Just north of Boston is one of Eastern Massachusetts’ most historic and innovative cities: Cambridge.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) invented the first computer in Cambridge in 1928.
Though not actual squares, the city has a number of neighborhood centers: Kendall Square, Central Square, Harvard Square, Porter Square, Inman Square, and Lechmere Square. Due to this, Cambridge has often been referred to the “City of Squares”.
Cambridge, known as an academic super center, is home to schools such as Harvard University, Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, Lesley University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and more.
The city is also home to the oldest surviving weekly paper in the United States, the Cambridge Chronicle.
Finding Good Eats
Yume Wo Katare: Since opening in 2012, this teeny Porter Square abode has been welcoming in hungry patrons from lines that stretch down the sidewalk. Loosely translated, the name Yume Wo Katare means ‘speak your dreams’, something that is encouraged by the chef to all those who enter. When arriving at Yume, you step inside and first order your meal. Your host will ask if you have a dream to share that day; if so you’re given a sign that reads “I have a dream!” to take to your seat. Once seated in the school-house style rows, you are served a piping hot bowl of ramen complete with pork, bean sprouts, cabbage, and wonderfully salty broth. When you’ve finished, or can’t possibly eat another bite (whichever comes first), your host will give you a rating on what you’ve eaten: next time, almost, good job, or the coveted perfect for a completely empty bowl. If you have a dream, you then have the opportunity to stand up and share with the restaurant. A self proclaimed ‘dream factory’ as opposed to a ramen shop, the experience at Yume is unlike that of most any other restaurant!
Oleana Restaurant: This insanely popular restaurant boasts consistently full tables and a menu celebrating the cuisine of Turkey and the Middle East. Reviewers rave that the mezze menu, a selection of appetizer type, small portioned items, is the best place to start (or even have a smattering of these for a meal!).One of the most popular meze dishes is the Sultan’s Delight, a tamarind beef plate with smoky eggplant puree and pine nuts. One Yelp reviewer said that if they had to choose a last meal they would pick this dish! If you move on to get an entree, try the Lemon Chicken spiced with Za’atar alongside a Turkish cheese pancake. If you have room for dessert, the Baked Alaska with coconut ice cream and passion fruit caramel is a great way to finish your meal. Patrons advise making a reservation, especially during the summer if you want to get a seat on the charming outdoor patio.
Giulia: If Italian eats are what you seek, try the menu at Giulia. True to Italian sensibilities, the emphasis at this local joint is charm, hospitality, and food cooked with fine ingredients. The unique aspect of this restaurant is the pasta table, which is considered the heart and soul of Giulia. This custom built, reclaimed wood table has a dual purpose in Giulia. During the day, handmade pastas are rolled out to be available for the evening menu. Once the pasta making is complete, the table can then be reserved for larger groups of 8-12 people. In addition to the homey ambiance, the menu offered at Giulia is nothing to scoff at. Reviews rave about the duck confit tortelli and pappardelle with wild boar entrees as well as the chocolate terrine dessert. Parking for Giulia can sometimes be a headache, so it is advised to take public transportation if possible. Make a reservation and stop by to try this amazing Italian eatery!
Craigie on Main: You never know what meal will be on the menu at Craigie on Main. The daily changing meals reflect a commitment to fresh local, seasonal, and organic ingredients every day. Chef Tony Maws, dubbed Boston’s Best Chef by Boston Magazine, serves up gorgeous dishes such as pork cooked three ways, soft shell crab tempura, or even the secret menu burger that so many seek to try! For dessert, end with a house made sorbet or buttermilk panna cotta with lime curd, pears, and earl grey sable. If you have a free Sunday morning, stop by for a brunch that isn’t soon to be forgotten. Try the cranberry and pecan french toast or summer vegetable frittata sandwich and leave with a full belly and satisfied palette.
Flour Bakery & Café: Started by award winning Chef Joanne Chang, this local bakery has received national attention since opening the doors to its first bakery in 2000. What started as one humble shop has become a 7 shop empire with three locations in Cambridge alone. Visitors come from down the street or across the country to taste the sweet and savory eats such as banana bread, roast beef sandwich, roasted chicken with avocado sandwich, homemade oreos, mile high lemon meringue pie, and the all important sticky bun that some patrons argue could easily be its own business! Reviewers rave about the kind service, hot coffee, and charming ambiance at all the shops, but warn to leave yourself some extra time if you plan on visiting during the lunch rush.
