Cheap lunch in Kendall Square, Cambridge MA

I recently started a new job in Kendall, and I was wondering if anyone had suggestions for good, cheap-ish lunches nearby. So far, I had a pretty solid and very large sub at Al’s, and have had okay Chinese food from some of the food trucks. I also had a very nice pizza at Area 4, but it was a little more than I’d like to be spending.

It seems like there’s not that much going on here that’s both exciting and affordable (under $10), and my coworkers mostly have just been complaining about the lack of variety. Is there some hidden gem I’m missing, or should I just start bringing more lunches from home?

With Emma’s and Mulans’ closings, the cheap lunch in that part of Kendall might be history. The BonMe spot can be affordable. BeanTowne Coffee does a decent sandwich, salads, etc. I am not in the area at lunch time much anymore. Sorry not to have more “intel.”

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is that Mulan closed for good?

The Automatic is pretty affordable and tasty.

You can get soup and half sandwiches at Mamaleh’s but I don’t know if they will be under $10.

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How’s Aceituna Grill these days? The current menu looks pretty cheap. I used to get pretty good shawarma there but haven’t been to that corner of Kendall since “build your own bowl” became a thing. I especially liked getting those Lebanese-style pink pickled turnips as a topping since they’re not common in this area.

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I have no idea. As I mentioned, I don’t get down to that neighborhood much anymore. Wish someone knew.

Unfortunately there isn’t much that is cheap/reasonable in Kendall these days, though there are a few possibilities just outside the square.

If you go online or walk over to Cinderella’s you can still ask the hostess for their old pizza shop menu and order reasonably priced subs and salads from there.

You can get out of Saloniki for right around $10 but you may be hungry a short while later.

Skampa puts out a good north style roast beef sandwich at an old school price.

It’s unfortunate that most of the newer places, while some very good, are priced to take advantage of this burgeoning area.

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I just remember that in early 2016 they had said they’d be reopening within three months. since they’re still closed, I kind of assume it’s not happening.

I walked by there not too long ago and Mulan is finally beginning to look like it will reopen. They’ve got a new sign up and the building looks like a restaurant again (at least from the outside) rather than a cinder block garage. Not sure how far along they are inside, but they are not closed for good, as I had feared!

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I keep my hope alive since their website still has the Cambridge address, and the website has actually been updated since the fire.

Depends on what part of the area you’re in - I like Tatte, Clover, Bailey and Sage…

Oh, I like Tatte too, but I don’t consider it a cheap eat. Quite the opposite actually.

Thanks for all the suggestions! I think I’m going to try Skampa today - I love a good roast beef.

Skampa was great - a time warp, in the best possible way. Thanks so much for the recommendation!

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Is that Kendall? If we are that far afield, then I would add the Courthouse Seafood restaurant, especially on Big Fish Wednesday and Lone Star Tacos.

It was like a 15-20 minute walk from my office at MIT. Not exactly Kendall, but certainly close enough on a nice day like today!

Then you must try Courthouse! Freshest fish in the city, cooked by a lovely family, in an almost non-ambiance setting. With careful ordering, I manage to eat for $8.00, and I need help with all the fish on the plate! If you have a few extra minutes, stop into the fish market, select the piece of fish you want, tell them how you would like it prepared, and they send it right over to the restaurant.

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Thanks for the tip - that sounds great!

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What are the options for fish prep? (I assume that if I ask for Kerala style fish curry, or fish with
silken tofu and chili oil, I’d be out of luck.) I divide my time between Cambridge and NY and
although I shop for fish at New Deal down the road, I’m ashamed to say I’ve never
Courthoused. I must rectify this soon.

(At Astoria Seafood in Queens, where you physically select your fish with your hands gloved
in plastic bags and hand them over the counter to be cooked, the choices are grilled or
fried. The results can be uneven, and your carefully selected seafood can end up on
another table, but on a good night they’re spectacular.)

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Pretty simple actually. Broiled, sautéed, fried with vegetables, rice and/or potato. They have a nice “blackened” seasoning they can use if you like that. I have talked to them about doing some traditional Portuguese preparations, but they didn’t see how that would work for them. If you are there and do want “Rhode island” style to make at home, they make the best vinegar red hot peppers around.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

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