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January 01, 2015 |  175 Views
Neighborhood Round Up
CENTRAL SQUARE
By Karyn Polewaczyk

Neighborhood Round Up: Central Square

 

Bordered by MIT, Inman Square and Cambridgeport, Central Square has redefined itself from its roots as a traditionally working-class neighborhood into one of Cambridge’s most desired places for intellectuals to live and play. There are still a few questionable areas along Mass Ave you won’t want to hang around in after dark, but the area as a whole continues to blossom into one that puts its value on its local business owners and residents, who’ve happily cultivated a community they’re pleased to call their own.

 

Andala

286 Franklin Street (at the intersection of River Street) 

 

Andala is a triple threat: one part coffee house; one part bohemian lounge; one part hookah bar. The staff is attentive without being intrusive, and the fare—fresh local fruit and honey plates, authentic Arabic fare and the strongest, headiest Turkish coffee to ever touch your lips—is reasonably priced. Add Persian rugs, sliding windows and a general ambiance of serenity, now, and you’ve got the best hidden gem in Cambridge, period, perfect for a post-dinner date, studying or just relaxing. Not to be missed: the eggplant mtabal salad and melon-flavored hookah, if that strikes your fancy. 

 

Middlesex Lounge

315 Massachusetts Avenue 

 

There are few places in the city where people will wait in line for up to an hour on a blustery winter night, eager to cross into a practically-unmarked den with shades drawn tight. Enter the Middlesex Lounge—here, the masses will wait (there is no guest list, and the bouncers can’t be bribed; trust us, we’ve tried), and for good reason: this five-year old hotspot has set itself apart as one of the area’s best places to party. Whether your tastes are more disco (check resident DJ Kon on Saturday nights) or diction (the venue also hosts a majority of the city’s increasingly popular storytelling series), the Middlesex, as its fans are oft to call it, has your answer. Just check the event calendar before leaving—and check your ego at the door.

 

Central Kitchen

567 Massachusetts Avenue 

 

Small, intimate, and first-date perfect, Central Kitchen (and upstairs sister bar Brick & Mortar) is the ideal spot for those looking to break the ice or merely melt into the scene. The food menus are small, yet choosy—at last count, there were six solid entree items on the dinner list, which, we think, emphasizes the restaurant’s confidence on finding the things it does well and sticking to it. The wine list, however, is extensive, and the upstairs cocktails are mixed with precision by bartenders who take their craft seriously. Save this spot for a cool fall night—it’s made to be enjoyed in the dark. 

 

Veggie Galaxy

450 Massachusetts Avenue 

 

Carnivores, take note: Veggie Galaxy isn’t your hipster cousin’s tofu burger. It is, however, a new way to look at vegetarian eating, with menus that take crowd favorites—the Reuben, for example, with tender smoked tofu, pickled cabbage and swiss piled high on rye bread; or rich vegetable pot pies that we dare say border on meaty—spun into Galaxy renditions that make you go, Mmmm. Not to be missed: their coconut-based vegan frappes, which are decadent enough to serve as a meal (or the perfect way to top one off, if you’ve got a big appetite). 

 

Craigie on Main

853 Main Street 

 

Craigie on Main is known as an area leader when it comes to utilizing local, in-season ingredients, resulting in both a cult-like following and a menu that changes daily. To get the most bang for your tastebuds, we recommend trying one of their seasonal tasting menus, which include eight courses of orgasmic, finely-attuned fare guaranteed to turn even the most steadfast meat-and-potatoes devotee into an epicureous Craigie follower. Not to be missed: their aptly-named ‘Libations’ menu, which alone is worth a trip.

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