NFT Boston Central Square / Cambridgeport

Central Square / Cambridgeport

Essentials
Central Square is a mix of MIT residences, biotech companies, and rock clubs -- a place where hipsters, scientists, and vagrants live in harmony. And somehow there are so surprisingly nice apartments in Cambridgeport. Sadly, the old Necco Candy Factory is now a research facility. However, the gorgeous Cambridge City Hall has not been converted to a biotech lab...yet. Satisfy your grocery needs (and tasty organic food supplies) at Harvest Co-op.

Sundries/Entertainment
It may not being the prettiest girl at the ball, but Central sure knows how to have fun. Seeing a rock show at The Middle East earns you instant cred. Sophisticated hipsters frequent See more.

>Central Kitchen, Falafel Palace, Cantab, and Miracle of Science. The sweet-toothed love Flour + Bakery, but to forgo a scoop from Toscanini's is a downright sin.

Transportation
Parking around Central Square is not easy, but with a little persistence, you can find a spot on a side street, or you can drop a couple of bucks in the garages at University Park. The Cambridge Department of Public Works has a phone number you can call to "report a street or sidewalk" defect, tempting us to call them once a day to report "all of Mass Ave."




         


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Literary Boston

By Kevin Spak
Boston: Some call it the cradle of literary civilization, some just call it... uncle. Don't worry. Kevin Spak will set you straight.

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Boston's Rock Roots

By Suzanne Cope
I wanna rock! Rock! Long before Bostonians were sailing to America and hanging witches, they were performing live, sold-out rock shows decked out in glittery makeup and five-inch heels while harems of slithering females with golden candelabra headdresses did weird swishy circular hand dances around their faces. Don't believe me? Tell it to Suzanne Cope.

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Boston's Squares

By Janet Potter
Ain't just squares in the schools we're talking about. From Copley to Coolidge, Kenmore to Central, Boston is a geographically square-rich complex of squarish personas. Join them, and they will always respect you.

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On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Andrew Palmacci
Photo:  Andrew Palmacci

ImprovBoston
Enjoy high-brow entertainment, but love your art in approximately one-hour, T.V.-drama-like doses? Then look no further than ImprovBoston, where Discount Shakespeare's production of As You Like It is finishing its run with a show this Wednesday the 28th. The subtitle of the event promises the play will be performed in 45 minutes (and they make good on that pledge). One of Shakespeare's most satisfying comedies, there is a lot to like about this version: an arm-wrestling match, a brief vaudevillian dance number, plenty of physical comedy mostly contained in chase scenes around the small stage, and that Shakespearean staple, mistaken identity. What's more, the actors are deft, comedically spot-on (par for the ImprovBoston course), and carry off the text very well--while making it highly accessible. With this show at about 9 pm, you're $10 ($7 students and seniors) ticket also gets you into, at 8pm, "Magic and Misdemeanors," a comedic magic act by Andrew Yakoobian--who's a bit like GOB from "Arrested Development," but with talent. Yaks performance features a trick done without speaking and a hilarious SNL-style video. So, get down to Central Square (the theatre is steps away, on Prospect Street) on Wednesday, and take in a modern and a modern-take-on-classical comedic showcase. Always a place for fun and games, ImprovBoston scores again!



Posted By:  Charlie O'Brien
Photo:  Charlie O'Brien

Sandy's Music
A haven for the area's folk scene--pop in to learn about upcoming concerts, find a balalaika tutor, or catch the weekly "old timey" jam (Mondays, 8 pm), when anyone is invited to bring an instrument and play. Sandy's buys, sells, and repairs most stringed instruments, specializing in the "old or unusual," so this may be the best place to go for mandolins, ukuleles, and banjos, and even the odd bodhran. The staff is unobtrusive, so ask if you have questions. New CDs can be pricey ($15+) but worth it if you are looking for local artists or compilations. Used records ($2-6) are more reasonable. The store also supports the UMass Boston's WUMB folk radio channel, 91.9FM in Boston.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

