Bartley's years ago, and have been there recently again - loud,
crowded, not exactly cheap, but yeah, pretty good - the buns are
- Maybe I'm cheap, but I still like Boston Market's rotisserie
chicken. Plus decent ham, too.
Best mashed potatoes: Houlihan's (Faneuil Hall, Boston). "Smashed
potatoes" is how they're called.
Best chicken: Houlihan's (Faneuil Hall, Boston) and Boston Market
(everywhere). Houlihan's chicken dishes (like grilled stuff) is real
good with their smashed potatoes and snap peas.
Best Caesar salad: Fusilli's (Cambridge near Belmont(?)). Italian
restaurant with a wonderful peppery Caesar salad dressing. Get the
dressing on the side (unless you like being greased-out), and pile
some anchovies on.
Best wings: Wing-It (Boston). I used to subsist on wings and
instant ramen. You might be able to find Wing-It's sauce in stores.
It's good! (Hint on blue cheese dressing: the flavor of Wishbone's is
better than most... wish it had more cheese, though.) [Wing-It
restaurants seem to have gone, but you can still buy the sauce....]
Best chili dogs: The food truck in the 66 lot (MIT, Cambridge).
Cheapest, best-tasting chili dogs (excellent chili!). A mere $1
each(!). Update: The usual guy isn't doing the chili any more,
and it's much worse now. :-( We'll see if he comes back.
Local anime/manga shops