Best restaurants in Central Square
A guide to eating, shopping, and hanging out in Cambridge’s other square
Long overshadowed by its trendier and more prosperous neighbor, Harvard Square, Cambridge’s Central Square is a diverse neighborhood featuring an eclectic array of ethnic eateries and retail shops, as well as upscale restaurants and bars. Nearly demolished during the 1950s—officials planned to build an eight-lane highway directly through it—Central Square was spared, only to suffer from increasing crime and general decay throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
But the neighborhood experienced a renaissance and today boasts a range of establishments, from cute cafés and trendy nightclubs to technology start-ups and pharmaceutical companies like Novartis. Still, Central Square retains a certain grittiness that lends it an air of unpolished authenticity—which is precisely what makes it so appealing.
If you go to Central Square, be sure to check out the following places.
424 Massachusetts Ave.
One look at Mariposa’s chalkboard menus, and you’ll see a trend: everything’s homemade, from the baked goods and the soup of the day to the hummus with avocado, red pepper slaw, sprouts, and cucumber, and the bread in the bakery’s made-to-order sandwiches (be sure to try the pretzel rolls). In addition to the wide selection of homemade goods, you can also sip fair trade and organic coffee or tea.
Central Square Theater
450 Massachusetts Ave.
Established in 2008, Central Square Theater is a collaboration between two nonprofits: Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theatre. Each company dates back decades (Nora to 1978, URT to 1988), but growing audiences and the high cost of production space prodded the move to this joint home. Besides performances, URT runs acting classes for youth (ages 6-16), workshops for schools, museums, and cultural groups, and artist-in-residence programs. The collaboration won a “best practice” nod from the Boston Foundation. Check out ticket options and special student pricing here.
450 Massachusetts Ave.
Moksa is best known for its Pan-Asian style tapas, which allow guests to sample a multitude of flavors and styles in one meal. Small plates include a ginger duck roll, spicy tuna stuffed jalapeños, and Japanese meatballs. The restaurant also features more typical fare like spring rolls, edamame, and miso soup, as well as an extensive sushi selection, a nationally recognized “top 100 wine list, ” and even Japanese-style curry. The front bar has become a popular gathering place for drinks after work. Moksa has a Sunday brunch and an online take out menu.
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