Atwood’s Tavern: This simple tavern is one of Cambridge’s best places to be serenaded while you enjoy your drinks and meal. The unassuming exterior would make an outsider think the inside might be empty, but night after night Atwood’s Tavern is bustling with activity. Their extensive drink list features moderately priced wine, cocktails, and a lengthy beer list. The dinner menu, which is served until 11:30pm every night, features favorites such as fried calamari, sliders, mac & cheese, grilled shrimp, BLT sandwich, and many more. Stop by this local favorite for a fun, great tasting meal with musical spice to top it off.
Life Alive: You will certainly feel more alive after having the thoughtfully prepared food at the Life Alive organic cafe in Cambridge. The menu features a myriad of healthful items that any vegan would deem paradise. The elaborate smoothie selection features options such as the Elvis Alive, a peanut butter, raw cacao, banana, coconut milk ice cream, and rice milk concoction. For a full meal, try a grain bowl like The Lover, chocked full of shiitake mushrooms, shredded carrots and beets, broccoli and kale in a ginger sauce over brown rice. Other options include grilled wraps like The Romantic that holds melted cheddar, avocado, broccoli, garlic, nutritional flakes & Braggs all within a wheat tortilla. The menus additional salads, juices, and snacks all compliment this restaurant’s theology of using whole foods to renew energy of the mind, body, and soul.
Toscanini’s Ice Cream: The New York Times once called the ice cream served at Cambridge’s Toscanini’s “The World’s Best Ice Cream”. If that alone doesn’t make you want to stop by this local dairy hub, the attention to detail, inviting ambiance, and apparent dedication to the craft is sure to impress. Since opening in September of 1981, the ever expanding team at Toscanini’s have worked tirelessly to bring unique flavors to the Cambridge community. The menu is constantly changing, but some of the reviewers’ favorites include coffee cookies and cream, belgian chocolate, and the overwhelmingly favored B3, a unique brown butter, brown sugar, and brownie ice cream. All the flavors are made in house with only the best ingredients and can be topped with freshly made whipped cream, hot fudge, turtle top (similar to the childhood favorite Magic Shell), and free sprinkles. If you’re looking to bring some home, you can visit several markets and stores to purchase a flavorful treat.
Things to Do
Kendall Square: Arguably one of the most innovative areas in the world, Kendall Square is home to a dense concentration of small startup companies, residential housing, restaurants, and retail. Just a couple blocks away from the MIT campus, Kendall Square’s community is vibrantly active with a seasonal farmer’s market, concerts, canoe and kayaking, and skating in the winter months. The area is one of the fastest growing markets for tech and biomedical industries in addition to the many other businesses that call Kendall Square offices home. Whatever your palette craves, the local cuisine will not disappoint. Kendall Square is easily accessible through the MBTA’s Red Line, so grab your Charlie Card and head on over for a unique experience.
- Landmark Kendall Square Cinema: A Cambridge staple, this theatre screens independent, foreign, and avant-garde flicks as well as new releases.
- Glass House: With a chic interior, a cool patio, and a diverse food and cocktail menu, the Glass House is a great spot to host a party or just enjoy a dish of Korean BBQ Chicken!
- Evoo: Dine here to savour organic, local cuisine such as Chile Spiced Bluefish Fillet with Grilled Zucchini, Sweet Corn Risotto, and Little Tomato Relish.
- Cambridge Center Roof Garden: A real secret garden is perched atop 4 Cambridge Center - and it's open to the public! Take the elevator up for great city views, gardening tours, and summer chef's demonstrations.
- Area Four: If you're into handmade pizza and craft brews, Area Four will not disappoint! The delectible offerings include Carnivore, Hawaiian, and Wellfleet Cherrystone Clam & Bacon as well as made-from-scratch "not pizza" dishes.
MIT Museum: With a diverse collection and dynamic rotating exhibits, the MIT Museum presents advances in research and innovation in a creative and engaging way. Exhibits range from visual studies to robotics, from holography to nautical engineering. They even offer programs and workshops to the public, where anyone can learn about the cutting edge research taking place at MIT. Located at 265 Mass Ave, the musuem is in the process of planning a move to Kendall Square's innovation district and will open in a brand new space in October 2021.