BerryLine
With locations in Harvard, Porter, and Fenway, Berryline is pretty obviously trying to capitalize on the success of Pinkberry out west. But I've got to hand it to Berryline: they're not afraid to tell you the actual ingredients that go into their froyo, unlike Pinkberry. (Reminds me of that old SNL commercial for That's Not Yogurt.) In fact, they've got the ingredients posted right there on their website, and there's nothing in there that your grandmother wouldn't be able to identify, so you know it's good. It's also really cheap, with a nice big bowl and toppings weighing in around $5. Expect the expected tangy, yogurt taste, and might I suggest a nice sweet topping to offset it: fresh fruits, honey, candy, cookie crumbs, and cereal (awesome. I love seeing cereal make an appearance in the dessert menu, where it belongs). And it's apparently fat free, so get back in line for seconds when you're done. Stand by for brain freeze...



Posted By:  Patrick Hellen
Photo:  Patrick Hellen

ImprovBoston
Take four Bostonians and one Cajun, fill them with cheap beer, give them a topic to what to argue about, and sit back and enjoy. That's Dirty Water, and on Friday, April 3rd at 10 pm you can find me at Improv Boston chugging beers with them and chuckling along at their accents. Set in a South Boston dive bar--these five athletes of boozing will debate the finer points of cartoons, how Johnny Pesky is the finest Red Sox alive, and whether or not Cobra Kai got a bad rap in Karate Kid. You'll be a fly on the wall for their ongoing improvised insanity. I will warn you, I'm a damn good suggester. My first Dirty Water show involved a long discussion about the merits of the Lion Voltron vs. Vehicle Voltron--so I'd advise you to bone up on your esoteric pop culture trivia, so when these five drunken jesters ask for something to talk about, you'll have some topics ready like  "Was Jem truly truly truly that outrageous?" Come on out and support the hometown boys at Improv Boston, and for the record, Lion Voltron would destroy Vehicle Voltron with one lion tied behind his back.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Coast Cafe
When I was a kid, my favorite food was fried chicken. But as I grew older, I became jaded after suffering through one too many half-assed versions. I had to go all the way to Boston to find the redeemer of fried chicken: Coast Café. The most unassuming, tiny little soul food spoon in probably all of New England has the best fried chicken I've had in years. I'm not sure how they do it. Maybe because they pan fry it. Regardless, you need to eat it. And you also need to get a side of mac and cheese, because it's equally awesome. (They put breadcrumbs in it. Breadcrumbs, damn it!) It's also worth mentioning that the people running the place are exactly the kind of people you need for proper soul food preparation: they're happy and they're nice. They work in Central Square, the angriest spot on the planet, but somehow they're happy. Please check out Coast Café, because I need to make sure that this isn't some kind of mirage.



Posted By:  Charlotte Strode
Photo:  Charlotte Strode

Cantab Lounge
It took me five years of living in Boston to finally step inside the mysterious Cantab Lounge in Central Square. I was a little apprehensive, as it seemed to have quite the godforsaken scene--drunken old men, trashy ladies, and cheap beers--an unholy sight. But I was convinced to enter upon hearing it would be playing host to a good live band. Surprisingly, I had one of the best Saturday nights in a long time--dancing like this town has never seen. The band covered songs by Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Al Green, as well as dozens of other dance-yer-socks-off favorites. I unfortunately was right about the "scene"--but I got over it, because for some reason it all doesn't seem to matter. Give me a PBR, comfortable dancing shoes, and the saxophone--and I am good to go.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Falafel Palace
From the outside, Moody's Falafel Palace is unremarkable, save for the fact that it obviously used to be a White Castle. But it really is worth checking out, even if you don't normally enjoy a trip to the "Hoboton" of Central Square. Inside, there's not a tinge of White Castle to be found, with exposed brick and an unpretentious Mediterranean vibe inhabiting the tiny space. The menu is what you'd expect for fast food Greek: gyros, spanakopita, schwarma, hummus, baklava. But it's really, really good. I can see why they've dubbed themselves a falafel palace, because they have truly mastered the chickpea: perfectly seasoned and crispy. Other highlights include vegetarian options, pickle presence, and excellent hot sauce. Their prices are quite low, considering how good they are. The best part is that they're open until 3 am most nights of the week, which will really come in handy once the addiction kicks in. Service can be somewhat indifferent, but, hey, they've never claimed to be the Shangri-La. And honestly, a hidden gem this awesome could have the Soup Nazi running the show for all I care. What I won't do for good falafel!



