I’ve lived in the enemy stronghold—sorry, I mean Cambridge, Mass. —my whole life, minus 2.5 years of college. I spent most of that time eating, which says only sad things about my life, but which is a good thing for you. Reap the benefits of my insider knowledge of cheap-ass local cuisine:
Felipe’s Taqueria (83 Mount Auburn St). Best, cheapest burritos and quesadillas in Harvard Square. $4-7 gets you the works—I recommend the carnitas.
Pinocchio’s Pizza and Subs (74 Winthrop St). Huge, mouth-watering slices are about $2.50. The subs are also good, but you’re missing out if you don’t get a slice of the Sicilian spinach pizza—sauceless, with plenty of Parmesan cheese, it’s still my favorite pizza anywhere.
The Upper Crust (49 B Brattle St). Yes, there’s a pizza place in Cambridge called “The Upper Crust.” Mock all you want, but do it over delicious whole-wheat and rotating “slice of the day” pizza. The slices are relatively pricey (think $3-5), but they’re absolutely massive. Also, they serve beer.
Crema Café (27 Brattle St). Get good coffee ($3 for a latte) and delicious sandwiches ($7 average) in this cozy, brick-walled café. More importantly, Crema serves what might be the last non-fast food breakfast in the Square—grab an egg sandwich for $3 or something called a “salmon scrambler” for $6 if you manage to wake up before noon on Saturday.
Veggie Planet (47 Palmer St). Home to Club Passim, one of Cambridge’s best folk/indie music venues, Veggie Planet offers creative, delicious vegetarian meals for $7-10. You choose the “base”—pizza dough, or brown or white rice—and they’ll plop whatever entrée you order right on top. Sounds kind of gross, tastes really awesome.
Flat Patties (33 Brattle St/inside the Garage). Craving greasy, cheesy, meaty goodness after all that health food? Head to Flat Patties and pay just $4 for a burger with lettuce, tomato, and a mysteriously delicious “house sauce.” Even toppings like fried egg and blue cheese don’t up the price that much, but if you’re totally out of cash you can get a hot dog for only $2.75.
Le’s Restaurant (36 JFK St/inside the Garage). Cambridge’s best answer to York Street Noodle, this is an all-Vietnamese restaurant with inexpensive (think $6-9) Pho and other dishes. A good place for a sit-down meal—they can usually accommodate larger groups.
9 Tastes (50 JFK St). A tiny bit expensive for this list, but I’m including it because I still rank this as the best Pad Thai I’ve ever had. Prove me wrong for $10.95.
L.A. Burdick Chocolate (52-D Brattle St). Go here for dessert—the pastries are delicious and super-fancy—but stay for the hot chocolate, which is so rich it’s basically like drinking molten candy bars. Only the bravest should attempt the dark hot chocolate—I usually go for the milk. Get an espresso-size for $3, or a small for $5. Seriously: best hot chocolate Of. All. Time.