Yes we are!
I like both Sarma and Oleana, a lot. You can’t be assured of the outdoor seating at Oleana unless you have a 5:30 reservation and line up before then outside since the outdoor seating can’t be reserved. You can’t sit there obviously if it’s raining, but they keep it open when it gets colder and have heat lamps, etc. It’s truly magical. Really worth trying for it. You will forget you are in Cambridge. However, if the weather is uncertain, I’d probably choose Sarma, in my opinion it’s a bit more innovative (not that I ever had a bad dish at Oleana) but can also be a bit uneven…not badly, just once in a while a dish is over salted some, something of that magnitude, or that amazing 7 layer hummus is just a tiny bit less amazing (still worth every penny), but that can happen anywhere. The quantity and variety of dishes on the Sarma menu and their intricate components are truly astounding, I don’t know how they keep up, or make much money, rent is lower and so was liquor license. Sitting at the bar and watching the food and drinks being prepped is also a worthwhile experience. If you can’t get a reservation, the bar opens at 5 and you can stay there and order once the food service begins at 5:30.
Agree wholly on the magic of the Oleana garden.
(We like Sarma, too, but Oleana has a special place in our hearts.)
You’ll be walking distance from Christina’s in Inman Sq - handmade ice cream.
If you’re interested in low-key but authentic Indian, Punjabi Dhaba in Inman used to be excellent - I haven’t been recently. And I still enjoy Dali (spanish/tapas) though I know that may not be a popular opinion.
And if you enjoy ice cream, do treat yourself @jammie . I forget that New England style ice cream is different: very dense, very rich. I mention this because I was raised in the Pittsburgh area and return often—to my knowledge there’s nothing quite like it to be had locally.
Kenji at Serious Eats explains what sets New England style ice cream apart:
Good for the rest of us. Call in sick one day and try ISGM Cafe!
Ever try India Pavillion in Central Square? I used to frequent it decades ago. It appears to have fallen on good times- its enlarged to about 3 times the size it was the last time I visited.
Ice cream: have you tried Milly’s In Shadyside? Will check out Cambridge’s product happily!
I haven’t - actually haven’t been to any of the Central Sq places in a long time.
yep, this was my experience. had a bunch of excellent dishes and a great cocktail, but found the fava bean thing kind of pasty and had some terribly cooked octopus. still, the good far outweighed the bad and I’d certainly recommend it as a place to go.
Thanks to everyone who replied! Turns out we were not up to a culinary vacation. One meal out a day worked. Breakfast & dinner were snacks in our Air-n-B apt. Lunch was the big hurrah. We spent two days in ISGM & BFA & at at their respective cafes, which were excellent.
My friend had the burrata salad off the regular menu. I had the salmon special, shown. The salmon I think was baked in parchment, very pure and tender. Roasted veg, beans, greens, and a delicious drizzle. It was rich and refreshing, a perfect lunch w/wine. The bread pudding was wonderful. For other out of towners, the tables on the periphery are by reservation only, but the room is three walls of glass so the views are great any which way. We ate late, took a buzzer, wandered on the third floor for 45 minutes, then answered the call.
Next day lunch at BFA, pulled chicken, a burger, and roasted b-sprouts. Atmosphere is pleasant, service efficient. Good value & tasty.
Our final meal was Mainely Burgers, because it was three blocks from our lodging and we were exhausted. Meh. Nothing wrong with it. But we spent the morning at the street markets in the new industrial south area & should have just bought this and that from the stalls, which looked and smelled great, empanadas, sausage, bakeries, etc.
Staying in Cambridge was great. We plan to do it again and Will pace our energies so we can check out more of the good eats. Thanks again! (And congrats on series!)
Thanks a million for reporting back. Very useful to have recent intel about the museum cafes at the Isabella Stewart Gardner and the Museum of Fine Arts.
If you live around here, it’s probably too long between visits to the museums to know how those places are holding up. By which I mean: me.
Glad you enjoyed and I hope you decide to return!
Thanks so much for reporting back! As tomatotomato says, this is excellent intelligence!