Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA tips?

My new gig is in the heart of Harvard Square, and though I’m generally a lunch bringer I do occasionally want something out. Tried the Taco Party vegan taco truck on Friday and it was reasonably good–the crispy tofu taco was the better of the two I had. Have also walked up Mass. Ave. a bit to Dumpling House, which was only OK–double cooked pork was pretty average.

Got a good fancified steak and cheese at Grafton Street one day. Will try Santouka for sure and I know all about Cafe Sushi, am planning to go there Friday for a coworker celebratory meal.

Probably will also try to comparison shop the various burger spots to see which one I like the most. Anyway, I have some idea of the lay of the land, but was wondering if folks had favorites to share in the area. Thanks for any recs you might provide!

Set lunches, even at good Chinese restaurants, can be mediocre. In the past, there were some unusual options on the lunch menu at Dumpling House, including stinky tofu, but they may perhaps have “standardized” their options more recently.

Cilantro, before you get to DH, has some not-too-bad lunch options.

Santouka is well worth a try. I’ve had satisfactory lunches there (not just ramen) on multiple occasions.

See this mini thread, as well:

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Congratulations on the new job and welcome to the Square! I haven’t been, but friends recommend Pokeworks, which opened about a month ago. Crema has good soups and sandwiches, Flour is on Mt. Auburn, as is Darwin’s. Their sandwiches are huge (thank goodness for half orders) and they have daily specials. Order ahead when possible, because it can be slow if they’re busy. Felipe’s and Border Cafe cover certain cravings. The market on Church Street has been replaced by another one; lots of options there. For a treat, The Hourly is great for a splurge.

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Second Border Cafe, it’s one of our guilty pleasures. The fajita’s are especially enjoyable; Margarita’s while not strong strike a nice balance between sweet and tart.

When you get your first bonus at the new job, check out Harvest (a mainstay of long standing in Harvard Square, spanning many an up-and-coming chef) or Waypoint (on the fringes of the Square).

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yeah, this is a good point. there were a lot of other options at Dumpling House, and I didn’t order the dumplings, either. might be plenty of other options there off the lunch menu. the stinky tofu option might be there, still, I probably missed it. will look next time.

I used to work there and now I’m in Kendall and I miss it very much in terms of lunch options…

My favorite was Dado Tea, http://www.dadotea.com/dado-foods.html. Very healthy options, mix of Japanese/Korean. And good drink selection of course. Usually a quiet atmosphere.

I also love the grilled chicken sandwich with cotija at Crema Cafe, and miss their canneles a lot.

These are the things I remember most, but I know Border is popular for their blackened chicken.

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Kaju Tofu House was one of my go tos before it closed. There will be some new options once the Smith Center work is done. Not mentioned here, but Toscano was better than expected for a work lunch.

Definitely give Dumpling House another shot. I think that twice cooked pork dish is the worst thing I have had there. It came out like soggy bacon and was left largely uneaten. The dumplings are good (not great). The salt & pepper tofu is an excellent dish, as are many of their noodle dishes (among my favorites are the shanghai style udon, noodles with beef & watercress in sa-cha sauce and northern style cold noodles (spicy)). Their hot & sour soup is some of the best around. The wok chopped dishes are good if you like spicy. I also like the hand pulled chicken. More hits than misses for me at Dumpling House.

Most of the burger places have their merits, except for Boston Burger Co. which I don’t understand how they stay in business. Flat Patties has my favorite burger of the bunch. Tasty Burger has table service and a bar downstairs which is easy to miss. I like their onion strings and it is also a great value. Shake Shack is fine once in awhile if a bit over priced. Bartley’s is a classic (cash only), that I always enjoy.

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Me too. Their cumin lamb dish is my absolute favorite.

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oh, this is good. I did go here once and just got a grilled cheese–it was great and at 5$ or so was a relatively cheap Harvard Sq meal. I would def. try other stuff here. thanks!

Oh, you should def. try other stuff there.
I don’t think it’s as good as it was when it first opened, but it’s still really pretty good all round.

I just went to Dumpling House and had this for lunch. It was reasonably good, tho I thought it was a little one note. The menu seemed to indicate it would be spicy, but my serving of it had no heat at all. Is it usually like that?

This dish has not been spicy at all when I have had it. You have to ask for it to be made spicy. Dumpling House can be a bit challenging in that way. Some dishes (szechuan fish, mapo tofu, northern style cold noodles, wok chopped dishes) are legit spicy; however others you definitely have to request spicy. Many of the wait staff don’t do a great job narrowing it down if you ask. It’s a bit of trial and error.

ah, ok. I’ll just be a little more aggressive in asking for spicy next time.

I’d recommended Crema Cafe up thread, but I must withdraw that recommendation. Their freshly made sandwiches have been poorly constructed of late, with fillings that fall out as you eat, and their premade sandwiches on pretzel bread have been soggy, and in the case of one tuna sandwich, off. (I complained and the person I spoke to said cheerfully, “oh yes, we try to serve fresh ones but sometimes you might get a left over one from the previous day.”)

Two visits to the Chik Chak truck at the Science Center have yielded better than average beef kebabs – tender, and well seasoned. Ask for the hot sauce for an added kick. Their felafel and hummus is only so-so, but the pita bread is thick and soft and very good. Whole Amazon at Fresh Pond has been carrying “local pita” in packages and it’s very similar. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a Chik Chak product.

Good to know! I sometimes swing by Saloniki or Central Sq. Clover to pick up fresh pita and like to buy directly from the local business, but sometimes convenience wins out.

heh. that is not what you want to hear about a tuna sandwich!

That location of Whole Foods has George’s Pita from Methuen. That’s local enough for me. We use the XL ones to make pizzas.

Oh, good to hear. I always wonder about the freshness of the pita when it’s not at the source.

I checked when I was there today. They may carry the Methuen pita elsewhere in the store, but the thick fluffy pitas I have in mind (located near the bread section that has Iggy’s and Hi-Rise loaves, among others) are labeled “Angel Bakeries”. That’s an outfit out of NY – perhaps “local” in Amazon’s Whole World domination, but not local by most definitions. The pita is quite good, though, and I wonder if Chik Chak uses the same source.

I tried to go here Monday after work, since the schedule on their website said they’d be there 'til 8. But they were nowhere to be found. Will try again at lunch sometime, thanks for the tip.

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