College Tours: Where to Eat Near Harvard and MIT, Cambridge


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Continuing our College Tours series, let's head over to Cambridge to see what's good near Harvard and MIT.



[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

It is said that more successful business plans were laid out over a beer and a burger from Miracle of Science on the MIT end of of Mass. Ave. than at Sloan and HBS combined. At least I just said that. They also make a great grilled burger. For a flatter style, head over to Flat Patties in Harvard Square. Leave Bartley's to the tourists and parents.

Check out my list of Best Burgers in Boston for some more options.



[Photograph: Meredith Smith]

For cheap, late night eats, it's Pinocchio's in Harvard Square and their great Sicilian slices. MIT kids can get their drunk pizza fix at Hi-Fi, though warning: ONLY go there when drunk and desperate. For date-worthy pizza, it's Cambridge 1 and their Al Forno-style grilled pies.


Toscanini's on Main Street is known for their ice cream, but they brew a fine cup as well. Not into the caffeine or bitterness? Try one of their sweet hot vanillas.

Breakfast Sandwich

[Photograph: Andrew Janjigian]

Though I haven't tried it yet, Meredith and Andrew are big fans of the breakfast sandwich from Area Four Cafe. To quote Andrew, "It seems everybody is trying to do a good breakfast sandwich nowadays but Area Four's is especially McGood. The brioche-like, homemade English muffin, buttery and soft, encases scrambled eggs and a slab of housemade maple-sage sausage--pork courtesy of Lucki 7 Farm--and it's tangy, salty, and just a touch sweet. It's under a blanket of oozy sharp cheddar cheese."


For cheap and filling, it's Brookline Lunch. One cook, his harried wife serving a dozen tables, bottomless coffee, homemade hot sauce and jellies, and a russian-roulette style omelet where you never know what vegetables may appear next. All for just a few bucks.

If you're in the mood to splurge, the brunch at Craigie on Main will knock your socks off, with one of the finest donuts in the land, and a hash worth breaking vows for.



Sticky bun from Flour Bakery. [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Joanne Chang's Sticky Sticky Buns at Flour Bakery are the buns so sticky they had to name them twice. For Mediterranean baked goods and great café fare, it's Ana Sortun's Sofra. And while getting to Iggy's bakery in Fresh Pond is a bit of a bike ride, their excellent old world breads grace the best tables all over town, and can be found at many retail supermarkets as well.

Best Cheap Eat

Gone are the days of the $1 burger at Bukowski's Tavern in Inman Square, but if cheap eats are your bag, head to nearby Punjabi Dhaba on Hampshire where a few bucks will have you eating like a raj. Or at least like an Indian truck driver.

Dive Bar

People's Republik, a dive bar-lover's dive bar. Darts, hot dogs, beer, sticky floors, peanut vending machines, the works. If you're lucky, you might get there on a night when Bottom Shelf writer Will Gordon is working the door. Tell him Serious Eats sent you and you may get an extra dose of harassment as you try and pass off your fake ID.


Umami Ramen ($10)

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

The late-night ramen menu from Uni's sashimi bar any Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night after 11 p.m. Slurp $10 bowls of ramen or chow down on a couple of duck buns, along with bartender Todd Maul's fine cocktails, of course. (Sake Bombs optional). It's cheaper than most of the ramen in the city, and actually quite good. Get the Umami Ramen, made with stock flavored with 10 different kinds of mushrooms and a hunk of Parmesan rind. It's everything right about fusion and utterly delicious.

Late night drinks in Boston? Haha, nice try. Bars stop serving at 2 a.m. on weekends and 1 a.m. on weeknights. If you want to drink after hours, your best bet is to hit Chinatown. Head to Apollo, and keep yourself busy ordering "special tea" (I.E. beer in a tea cup) until 4 a.m. Or just plan ahead and get Sammy the Central Square Bum to buy you a six pack.

Ice Cream


Ice cream at Toscanini's. [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Boston is an ice cream town, and it's hard to pick just one, which is why when we decided to name an overall winner for Best Ice Cream in Boston, we were stumped. For the Harvard/MIT area, however, it comes down to two choices: Toscanini's (get in the habit of calling it Tosci's, and ordering the burnt caramel), or Christina's in Inman Square, where any number of the wacked out flavors will do you.

When the 'rents Are in Town


[Photograph: Liz Bomze]

Someone else paying the dinner bill? At the top of your Cambridge list should be Rialto, where Jody Adams dishes up New England ingredient-driven high end fare (see the duck above); Tony Maws' Craigie on Main, one of the first farm-to-table nose-to-tail restaurants in the area (and still, in my opinion, the best); Upstairs on the Square, for high end food served in what feels like your rich-but-not-snotty uncle's house; or Hungry Mother, where chef Barry Maiden shoves a bit of the South into Yankee mouths.

If classic Cambridge/Boston is what you're after, the Kendall Square branch of Legal Seafood will show you why the chain is successful (fresh, high quality seafood prepared well, albeit a bit boringly).

When Someone Has a Car


[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Nothing says New England like a road trip up the coast for fried clams. Woodman's in Essex or the Clam Shack in Peabody are perennial favorites, and both fry up a mean clam, though they can get a bit pricey and touristy in the height of the season.

Boston has some world-class Sichuan food if you've got the vehicle to take you there. Head out to Fuloon in Malden for some of their insanely chili-lade Steamed Beef, Sichuan-Style, or the best Ma Po Dofu I've had anywhere. Other top Sichuan spots: Chili Garden in Medford and the branch of Sichuan Gourmet out in Billerica.