NFT Boston East Cambridge / Kendall Square/MIT

East Cambridge / Kendall Square/MIT

Once dominated by countless factories producing candy and candles, East Cambridge is now dominated by MIT and countless labs and tech companies. The factory buildings still stand, but have been repurposed as post-industrial offices, condos, and trendy bars and restaurants. There are some newer, sleeker architectural specimens 'round these parts, the most striking example being the Stata Center.

Just a few years ago, this neck of the woods was Deadsville after 5 p.m. Today it's home to a growing contingent of taverns, lounges, and eateries, giving it a new life after the whistle blows. Grab some grub at Fuji, libations at Cambridge Brewing Company or See more.

>Meadhall, and a flick at Kendall Square Cinema.

Here we have one of the few places in Boston where you have an outside change of driving without hassle. Parking at the Galleria is reasonably priced and handy, but there's also a free shuttle that runs from Kendall/MIT station. Perennially confusing is the One Kendall Square complex not being located at Kendall Square -- it's actually a few blocks up Broadway toward Cardinal Medeiros Avenue.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Charles Riverboat Company
Even though you are not a tourist in this wonderful city, sometimes it can still be fun to do touristy things, as long as they don't involve three-cornered hats, baked beans, or going to Cheers. Better yet, activities that allow you to cruise down the Charles without physically exerting yourself are never unwelcome, because you can take in the sights of Beantown from an underemployed viewpoint. Plus, there's booze! The Charles Riverboat Company operates a 60 minute cruise around the Charles River Basin seven times a day from May through October. The captain/bartender (one of my dream jobs) points out fun facts and sights from Beacon Hill, Esplanade Park, and Back Bay, to BU, MIT, and Harvard as you sip cocktails and try to memorize all the local trivia so you can spring it on out-of-town visitors. Relaxing and learning at the same time? Now I've seen everything.

Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

MIT Stata Center
The first time I laid eyes on the Stata Center, I thought Tim Burton had gone and made hisself into an arch-i-tect! With its weird angles and rounded, yet jutting edges, you honestly would have to be legally blind to miss it. Designed by world renowned architect and Simpsons guest start Frank Gehry, the Stata Center opened in 2004 as an academic complex for MIT. It houses the offices of a few famous names, as well, such as Noam Cholmsky and Tim-Berners Lee (without whom you would not be reading this Radar). But a structure like this does not sit humbly. MIT is currently suing Gehry over his design, because the building now has leaks, cracked masonry, and mold, among other problems. Whatever the reason behind these structural challenges, you should probably go check it out soon. Its design gives the impression that the building is about to collapse on itself. And one day, it just might.

Posted By:  Patrick Hellen
Photo:  Patrick Hellen

Helmand Restaurant
Before last weekend, the most exposure I'd had to Afghan culture was the two really dumb but lovable dogs my parents had when I was born. Thankfully, the food from said land is far less likely to take a dump on the carpet, so I highly recommend checking out The Helmand in Cambridge. First, let's be honest. Who out there has any idea what Afghani food is? Yeah, it shares similarities with Indian food, as they border each other, but other than that it's got a very distinct style. Take the Kaddo appetizer, for instance. You get a baby pumpkin, fried with sugar and a meat sauce on top. Sounds weird, right? It's mind-numbingly delicious. I could eat a normal sized pumpkin portion and still want more. As for the entrees, the lamb is pretty fantastic, but the Chapendaz, which is a steak with some killer seasonings, is so damn tender you could cut it with a baby's ass. Ok, bad example, but you get my drift. With this place next door to Cambridgeside, there's really no need to choke down the General Gau's at the Food Court. Just cross the street.

Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Kendall / MIT T Station
Ah, the sounds of Boston: the chirping of the walk signal, the cacophony of myriad car horns when you fail to jump the red light, and--my personal favorite--the Kendall Band. A series of interactive musical metal sculptures, the Kendall Band is noteworthy not only because it was created by Paul Matisse, the grandson of French impressionist Henri Mattise, but also because of the sounds it creates. Between the inbound and outbound platforms hang the three band members: Kepler, a 125 lb. metal ring with a hammer that strikes F sharp when its corresponding handle is pulled by commuters; Galileo, a long metal sheet that creates a thunderous sound when its handle is pulled; and, the sweetest sounding, Pythagoras, consisting of several long metal tubes, tuned to B minor. When its lever is pulled, momentum builds within its swinging mallets, which then strike the tubes, creating the most soothing music, echoing through the station. It is the most beautiful sound in all of Boston.

