Ask the Local: What is the Best of Cambridge?

The Local is a lifelong Cambridge native dedicated to sharing the wisdom of his years. Send your questions or comments in to

For all the first-years, Welcome to HBS! For all the second-years, Welcome Back! I hope your summer seemed longer than mine…
For more general info, get last month’s issue of Boston Magazine with their Best of Boston list (my fianc‚ lives by it). For a more Cambridge-centric approach, this is my own personal guidebook to the highlights of the area. Although some aren’t strictly within city limits, they’re close enough to be included in The Best of Cambridge:

Best Cheese Steak – Mamagoo’s (6 Concord Lane, on Fresh Pond Circle). This is where the Cambridge PD is when they’re not at Dunkin’ Donuts… Go for the large – it’s 18 inches of pure heaven.

Best Pizza – Emma’s (40 Hampshire St in Kendall Sq). Of course, it’s a shadow of the original Emma’s from when I was growing up.

Best Cheese Store – The Wine and Cheese Cask (407 Washington St, Somerville – but just across the street from Cambridge). The only place in town with the famous Ancient Gouda (5 years and counting).

Best Theater – The Kendall Cinema (1 Kendall Sq) – this is your best bet for non-Hollywood movies. They had Crouching Tiger before Crouching Tiger was cool.

Best Grill Man – Richie, at Leo’s Place (35 JFK St, in Harvard Sq). Best Bar Food – Chez Henri (1 Shep
ard St, just on the other side of the Cambridge Common). Get the Cuban sandwich, and wash it down with a Mojito or two.

Best Pancakes – at the buffet brunch at the Blue Room (1 Kendall Sq). The rest of the buffet is also very good – a mix of breakfast and lunch foods, hot off the grill. The pancakes, however, are sublime – and they’re served with real maple syrup (If you grew up on Mrs. Butterworth, you don’t know what you’re missing.)

Best Latte – Darwin’s Ltd. (148 Mt. Auburn St). More widely known for their sandwiches (also great), Woody and the crew can froth a mean cup of milk, and if you have a dog you get a free treat (for them, not you).

Best BBQ – Redbones Barbeque (55 Chester St, Somerville, in Davis Sq). The food is fantastic, and with the family-style seating, you never know who you might meet. There’s also a great selection of beer on tap.

Best Margarita – the bar at Gargoyle’s on the Sq (219 Elm St, Somerville, in Davis Sq). You wouldn’t guess it from the outside, but this one is worth the trip.

Best Off-the-Menu-Burger – the bar at Casablanca (40 Brattle St, Harvard Sq). Ordering what isn’t there makes you an instant Local.

Best Ice Cream Flavor – Burnt Caramel, at Toscanini’s (1310 Mass Ave, in Harvard Sq, or 899 Main St, outside Central Sq). Go to the Central Sq location, since they make the ice cream and have a more reliable supply. The Burnt Caramel is elusive, but when you get it you’ll thank me.

Best Cambridge PubM – The Plough & Stars (912 Mass Ave). Still a real Cambridge experience. One of the best spots for finding the Endangered Cambridge Communist.

Best Side Car – The Good Life (720 Mass Ave, Central Sq). Despite the sugar frosted martini glass, this is a serious cocktail.

Best Post-Exam Beer – First years – you’ll know what I’m talking about soon enough… just across the river at Shay’s (58 JFK St). Also a good spot for lunch on a sunny day.

Enjoy your explorations!
The Local

September 10, 2001
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