The TOP 10 PLACES to eat in Cambridge, MA

This week will be my last as a Cambridge resident.  While I will still be in the area, I will no longer be representing the 02138.  With the impending move on my brain, clearly my biggest concern is... food.  Packing in an 85-degree apartment is fun and all but I'd rather take savor my last moments in this lovely city eating my beloved local foods.  And I thought it would be nice to share my favorite spots to chow down (and their respective dishes) in Cambridge for future residents and tourists alike. 

1. Punjabi Dhaba

This Indian establishment is quirky and always busy.  Of note, this place is CASH ONLY.  Despite how many times I have frequented here, I always forget to bring cash with me- but don't worry, there are several ATM's in the area.  Chicken tikka masala and baingan bharta are my two go-to's.  

Depending on the meal, it may or may not come with naan.  And if it doesn't I would suggest ordering a side order of their naan as it is doughy and a generous portion.  Also, go for a mango lassi to wash it down- they are good to share as they are fairly filling but delicious.  

While you eat, please enjoy the montage of Indian music videos played in the background.  

2. Muqueca

Muqueca is truly a Cambridge gem.  It is a casual spot with consistently delicious yet unique food.  As a creature of habit, I nearly always order two items.  First is the fried yucca with Portuguese sausage as an appetizer.  For those who have not eaten friend yucca before, it tastes similar to a potato but less starchy.  The addition of the Portuguese sausage, or what I presume to be linguica, is fun to alternate with bites of yucca.  The dish comes with a delicious creamy-herb sauce, of which the ingredients I have honestly never really questioned until now.  Anywho, it is very tasty.  Second, for the entree,  I go for the fish and shrimp muqueca for 1.5 (people that is- 1.5 is just the right portion to share between to hungry individuals).  Muqueca is a tomato-based fish stew that is served in a very hot clay pot.  The presentation is always exciting as you don't know if you are going to getting splashed with boiling liquid!  The muqueca is served with buttered white rice and makes for a very satisfying meal.  You will not leave here hungry, that's for sure.

3. Berry Line

I cannot with a clear conscience, write a post about Cambridge without a shoutout to my most frequently frequented establishment.  Berry Line is a small chain of frozen yogurt (FROYO) shops with locations in Harvard and Porter Square.  The Porter Square location is approximately a 3-minute walk from my apartment.  They are open year-round for the ice cream fanatics like myself.  Berry Line is different in that you can't go crazy with toppings like you do at other self-serve froyo counterparts.  But sometimes this is a good thing.  They always have four flavors of frozen yogurt, one of which is their "original" flavor, a plain, semi-tart yogurt, which is very good.  The other three flavors rotate- sometimes to include seasonal flavors, such as watermelon or creamsicle in the summer.  Once you have chosen your flavor(s), you can select your toppings.  Toppings range from fresh fruit such as strawberries and mango, to classic candies such as peanut butter cups and heath bar pieces.  Berry Line also makes several of their toppings in-house, including mochi and cheesecake bites, both of which are on my list of go-to's.  You can really choose as many as you want but the cups are not the buckets that you find at the self-serve places so you can go too buckwild with your toppings or they will end up on the floor.  I have had multiple heartbreaks as I watch a beloved peanut butter cup fall to the ground.  So I would suggest 4-5 toppings maximum.  My go-to is original flavor with peanut butter cups, mochi, and cheesecake bites.  I always try to branch out but I can never seem to go without those lovely peanut butter cups.  They have ample seating inside or take your ice cream to go and take a walk down Mass. Ave.

4. Oleana

This upscale Mediterranean restaurant by Chef Ana Sortun is one-of-a-kind.  My favorite dish is the falafel.  I think we have all had at least one super dry falafel experience.  But Oleana's falafel will change your life.  They are super moist and beautifully presented- hands down one of the top 5 dishes I've ever eaten.  

The rest of the menu includes mezze (small plates) and other entrees, which change regularly.  You really can't order a bad dish at Oleana.  Aside from the falafel, I always order their Turkish-style profiteroles filled with brown butter creme and covered in sesame caramel and cashews for dessert.  I often opt out of desserts at most restaurants since they are often an afterthought.  But this dessert might be the best I have have the pleasure of enjoying in a restaurant.  

The caramel is out of this world and the contrast of the crunchy cashews with the soft, fluffy profiteroles is heavenly.  While this is definitely a special occasion restaurant, I suggest saving up because this is one Cambridge's best.

5. Greek Corner

A family-owned business that is hopping even on Tuesday nights.  Their chicken gyro has become a staple in my diet.  For an appetizer, I recommend the avgolemono, a rice and chicken soup that is lightened by the addition of lemon juice.  And of course you can't leave without trying everyone's favorite Greek sweet: baklava.  Greek Corner's is particularly good with a generous dousing of cinnamon.  The service here is always very quick, which makes this a nice weeknight option when you want to get food in your belly quickly but want to have a sit-down meal.