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Buckaroo's Mercantile
Oh, the burdens of the white-walled, no-painting-allowed apartment! As many renters know all too well, it is a challenge to fully express oneself at home when the anarchy of white walls keeps trying to conquer the room. Ikea and Pottery Barn can't save you; you'll need something stronger, something that can prove victorious over the scrounging infinite void that is the color white. This incessant domestic struggle is what has led me to my newest obsession: switch plates and outlet covers. And the best place to buy them: Buckaroo's Mercantile. Offering a multitude of images, including Mexicana figures, tongue-in-cheek renderings of religious and mild sexual propaganda, and kitsch icons such as Elvis, robots, cowboys, and Audrey Hepburn, Buckaroo's Mercantile gives the retro new life through function. Switch plates, outlet covers, lamps, shower curtains, toilet seats, door mats, posters, night lights, mirrors, salt and pepper shakers, aprons, apparel, clocks... drown out your white walls with an extreme assault of dazzling, vibrant vintage!



Posted By:  Patrick Hellen
Photo:  Patrick Hellen

Zoe's
Zoe's is one of those places you randomly find, just outside of Harvard Square, tucked into a little mini-mall, all concrete and plastic signs. Once you step inside, Formica and washes of color greet you as you sit down and crack open the menu, and find yourself staring at one of the most extensive breakfast/lunch spots in Cambridge. Greek classics, American staples, shakes, flavored cokes, wraps, sandwiches, kabobs, you pretty much name it, Zoe's will grill it up and lay it in front of you. My personal recommendations extend from the pastrami and swiss to the steak and eggs (usually a risky choice, but good here) and my personal favorite: the My 3 Sons. Three eggs, homefries, three sausage, three bacon, and choice of 3 pancakes or french toast slices. If you can even walk out of the place after that, I commend you. So the food will make your day, the prices are what you’d expect, but it's a busy spot, so be prepared to have a leisurely meal, as the waitstaff tend to take their time. That's the only negative thing I can say about the place though, so if you can eat slow, take the trip.



Posted By:  Patrick Hellen
Photo:  Patrick Hellen

The Asgard
With a name like Patrick, you tend to look favorably upon Irish bars. It's in the blood, really. Throw a few Celtic crosses up, some Chieftains on the juke, and I'm in. Having said all that, the Asgard seems to be missing something. Don't get me wrong, it's a decent enough joint. They have a sizeable bar selection, HUGE amounts of space, and a pretty decent menu. Yes, I know, decent, menu, and Irish bar rarely go together, but they do alright here. I'm a fan of the Shepherds Pie myself, but don't look at the menu too long, as the Italian dishes with some Gaelic name attached to make it Irishy will make you lose your appetite. There's just something missing. It feels like they're trying too hard to be that bar the regulars flock to. Still, they throw a very good trivia night, seeing as they're down the street from Trivia Nerd Heaven, MIT, and they grab a few good locals for Saturday night music as well. I say, check out some of the more interesting spots in Central first, and if they're packed, I guarantee the Asgard will have plenty of room for you.



Posted By:  Stuart Kurtz
Photo:  Stuart Kurtz

Olive Tree Cafe
Find me another restaurant serving Coq au Vin for $6.95, and then keep it to yourself, or risk local inflation. This is the kind of secret I shouldn't be divulging since once you know, I'll be behind you in line. On the other hand, these are probably good, hard-working people who need more business. Back to the miracle menu: How's about Beef Burgundy for $6.50? Cashew chicken salad for $4.50? Chicken Teriyaki for $6.00, or swordfish for $6.50? That’s that fish with the funny nose for $6.50! These people must be independently wealthy. The style is Jordanian overall with a few forays over the border, as shown above. There's a Cairo Chicken salad made with warm meat, mixed nuts, dates, and greens. There are the kebabs and hummus you might expect. Try the vegetable curry on rice. You can even smoke the Sheesha pipes with tobacco flavors of fruit and flowers. And examine the cool laminated polyurethane 1970's style counter. It's studded with Confederate dollars. What's that about?