Harvard Museums: Harvard University is not only one of the nation’s most prestigious universities, but also serves as an educational hub for the public through their expansive network of museums. While all are impressive, the most interesting and visited are the Peabody Museum and Museum of Natural History. The Peabody Museum features one of the finest collections of human cultural history found anywhere and is among the oldest anthropology museums in the world. Among the collections visitors can find Native American artifacts from the Lewis & Clark expedition of 1804-1806, rare historical collections from the Pacific Islands, and one of the largest photographic archives documenting the cultures of indigenous peoples, to name a few. The Museum of Natural History was established in 1998 as the public face of three research museums: the Harvard University Herbaria, the Mineralogical & Geological Museum, and the Museum of Comparative Zoology. The Museum of Natural History offers a broad variety of exhibits including cenozoic mammals, arthropods, marine life, glass flowers, and specimens from Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and New England forests. For monumentally less than the cost of a semester of Harvard tuition, adults and children alike can visit the Harvard museums to learn of our world’s past, present, and future.
Harvard University: Harvard University is easily one of the most recognizable universities in the world. The Harvard Campus, located in the heart of the aptly named Harvard Square, offers free walking tours to the public led by students of the university. The tour departs from the Harvard Information Center in the Smith Campus Center and continues outside through Harvard Yard. Attendees will be treated to a history of the university, general information, and a unique view of the student’s own academic experience. These hour long tours are free of charge and require no advance registration unless your group is 15 or more people large. More information on this and the other tours available at Harvard can be found here.
Harvard Square: Easily one of the most well known reasons to visit Cambridge, Harvard Square welcomes over 8 million individuals each year to shop, eat, enjoy entertainment, and learn about the area’s rich history. There are so many places to visit it’s hard to decide where to spend time, so we’ve narrowed it down to a few must see stops.
- Black Ink: This adorable nook with floor to ceiling bookshelves is stocked to the brim with knick knacks, stationary, gift wrap, and unique gifts for even the hardest to shop for.
- The Curious George Store: This iconic Harvard Square sells a myriad of Curious George books, apparel, toys, and location only collectibles among many other children’s puzzles, reading materials, and more. No trip to Harvard Square is complete without visiting the shop devoted to literature’s favorite monkey.
- Alden & Harlow: Contemporary cuisine is the name of the game at this Harvard Square space. For brunch or drinks, dinner or dessert, the menu offers tasteful dishes such as roasted bone marrow, grilled bluefish, hickory smoked pigs’ tails, pickled corn pancakes, and sugar pumpkin cake, to name just a few.
- Harvard Film Archive: From Friday to Monday year round, the Harvard Film Archive presents films in the historic Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts. Often filmmakers will visit to discuss their work with the community and engage in discussion. The collection is extensive and is one of the largest motion picture collections in the United States. Reviewers rave the experience is one not to be missed!
- The Sinclair: This live music venue doubles as a kitchen with gastropub influences. With standing room only, this music hall in the hub of Harvard Square consistently offers up unconventional live music shows in an intimate space for reasonable fees. If you’re hungry or even after a drink, the adjoining restaurants has a plethora of decadent options such as the house made cheese ravioli, stuffed pork chop, duck gnocchi, and falafel pita.
American Repertory Theater: Internationally known as one of the most important theaters in the United States, the American Repertory Theater is a professional theater company in the Loeb Drama Center at Harvard University. Since 1980, it has been presenting new American dramas and musicals as well as reviving forgotten works of days prior. The theater has been the recipient of many awards, most notably three Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize. Having such a cherished hub for the dramatic arts so close, it’s a no brainer to snatch up some tickets and catch a show you won’t soon forget.
Charles Riverboat Company: There’s no better way to see Boston than from the water. With many tour options to choose from, any resident or visitor will be able to enjoy the sights offered through the Charles Riverboat Company cruises. On the Charles River Sightseeing Cruise, travel down the Charles River to see Beacon Hill, Esplanade Park, Boston University, and more as your guide narrates about your surroundings. On the Architecture Cruises, you’ll be treated to unforgettable views of the Prudential Building, the Hancock Tower, and other notable structures by renowned architects. The Charles Riverboat Company also offers both a Sunset and Twilight cruise, complete with cocktails, ambient music, and views of Cambridge and Boston that can’t be beat. Ticket prices for adult cruises start at $19.50 per person; there are special rates available for seniors and children.
Cambridge sounds like a great place to live, doesn’t it? Contact a Dwell360 agent team member today to start finding a home.
John Jennings with Dwell360 is a REALTOR® who services the cities and suburbs of metro Boston. He is focused on his customers and helping them achieve their goals.