The Hottest Restaurants in Cambridge Right Now
The ultimate guide to the neighborhood’s burgeoning restaurant scene.
Over the years, Cambridge’s culinary scene has stood out among Boston’s plethora of restaurant-friendly, trendy neighborhoods. With new additions from respected chefs to widely known city favorites popping up in the neighborhood all the time, Cambridge could easily be considered one of the best dining destinations in the area. So to help you navigate this burgeoning restaurant scene, take a look at our delicious roundup featuring an array of cuisines, aesthetically-pleasing spots, and menu items worth jotting down.
Alden & Harlow
Brought to you by chef Michael Scelfo’s vision for simple, elegant dishes, Alden & Harlow—located under the Brattle Hall building in Harvard Square—is an award-winning restaurant that offers a unique spin on American classics. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on the secret burger, you’ve made it. With limited secret burgers available per night, the thick, freshly ground patty featuring secret sauce is sure to leave you coming back or cherishing every last bite of your leftovers.
Alive & Kicking Lobsters
One glance at Alive & Kicking Lobsters, and you’ll quickly realize why this is a frequent stomping ground for locals and regulars alike. The no-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase look of the location gives off an old-timey vibe you can easily find in Southie. But this little lobster haven has top-notch takes on all the traditional offerings from clam chowder to a specialty lobster sandwich.
All Star Sandwich Bar
On the corner of Prospect and Cambridge Street in Inman Square, you’ll find a brightly-colored storefront with the saying “a good sandwich is like an old friend” scrolled across the window. That’s home to none other than All Star Sandwich Bar, which is just as cozy inside as it looks outside. With handcrafted sandwiches designed by chefs (and brothers) Kosta and Johnny Diamantopoulos, you can’t go wrong with your selection. Choose from burgers and classic sandwiches to more creative options like the Pastraminator and Island Jerk Chicken Melt.
Wood-fired pizza joint Area Four, which is also conveniently connected to A4 Cafe, offers handmade pies from scratch, with a crispiness and flavorful char perfect for those that like their pizzas fresh out of a brick oven. Choose from Margherita, Prosciutto Americano, Hawaiian, and Mushroom & Fontina pizza pies, and for sides, add a basket of knots or baked mac ‘n cheese for guaranteed satisfaction.
A favorite among Porter Square residents, and especially among those that need some substance after an eventful night out, Bagelsaurus is the usual go-to. As the bagel shop to end all bagel shops in the city, there’s usually a line out the door. But don’t fret, it goes fast. And if you’re lucky enough to grab one of four tables inside, you’re golden. A pro tip for first-timers: Make sure you order the famous mustard butter.
Known for their award-winning breakfast, Cafe Luna sky rockets to the top of our brunch list. With a crab cake and avocado omelet, Oreo Cookie Monster pancakes, and “double-thick” Belgian waffles, Cafe Luna serves modern but casual dishes that will always satisfy.
The legendary Charlie’s Kitchen is a staple for residents and visitors alike. The multi-level bar and restaurant has been integral to the Cambridge community by providing a vintage look and feel throughout the establishment, with an added patio and beer garden open during the warmer months. From double cheeseburgers to mozzarella sticks to an ultimate grilled cheese, this no-frills hotspot for all-American bites is a must when you’re extra hungry.
Clover Food Lab
This regional chain was actually begun by an MIT grad who wanted quick-grab, sustainable vegan fare. What was once a single food truck has grown into a little local empire, with more than a dozen outlets dishing out favorites like barbecue seitan, chickpea fritters, and rosemary fries. So now if you’re looking for Clover, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find one considering there’s one in almost every neighborhood around Boston.
One of the, if not the most popular dumpling spots in Boston, resides in Central Square. Serving up authentic Northern and Southern Chinese cuisine, Dumpling House specializes in gourmet dumplings with options like vegetarian spinach, pork and crab meat, beef and celery, seafood, chicken and cabbage, and plenty more.
Brought to you by pasta master chef Michael Pagliarini, Giulia serves up some of the best Italian in Cambridge. Inspired by Pagliarini’s culinary roots, which stem from Umbria, Italy, the restaurant has quite the selection of dishes like the pappardelle with wild boar, paccheri alla bolognese, potato culurgiones, and more. Dimly-lit, and, of course, filled with wine, what better inspiration for your next date-night spot?