6. Formaggio Kitchen

Formaggio is my idea of heaven.  They are best known for their amazing cheese selection (hence the name).  Their staff is highly knowledgeable about the dozens of both local and imported cheeses.  Despite how much cheese I have eaten in my life, I am still always a bit overwhelmed when I go to select cheeses and suddenly feel like the only cheese name I can think of is "mozzarella."  Sometimes I have an idea of what I would like, such as an Italian cheese or a gouda, and other times all I know is that I want to buy a few cheeses for a cheeseboard and the staff is always willing to give you suggestions and a taste before you commit.  In addition to cheese, they have a solid selection of salami and cured meats, local, fresh produce, a great wine and beer selection, confections, a flower shop, and breads from Clear Flour Bakery (the best bakery in the Boston area FYI).  My favorite thing to do in the summer is come here to put together a meal for a picnic.  

I grab a couple cheeses, a salami, a baguette, and a bottle of wine, and I'm good to go.  Formaggio Kitchen also offers classes.  I have attended a wine and cheese class which included a visit to their in-house cheese caves (quite the treat for this food nerd).  

7. Giulia

Whenever anybody asks me what my favorite restaurant in Cambridge is- I always answer Giulia because 1. it is my Italian namesake 2. it is a unique answer that not too many have heard of 3. it is some of the most authentic Italian cuisine I have had outside of Italy, with a local twist.  

While their menu changes seasonally, I would recommend the warm semolina cakes, the bucatini all'amatriciana, and if their is an angolotti on the menu- don't think twice.  Just order them- trust me.

 Their desserts are also noteworthy- housemade gelati make any dessert a winner.  The atmosphere is lovely, the service equally so, and if you are lucky enough to snag a spot at the chef's table, aka where Chef Pagliarini makes his own pasta by hand daily and is transformed with a white table cloth by night, you will be able to witness the focus and seriousness with which Chef and his team take the food.  

8. Alden & Harlow

Fairly new to the Cambridge restaurant scene, Alden & Harlow is a new American establishment with a local and seasonal flare.  While this description may make it seem like every other new restaurant on the scene, it is not.  Alden & Harlow makes my list for its ambience, cocktails, and small plate options that are perfect for sharing.  They have a secret burger which is delicious- but it is does run out so if you are in the mood for that burger, go early.  Their menu is also changing often depending on the season but I don't think you can really go wrong.  Of note, I recently enjoyed their crispy bok choy with 60-degree egg.  The bok choy tasted just like kale chips but was a welcome change with a bit more meatiness for the white part of the bok choy.  And the lightly poached egg made for the most luscious of dressings.  They also have an impressive cocktail list- that goes far beyond your mamma's Moscow mule (although I do love me a Moscow mule from time to time).  

The ingredients are all very unique and at times overwhelming (think cachaca, pink peppercorns, or smoked cucumber)- but the bartenders are all very knowledgable and willing to help you make a selection- they will not steer you wrong.

9. Simon's Coffee Shop

This cozy, warm cafe is a Cambridge must.  Both their coffee and espresso drinks are rich and delicious.  I've been told their cortado/gibraltar is the best in all of the land.  They also have a great selection of tea drinks for the non-coffee drinkers.  The vibe in here is not pretentious like some coffee shops.  Simon's serves high quality coffee in a laid-back atmosphere.  Service is on point and you never have to wait too long for you beverage.  Also, their scones are delicious.  Go here!

10. Bagelsaurus

I saved the place that I will miss the most for last.  This is another establishment of which I continue to sing the praises.  Unfortunately, Boston is not the bagel mecca that one would expect.  However, Bagelsaurus has changed the bagel game forever.  

And unfortunately/fortunately I am not the only Cambridge resident to notice.  On the weekends, starting at 8am when they open, there is a high probability that there will be line out of the door and they often run out of bagels before their closing time of 3pm.  During the week it is still busy, but not as much so.  So if you are able, check out Bagelsaurus on a weekday when you can enjoy your bagel/bagel sandwich/both in peace.  Even if you can't, Bagelsaurus is definitely worth a visit at any time (except Mondays when they are closed).  My favorite items to order vary on what mood I am in.  If I just want a bagel, I ordered the cinnamon raisin (lightly toasted) with plain cream cheese.  The cinnamon raisin is a popular choice and I have been the next person in line various times when they have run out of my favorite *tears.*

If you're in the mood for a sandwich, my two choices are either the T-Rex (bacon, almond butter, banana, and honey) or the Egg (medium-cooked egg with sharp cheddar and mustard butter.  All of their bagels are delicious- chewy with a hint of sourdough.  Out-of-towners (i.e. New Yorkers) have commented that they really enjoyed them mostly because they are not trying to be "New York Bagels."  They are their own force and one that many Cambridge residents have dared to reckon with.

I hope that you will visit some of these places soon.  I will miss you Cambridge and all of your delectable foods!