Posted By:  Patrick Hellen
Photo:  Patrick Hellen

Brookline Lunch
I take breakfast very seriously. Grease, eggs, bacon, cheeses of all varieties, etc are all necessary for me to feel satisfied when sitting down to a bite in the morning. Occasionally one of your friends will suggest that due to his/her diet, vegetarianism, cholesterol, religion, what have you, they need something a bit less grease-choked but still filling. That, dear readers, is where the Brookline Lunch in Central Square comes in. An unassuming storefront opens up to a rather charming interior, all old benches and exposed brick. One look at the menu alone does not show the difference between here and the other greasebomb-laden spots around the corner, as it's all your excellent delicious standard breakfast fare, but once that plate arrives at your table you see: giant portions with homefries on the side but alongside a pile of hot-off-the-grill veggies like mushrooms and tomatoes that all tastes wonderful. Also, the prices are incredibly low. I've never spent more then fifteen dollars for two people, including tip. It's a cute place, family run, and as you can see by the picture, these are people who are proud of their work. It's ten steps from the Redline, so is well worth the stroll.



Posted By:  Andrew Palmacci
Photo:  Andrew Palmacci

Next time you’re Central-Squaring, square yourself up to the modest space that abuts the Harvest Market. That place would be your friendly neighborhood health-conscious bistro- Clear Conscience Café. Billed as a needed community café space, C3 (as it’s called on the placard placed outside on the street) delivers clean, comfortable and pretty spacious seating and free wi-fi for up to an hour of use. As for the food: there’s a decent range of sandwiches available, cold or pressed as paninis. There are also soups on tap—including chili—that are rotated daily, because, as an apparent manager behind the counted recounted when I was there, the café is kept on its toes by a demanding, regular lunch crowd. All in all, C3 is a pretty fine example of an eatery where you can lounge and get some work done, all while treating your body right.



Posted By:  Claudia Ricker
Photo:  Claudia Ricker

Being rather unfamiliar with Tibetan food, I can’t say whether His Holiness the Dalai Lama would sing the praises of Rangzen Tibetan Restaurant or not. That aside, signature Tibetan prayer flags were hung invitingly over the entry, the lack of trans fats impressed me, and complimentary crispy bread sweetened the deal. Though little was familiar in taste or pronunciation, the steamed veggie Momo dumplings (they have meatlovers, too) totally hit the spot and the house special, a Gyakor Tibetan Hot Pot, was quite the feast. An ornate soup pedestal with a candle underneath to keep it warm, the hot pot was a helluva lot more food than expected ($37.95 for three). Filled with veggies, chicken, and beef, it also came with yshang phaley (whole wheat fried bread), tingmo (steamed bun), rice, and a tasty tomato onion salad. The poecha, on the other hand, a milk, butter and salt tea, didn’t quite top my delicacy list. Whether it was made traditionally with yak butter, I can’t say. Somehow I’m not sure that would’ve changed my opinion. Rangzen doesn’t have a working website but mixmenu.com has delivery. I say try it—for 2,500 year old politically correct cuisine you would be challenged to find better!



Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Toscanini's
Capuccino. Belgian Chocolate. Hydrox. Mocha. Burnt Caramel…I’ll stop there before I drown in my own pile of drool. Toscanini’s is the perfect ice cream shop for us grown ups—laid back and helpful service, cool music on the speakers, and free samples galore. The focus is on unique and classic flavors that are bold and not too sweet. There is just no beating the quality and taste of this ice cream. And it kind of makes sense that the best can be found right in the heart of Cambridge not far from MIT. In fact, maybe it’s proximity to the brilliant MIT students that fuels the mad scientist-like inspiration that creates these amazing flavors. Something has to explain the most amazing hot fudge your mouth will ever experience. In a town that cherishes ice cream like Seattle idolizes coffee, Toscanini’s never disappoints. Chocolate Chip, Malted Heath, Cake Batter, Honey Almond…