Celebrating its 50th year in business, Grendel’s in Harvard Square is nothing short of a piece of history. Another below-ground pub, Grendel’s has been serving bar food basics like Reubens, burgers, buffalo wings, nachos, and more for decades. Even better, every day from 5 to 7:30 pm, most orders are half-off with a minimum of a $4 beverage purchase. They also have brunch options on Saturdays and Sundays like breakfast burritos, sandwiches, avocado toast, and plantain french toast.
Made with fresh, seasonal ingredients, Little Donkey in Central Square specializes in global small plates, courtesy of James Beard Award winners Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette (also of Toro and Coppa). Currently serving expansive seafood fare, with local oysters and a raw bar with creations from a caviar sandwich to a sea urchin benedict, Little Donkey ensures surprise for your palette.
Owner Ana Sortun of sister restaurants Sofra Bakery & Café and Sarma, brings you flavors that celebrate the cuisine of Turkey, with popular hot and cold meze on the menu. Choose from favorites like the whipped feta or za'atar bread—or for something hot, try the spinach falafel, fried mussels, or char kebob. Larger plates like the lamb gyro or lemon chicken are also worth getting for the table, followed by some Baked Alaska or cardamom frozen yogurt if there’s room.
Hailing from Portland, Maine, OTTO serves up some serious pizza for when you’re looking for a fast but satisfying bite. With a spot located in Harvard Square (just a tiny bit outside the main restaurant and shopping scene), you can’t go wrong with a slice from this place. They also always promise to deliver the freshest pies, thanks to baker Alex Castiello, who had collaborated with the team on opening up OTTO’s very own dough facility in Lynn.
Founded by chef Tracy Chang, PAGU in Central Square is set in an open space with a crisp and clean look, only complemented by the wave of eclectic dishes making their way in and out of the kitchen. Specializing in Japanese tapas, PAGU has everything from fried calamari to duck confit. They’re known however for popular bao buns, specifically the squid ink unagi bao—you really can’t go to PAGU without trying a bite.
Puritan & Company
Serving modern American cuisine, Puritan & Company, tucked away in Inman Square, puts an emphasis on traditional New England fare, incorporating locally-sourced ingredients into each dish. Led by owner and chef Will Gilson, the restaurant has created quite the lineup of seafood starters, pastas, and more, from scallop ceviche to crab cavatelli to seared sea scallops.
The Smoke Shop BBQ
If you’re a devout barbecue fanatic, The Smoke Shop should be next on your list. Create a tray of irresistible barbecue from options like famous smoked wings, ribs, brisket, chicken sliders, and a whole lot more. Once you’ve finished up, finish off the night with a pour from the wide selection of whiskey. In fact, they have New England’s largest selection of the spirit, with over 240 American whiskeys.
The underground bar and restaurant State Park has probably one of the coolest atmospheres in Cambridge—and that’s saying something for this neighborhood. With a jukebox, pinball machine, and live music to spice up your outing, you’re guaranteed a good time. The menu is pretty solid too, featuring honey fried chicken and, for those that can handle it, hot, Nashville-style fried chicken.
Everything on this diner-inspired menu is either vegetarian or vegan. In traditional diner style, breakfast is served all day and there’s a great selection of breakfast sandwiches featuring early-morning essentials with a twist. Take, for instance, the Great Galaxy!, which includes hash brown potatoes, an over-easy egg, tempeh bacon, cheddar cheese, baby arugula, and roasted garlic mayo nestled between a griddled bun.
Chef Michael Scelfo of sister restaurant Alden & Harlow brings another dining destination to Cambridge with the coastal-inspired Waypoint. Decked out with modern decor—from the light fixtures to the booth seating—Waypoint offers a beautiful backdrop as your dishes make their way over to you. Pick from raw bar favorites; pizza and pasta options; and if you’re feeling fancy, add something for their selection of caviar into the mix.
Yume Wo Katare
Recently celebrating their ninth anniversary, Yume Wo Katare in Porter Square is not your average restaurant. Rather, manager Jake Vo calls it a “dream workshop,” as diners are encouraged to share their hopes and aspirations during their visit. There’s also only one thing on the menu—Jiro-style pork ramen with the option to add garlic. To make this place even more special, it’s currently dine-in only, and if someone finishes their entire meal, the staff has been known to shout, “we have a perfect!”