Once a hippie paradise, Central has lost its edge recently. Starbucks and CVS are the new landmarks, and clubs like ManRay have closed down. Still, the food's as good as it ever was, and perfect for a bite before the Middle East or TT's. Take the Red Line to Central for all of the below.
Cambridge's oldest Indian restaurant is also its best - the tandoori chicken is moist but crispy, the malai kofta has the perfect blend of cream and spice. Even if it didn't taste so good, we'd tell ya to go - the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet is $5.95. $5.95!
17 Central Sq., Cambridge. Noon-11 p.m., daily. (617) 547-7463
Picante Mexican Grill
"Best burrito in town!" The cry of every Mexican place. It'd be pretty hard, if not shameless, to screw up such a standard. So we tout the specials: Spinach and mushroom quesadillas, chicken flautas, veggie mole enchiladas, fish tacos (a rarity anywhere east of the Mojave desert)
and tamales (Tuesday only). And the salsas, oh, the salsas: pico de gallo, chipolte, super picante, tomato rojas and salsa verde. Andalae!
735 Mass. Ave., Cambridge. Mon-Wed 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Thu, Fri 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sat, Sun 10 a.m.-11 p.m. (617) 576-6394 www.picantemex.com
This local favorite looks like any other dive bar. Inside, though, plum-colored walls, gothic crosses and a gargoyle-guarded bar complete a look that can only be described as medieval yard sale. Friendly waitresses serve food from a random menu that includes Korean hand rolls ($8.50), Indian curry ($14) and pasta Bolognese ($12). Stop by on Friday night, when a DJ perched near the ceiling in an alcove spins house music.
125 River St., Cambridge. | MBTA: Red Line to Central. 3 p.m.-1 a.m., daily. 21+. (617) 576-1881
The Tavern in the Square/Wish
The former's a sports bar with an Irish feel; the latter's a slick, New Yorky lounge. This connected one-two combo has the proverbial something for everyone, and if it all feels a little calculated and inorganic, well, at least the food is good and the TVs are big. What else do you expect from a restaurant established in 2004? History? On weekends, the ladies pack the place, downing calamari while people-watching out the open front windows.
730 Mass. Ave., Cambridge. Mon-Wed 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m.; Thu-Sat 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sun 10:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Thu-Sat 21+ after 8 p.m., but exceptions are made. (617) 868-8800 www.thetavernandwish.com
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