When I was in Boston a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to go find a burger spot I had been looking for in Cambridge. But this was not your usual burger spot. I first found this place when looking for a cocktail in Cambridge, having gotten a recommendation for “Brick and Mortar” along with an address of 567 Massachusetts Avenue. Heading there, however, I only found Central Kitchen, a fairly well-recognized dinner establishment, and no cocktails. But…. see that unmarked door next to Central Kitchen? Through that lies Brick and Mortar, one of Cambridge’s Speakeasies, known for interesting cocktails and good bar food. Brick and Mortar is actually a rather cozy little bar (which makes for a pleasant drinking experience during the early evening, but by late evening the place quickly becomes crowded, with a long wait list to get in). The cocktail list at Brick and Mortar is quite impressive, and they are definitely in on the current trend of using bitters, gins, and other botanicals to make some very interesting cocktails. Past victuals that were particularly pleasing include the “Lido Shuffle” with Cocchi, Aperol, Chartreuse, and Lemon, or the “Gail Collins” with Mezcal, Sloe Gin, and Bitters. But on my first two visits, it wasn’t just the (excellent) cocktails drawing my eye… I noticed that several of the other diners had ordered burgers, and the burgers looked quite good indeed. So this trip, while I did get a “Sister Mary” (with Tequila, St Germain, Aperol, and grapefruit) my primary goal was to get a burger.
About five years ago, I was exploring the area around MIT before one of my many meetings, and while ducking down Brookline Street, passed by an unassuming little storefront on the side of a fairly industiral-looking building. But looking inside, it was a little diner, absolutely filled with students having breakfast. It looked interesting enough that I vowed to come back and try it sometime. There was just one one little detail. Brookline Lunch isn’t open on Tuesdays. And, somehow, that seems to be when the majority of my visits to MIT are. So for about two years, Brookline Lunch has been on my hit list, but it wasn’t until I had a visit to MIT on a recent very cold Monday morning that I finally had a chance to check them out.
Earlier this week, I had another of my periodic trips down to MIT to visit with collaborators, and, like usual, I used it as an opportunity to check out some additional restaurants, since Cambridge and Somerville have all sorts of great dining spots. This time, I was craving Persian food, particularly since rural NH is particularly lacking in Middle Eastern places. Looking over the offerings near MIT, I ended up picking Kolbeh of Kabob, across the street from Cambridge Hospital.
In late June, a friend of mine, Jeff, had come to Boston for an extended weekend of, well, food and beverages. We decided it would be good to drive down and meet up with him for some light tourism (see my previous review on Modern Pastry), some cocktails (at Brick and Mortar, a rather nice speakeasy in Cambridge), and finally dinner. We ended up at Sandrine’s in Cambridge. Located about two blocks from the Harvard Square T station, Sandrine’s is pleasant bistro focusing primarily on French cuisine, but dabbling in a few other European cuisines as well; a good chunk of the menu is Alsatian, giving a nice blend between French and German cooking.
As I mentioned in previous review, I’m regularly visiting MIT’s Technology Square, and that usually gives me a decent opportunity to check out some nicer lunch places I can go with clients and subcontractors. While Area 4 and Legal Sea Foods tend to be the more usual business lunch places, sometimes we mix it up, and this time we ended up at Catalyst.
A few weeks ago, I had one of my frequent trips to MIT for work. In addition to my actual work, I look forward to these trips since they give me a good chance to check out places to eat. My actual destination was Brookline Lunch, a nice little diner joint a half block off of Mass Ave in Cambridge with some above-average diner fare. I had eaten there a few years back sans camera, and wanted to go back and try them out for an actual review. Well, Brookline Lunch is closed on Tuesdays, so instead I decided to check out a nice looking place I passed while walking to Brookline, Cafe Luna. Cafe Luna is a modestly-sized joint just a few doors down from Toscanini’s, and they’ve got the basic “breakfast joint” menu down pat, with breakfast all day and a smaller lunch menu (aside from special events, they aren’t open for dinner). But there are two things that really grabbed my attention right away: the iced coffees, and several people ordering up various waffles and French toast covered with fresh berries.
One of the places that I’ve often liked going in the Boston area, but also seems to have eluded my attempts to actually write it up, is the Elephant Walk. Opened in 1991, and currently sporting three locations (Boston and Waltham in addition to the Cambridge location we visited), the Elephant Walk serves up a combination of French and Cambodian cuisine (the combination isn’t as unusual as you might think, courtesy of the French colonization of the region, which leaves vestiges of French cooking, such as French-style bread and coffee beverages, to this day), as well as some modern interpretations of these dishes. Oddly enough, I discovered Elephant Walk first through distinctly non-French and non-Cambodian means: several years ago, I attended a Belgian beer festival at the Cyclorama sponsored by Beeradvocate.com, and the two caterers for the event were Waffle Haus of Vermont (who normally sells excellent Belgian Waffles on Vermont ski slops) and The Elephant Walk, who provided sandwiches and Belgian frites. The latter of which they did a particularly good job with, so I decided to try them out at some point, originally doing so circa 2007 when I needed to visit some subcontractors at MIT for work. And since then, I’ve enjoyed it, so when I needed to find a place to dine with several out-of-town friends, The Elephant Walk ended up being our venue of choice.
Work has me regularly traveling to Cambridge, and several times I’ve found myself passing Craigie on Main on my way too and from Toscanini’s. It’s also been my hit list for a while, since it’s a perennial entry on various Boston “Best Hamburger” lists, and it always looks like a rather inviting little bar/bistro for that neighborhood (despite the U-haul place and Tootsie Roll factory across the street). Well, I’ll be honest, I still haven’t had the burger, but it’s on my hit list. But last month we noticed that Craigie on Main also had a particularly interesting looking brunch menu, so when we had another free morning in the Boston area, we decided to head back over to Cambridge and try out their brunch. I’m rather glad we did.
Last month, my brother came to visit from England, so on the morning of St Patrick’s Day we had to pick up my brother at Logan, which meant this was a good opportunity to try out a new place for breakfast someplace down in the Boston area. I know a rather good selection of places to eat in the Boston area, but not a lot of breakfast places (a byproduct of the fact that Boston is around 2.5-3 hours from here, depending on traffic, is that we usually get there well after breakfast hours). But several of my friends up here in NH have lived down there, so I asked coworker A for a good Saturday brunch suggestion. She was already going to be in Boston that weekend, so she simply recommended that we just join her and some friends at Sofra in Cambridge for some of their “Turkish Inspired Cuisine.”
After I left Natick, I had another meeting at MIT. This time it was a morning meeting, and this time the Gods of Boston traffic were smiling on me, so I got there with surprisingly little in the way of traffic delays. As a result, I had a chance to grab breakfast, and walking around near the MIT/Kendall Square station, I happened across The Friendly Toast. The Friendly Toast is a breakfast diner, with locations in Portsmouth, NH (their original location) and Cambridge, MA (Kendall Square, just north of MIT and Draper Labs). I’ve happened across the Portsmouth location several times while visiting there, and it has remained on my chronic “I should try that place out” hit list…