Boston/Cambridge request recs

Hi, Bostonians. Friend and I are spending three nights in Cambridge in mid-October. Tips/recs?Atmosphere, tasty food, not pretentious++. Probably one blow-out, the rest bistro/pizza. We’re walkers & happy to take public transportation. One full day in the museum district. Looking forward!!

Hi there! Do you know which area of Cambridge where you’ll be spending time? That might help folks chime in with recs. Oleana (Cambridge) and Sarma (Somerville) get a lot of love so that might get you started with two ideas for your special meal.

You might find inspiration on this thread, too:

And by “museum district” do you mean where the Museum of Fine Arts and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum are in the Fenway? (Harvard has museums in Cambridge though I am guessing it’s much less likely you are referring to those.)

1 Like

Lodging in the thick of things, near the Cambridge Whole Foods on Prospect. But we plan to roam over the river & yes, I should have said BFA. Although never having visited Harvard’s museums, we may get side-tracked.
Saw the pizza thread. Thanks for pointing out the other thread.
My time in Boston’s mostly been spent in the center city proper. Looking forward to learning about Cambridge.


Ditto on Oleana and Sarma, for sure. Other loves of mine in Cambridge are Cafe Sushi, Alden and Harlow, and Craigie on Main. Little Donkey is a little less consistent, but generally also fun.

In terms of great pizza spots in the broader area, Picco is my favorite if you want to sit down and order, as well as the sit-down Otto spots.


I’ll throw in Area Four for pizza. The crust is really good and it’s a fun vibe.


We liked Craigie on Main and Loyal Nine in Cambridge, but we found Alden & Harlow disappointing. The noise level was very high, the food not that good, and the come-on of 10 special hamburgers per day, is, well, a come-on.


One nice dinner in Cambridge I’d do Pammy’s, Craigie, or Omakase at Cafe Sushi. There are lot’s of great restaurants around here, but all of these are consistently excellent. All are easily walkable. Make your res now.

If Craigie looks good and you want to be more casual, you can make a reservation for bar seats. Their bartenders are fantastic, and you can sample the full menu as well as the vaunted burger.


Count me among the Oleana fans – if I had to choose between it and Craigie, I’d choose it, but I think it’s a matter of taste. Do you like that category of middle-eastern-inflected food a lot (as I do), or less than a lot?

I’m less enthusiastic about Cafe Sushi than almost everybody else here because I find the atmosphere and surroundings sub-special. The omakase is, indeed, special, but you’re eating it at a counter close to people eating more mundane things and talking loudly. To me it takes away from the experience.

We, like bear, found Alden And Harlow unimpressive. On the pizza front, let me throw in a word for the pizza from Gran Gusto: good.

The food at Oleana is fantastic and unique, and the courtyard is one of the nicest al fresco spaces around when the weather is nice. However, I find the some of the seating inside uncomfortable to the point that I rarely go there.

Have you tried Cafe Sushi since the remodel? The space has been spruced up quite a bit. Same general layout but refreshed with more wood, less carpet. It’s far from lush. but improved for sure. Every time I have been there the majority of the counter seats are omakase diners, though I don’t really care what people around me are eating.

Love middle eastern. Ok, so many great suggestions. I need to get on interwebs. Starting to get excited about the trip!

Yes, the indoor seating at Oleana isn’t anywhere as good as the outdoor – but for us it’s not a deterrent. We’ve had special-occasion meals indoor there with people very special to us (a Canadian singer-friend who’d composed a song for our wedding, and was visiting us after many years, for example) and enjoyed them.

It’s hard to find in Cambridge restaurants with grand, spacious environments. Oddly, Chang Sho might have among the grander settings in town (but with only so-so food).

Yes, I’ve been to the remodeled Cafe Sushi. It does have more wood – blonde, with a vaguely Scandinavian feel – but, as you say, the same layout. I’m quite likely more crotchety than you (my wife would say it’s not hard for me to out-crotchet anyone), but I do find the lack of reverence – or even respect – at the omakase bar a significant downer to the overall experience).

I honestly like Sarma much more than Oleana. I preferred the food, the ambiance, and the service. I’ve never gotten to sit on the patio, but I generally eschew al fresco dining anyway.


A fun bar stop is Wit’s End in Inman Square. Tons of games and a good vibe.

These days I steer wide from anything that tests my cognitive performance. Especially in public ;-0
Appreciate the rec for a nice bar where two old hens can enjoy a dram though!

Hmmm, guessing from the use of “interwebs” you are from CT and listen to Colin McEnroe…

Haven’t yet seen mention of Little Donkey, very close to where you will be staying. Up Mass Ave nearer Harvard Square is Waypoint. Check out the menus - both have standout crudo and beverage programs.

Um, no. I live in Pittsburgh, I don’t know who that is, and I’m just. . .old?

We used to call it, with a straight face, mind you, the Worldwide Web. I suppose I call it the interwebs (or innerwebs when I’m feeling poetic) because I’m half afraid you young people call it something else entirely now and I’ll betray myself. I’m pretty sure you no longer surf the damn thing.

But thanks for the recs!

1 Like

No, you are not old…McEnroe is a CT public radio personality who is fond of the term “interwebs”.

I second the recommendation of Area 4, about 15 minutes walk from your base. Nearby is Catalyst, also worth a look. And EVOO.


Good to mention. EVOO doesn’t get a ton of attention and it was a solid, satisfying choice for us when my husband worked in Kendall Square. They had a rabbit confit salad with port-soaked cherries, yum.

FWIW, I don’t feel the same about the pizza at EVOO’s sister restaurant Za—they serve individual pizzas and the crust always seemed cardboardy to me.

Almost forgot: I haven’t been there in years, but the cafe at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum might be a useful lunch stop if you do tour the MFA and the Gardner over in the Fenway. Maybe someone else on this board might have recent experience? An excuse to spend more time at the Isabella Stewart Gardner might be appealing.


Happy to report that the cafe at ISGM is still wonderful. I remain amazed that it is not more swamped at lunch - apparently the folks working in the Longwood Medical Area are too busy.


Thanks to everyone who responded. Will report back!