Steph Yiu

For Aimee: Central Square Hangouts

Dear Aimee,

Thanks for the amazing Montreal recommendations, they really helped make my trip awesome! Here are some recommendations for places around Central Square, so that you’ll know the best places to go in your new neighborhood. But selfishly, this list is also partly for me, because I’ve loved living in Cambridge so very much, and I don’t want to forget the collection of places and memories that I so fondly called home.

So here goes…

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Cambridge Public Library

Best Coffee Shops / Places to Work
Hands down, Darwin’s on Mass Ave. I’ve spent many, many hours there working, blogging, chatting, and enjoying their delicious treats. It’s quiet enough to get work done (with plenty of plugs and excellent wifi), but not so quiet that it’s awkward. The seats by the big windows are my favorite. Other good spots to work near Central:

  • Cambridge Public Library – excellent wifi, big windows, beautiful views. Don’t discount your local public library!
  • Clover in Inman Square has big long tables and I tend to hang out in the back. They have a liquor license, so I’ve worked here on Fridays enjoying a cold beer. The last time I was there they took me on a tour of their bakery and gave me free pita. Needless to say, they’re pretty awesome. I like the Inman Square Clover better than the Central one, because it’s quieter, and it’s a nice little walk from Central on Norfolk Street.
  • The Biscuit in Somerville has a beautiful patio that no one talks about. It’s probably my favorite quiet spot in the neighborhood, a terrific place to relax on a weekend day.
  • Tatte on Cambridge Street is tiny but perfect. I used to go here early in the morning and sit by the window. It’s nice and quiet because it’s away from any main streets.
  • Bloc 11 in Union Square is a bit of a hike, but they have a huge space with delicious sandwiches and a patio in the summer (where they sometimes show outdoor movies!).
  • Forge Baking Company up near Porter Square has killer soups and salads. I appreciate the big tables and bright windows.
  • Don’t work at these places: 1369 on Mass Ave (too crowded, but awesome for your morning coffee), Atomic Bean (cold, smells funny), Flour Bakery (completely crazy at all hours).
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Brunch with Lori at The Biscuit

Best Breakfast Sandwich
So, this used to be Four Burger when they offered organic, locally-sourced breakfast sandwiches, but they stopped that. Darwin’s gives them a run for their money, but no one compares to Crema Cafe’s breakfast sandwich. Three words: Homemade. English. Muffins. Perfectly cooked eggs topped with swiss, tomato, and avocado. Yum.

Best Secret Brunch
Dwelltime is a spacious coffee shop off of Mass Ave that serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. They make incredible yeasted waffles that you can share with a friend. Because they do “analog weekends” where they turn off the internet, you’re encouraged to sit and enjoy the conversation around you. It’s actually not a bad spot to work on the weekdays, and only a 10 minute walk from your house :)

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Dwelltime’s hand waffles!

Best Ludicrously Expensive Hippie Addiction
Life Alive is a Cambridge staple. They’re so hippie that they don’t care if you stand in line for 45 minutes to get your plate, their menu boasts “empowering avocado” and they ask you “tofu or legumes” when you order anything. They’re also ridiculously expensive. But, their bowls are one-of-a-kind (because of their sauces), and their Green Goddess Bowl is simply heaven.

Best Bakery
Paris Baguette, for their always-perfect croissants, so-expensive-but-so-good bread, and addictive milk tea (best ordered hot and half-sweet). Lucky for you, but not lucky for your wallet, this is about 3 minutes from our front door.

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Paris Baguette: Even the cups are cute!

Best Hot Lunch
If you’re in the Central Square area during lunchtime on the weekdays, Rangzen is a Tibetan restaurant tucked away on the corner of Green Street and Pearl Street. They offer the most amazing lunch buffet for under $10, featuring appetizers, soups, dumplings, a huge variety of veggie and meat entrees, dessert, and milk tea. I am obsessed with milk tea.

Best Friday Lunch
Plough and Stars does a $10 Burger And Beer on Friday afternoons. I’ve really enjoyed this spot with my co-workers – it’s a lazy, relaxing lunch with solid burgers and beer.

Best Happy Hour
So, I’m sorry to tell you that Happy Hours are illegal in Boston, but we make up for it with $1 Oysters. Viale does $1 oysters from 5-7pm Monday-Friday. It’s an awesome way to meet up with friends for a quick drink after work. Besides the delicious oysters, the cocktails are incredible – the bartender was recently featured in Best of Boston.

Best Patio for Drinks
The Field might look like a dark Irish bar from the outside, but they have a pretty back patio that is quiet on weeknights and excellent on weekend days. If you’re looking for a spot to grab a pub dinner with friends or enjoy a beer after work, this is what Emily and I would call our “neighborhood bar.”

Best Lobster Roll
Lobster Rolls in Cambridge? You bet. In fact, the best Lobster Rolls in the city are in our neighborhood, except that they’re so good they’re called Lobster Sandwiches. Alive and Kicking is a shack opened in some guy’s garage, but they’re often listed as one of Boston’s best lobster rolls. If you ever have out-of-towners visiting, this is a great spot to take them.

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Best Way To Harvard Square
The absolute best way to get around Cambridge is walking. If you’re headed to Harvard Square, skip the chaos on Mass Ave and just take Harvard Ave from behind our house up to Harvard Square. Cobblestone streets, beautiful homes, giant trees – it’s the most peaceful way to walk. More on my favorite Cambridge walks here.

Best Fancy Dinner
Oleana is one of my favorite Boston restaurants and it’s a 10 minute walk from your front door. It features incredible mediterranean by Anna Sortun, and the prettiest backyard in Cambridge.

Best Ice Cream
Folks might try to tell you that JP Licks, or Christina’s, or Emack and Bolio’s have Boston’s best ice cream. They are all wrong, it’s Toscanini’s, and the summer night line will prove it to you. Tosci’s is the place where you’ll meet MIT rocket scientists in line (it happened to me) and spend an evening talking about how to “live gently.” (We are such Cambridge-dwellers).

That’s it for now… I’m sure there will be more the next time I see you. Enjoy the neighborhood! :)

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