Posted By:  Sam Baltrusis
Photo:  Mindy Tucker

ImprovBoston
Naked stand-up comedy? Yep, it’s as cringeworthy and awkward as it sounds. At ImprovBoston’s The Naked Comedy Showcase held the first Wednesday of every month, Boston’s up-and-coming comics are literally, um, the butt of the jokes. For the past two years, Andy Ohfiesh and his troupe of fearless comedians tackle everyone’s worst fear: standing in front of a packed house in the buff. That’s right—completely naked. And if you’re turned on by the idea, think again. There are strict rules the performers must adhere to—no sexual acts, no touching the audience and no tips. If it kind of sounds like a gimmick, well, it is. At $10 a pop, Improv Boston consistently fills all of its 75 seats on word-of-mouth marketing alone. Once patrons make it past the initial shock, it’s oddly refreshing to see acts like Myq Kaplan, The Walsh Brothers, and Rev. Tim McIntire let it all hang out. Check out The Naked Comedy Showcase at 10 pm August 1 before the troupe heads out to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland.



Posted By:  Denyce Neilson
Photo:  Denyce Neilson

Cambridge City Hall
Boston has some great museums—the MFA, ICA,the Stewart Gardner, and so on. These cultural institutions have given us access to some of the most amazing works the art world has to offer. But there is always a price and frequent visits to museums can be costly. And with the arrival of summer who wants to spend an afternoon inside galleries with no windows? There is free, public art all over the city; you just have to, well, look at it. Take a walk through Harvard Yard and check out this bronze sculpture by British artist Henry Moore. It sits across the street from Harvard’s Carpenter Center, designed by famous Swiss-born architect, artist and writer Le Corbusier; this is his only building in North America. From Harvard head down Mass Ave, towards Central Square and check out Cambridge City Hall. This massive stone building was designed by master architect H.H. Richardson, who also designed Boston’s famous landmark, Trinity Church in Copley Square. Arriving in Central Square you will be in public art Mecca, as there are murals on many of the buildings showcasing the ethnic and cultural diversity of the neighborhood. In Central Square the people themselves are works of art.



Posted By:  Denyce Neilson
Photo:  Denyce Neilson

Yes, River Gods is yet another Irish pub in Boston. Its owners are Irish and they serve a great pint of Guinness. But, you won’t find any shamrocks hanging on the walls here. What you will find is a contemporary (shamrocks have been replaced by gargoyles and goddesses, creating a bit of a Wiccan motif), cozy bar featuring some of the most awesome chow around. The menu is vast and eclectic, offering everything from kimchee hand rolls to burgers and it’s all incredibly delicious (their french fries have actually won awards). They haven’t forgotten anyone either; they also offer a vegan and vegetarian menu. The small space fills up quickly, around 9 pm, as the DJ’s, who rotate nightly, do their thing. Even though the kitchen is open nightly until 10 pm, it is best to get there early to get a table.



Posted By:  Katherine Hayes
Photo:  Katherine Hayes

Miracle of Science
A restaurant with a name like Miracle of Science Bar & Grill could only be located in Cambridge by MIT. Science nerds will appreciate the unique theme. There’s a full bar, and drinks are served in beaker-shaped glasses. While they don’t have a huge selection, you can read the menu on the chalkboard on the wall—it’s in the shape of a periodic table! It’s a small establishment, so seating can be a bit rough. The food, which includes thin burgers and some great quesadillas, is good, but it’d just be another college hangout if it weren’t for that awesome periodic table.



Posted By:  Joy Mazzola
Photo:  Joy Mazzola

I’ve never even been to Ireland, but whenever I go to The Field I feel like an Irish ex-pat suddenly cured of homesickness. The Field is friendly, comforting, and just tucked away enough that you know you won’t spend your time there awash in young drunklings—at least not until later, but then they’re hip little Cambridge drunklings, which is just a notch more tolerable than the ones you’d encounter elsewhere. The sunset-colored walls are festooned with classic Irish décor. The narrow back room sports a pool table and dart board, which turns getting to the bathroom later in the evening into a kind of gauntlet run to avoid getting impaled in the temple or liver by a dart or pool cue. But it’s all part of the fun. If you love Guinness and Boddingtons and would order bangers off a menu, this place is your boy. Proof of this can also be found in the number of Irish who actually do work at or patronize the place. The fact that credit cards aren’t accepted helps to simplify an already mellow experience.




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