Posted By:  Patrick Hellen
Photo:  Patrick Hellen

The Courtside Restaurant is the best location in the Greater Boston Area for Karaoke, but it's recently added a new event. Yes, there are places more dedicated to Karaoke alone, and various bars that host nights for this much-maligned party trick, but Courtside combines everything that is fantastic about a good low-key pub, and a high-end Karaoke joint, into one uber-bar. A room is provided, with long tables and multiple displays for those inclined to sing along with the correct lyrics. The bar itself is pretty standard pub, but when you get a waitress to drop off a pitcher before taking a turn on the mic, and she's got PIPES? You know you're coming back. Perhaps the icing on the cake is that on Sundays and Wednesdays they offer the sport of Kings--Guitar Hero. Got the chops and want to try the holy grail of all GH tracks and tackle Freebird with an adoring (sometimes) audience? This is now your Mecca. Show up on Sunday. I've got a pitcher that says I can smoke you at Sweet Child O Mine.

Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

New Deal Fish Market
It’s a no-brainer that the New England coast is famous for seafood. Whether you’re dining out or cooking yourself, it’s often difficult to find sub-par local seafood. So how do you identify the best of the best, when it comes to buying your own? Like pizza joints, the more unassuming the storefront, the better the quality. Take New Deal Fish Market in East Cambridge. What’s the difference between buying seafood there or Whole Foods? First of all, you won’t feel the urge to go on a killing spree of snobs after you leave. The owners of New Deal, Carl and his father Sal, go beyond service with a smile: you can have any of their rotating line of fresh fish filleted and cleaned at your request, and if you have any questions about any particular fish, these dudes are more than willing to share their seemingly limitless knowledge of our sub aqua pals. Second, at New Deal, you can buy fish whole (which everyone knows is the best way to truly appreciate the flavor of a fresh quality fish). You can also buy sushi grade fish. If you really think you can get the same thing at Whole Foods or even Legal, you’ve obviously been eating chum.

Posted By:  Alex Steed
Photo:  Alex Steed

Mayflower Poultry Company
Got a hankering for some chicken right this second? Need some poultry killed right now? This is the place for you! Not only are the guys here great and not only is it a great butcher's shop, you can get a t-shirt emblazoned with this very sign right there at the shop. It's a great one to wear to you're vegetarian Aunt Laurel's house or a showing of Chicken Run II. Regardless, stop by for no other reason than to have your picture taken under this spectacular sign. For real, though, the chicken is super inexpensive and the selection isn't necessarily huge but is generally a rad place. And it's fresh, you know? And drug free (though not free range). These dudes are totally in your corner. Oh. Also. The place smells like death. Death. But get over it. The super fresh, chemical clean smell of Stop and Shop is for pussies.

Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Cambridge Brewing Company
Most would agree that there is no shortage of microbreweries for the greater New England beer lover. But for the Boston area, only a handful make the cut for actual respectable beer. And when you also add food quality into the equation, the numbers are even less. So how lucky are we that one of these rare gems is tucked away in one of the quietest places in Cambridge? (Sssshhh—the tourists might hear you!) With food that transcends the term “pub grub,” Cambridge Brewing Company presents a diverse, inspired list of lunch and dinner fare, as well their admirable Beerunch on Sundays (for those who can’t get enough beer the rest of the weekend). CBC offers an excellent and creative rotating line of house beers, cask-conditioned beers, and seasonal offerings, allowing them to compete on a national level with other microbreweries. And if you want to take them home with you, you can—for a decent price (a 64 oz. growler costs about $12, which includes a $3 deposit, meaning you can bring ‘er back and fill ‘er up for about $9!).

Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Cambridge Parkway
On the Fourth of July, as I walked from my home in Cambridge towards the Longfellow Bridge to see Boston’s famed fireworks for the first time, I was dumbfounded by the discovery that I could walk from East Cambridge to Boston. I had been living there for almost a year, and had somehow managed to miss this handy piece of information. A simple trek behind the CambridgeSide Galleria leads to a breathtaking panoramic view of the city skyline, from the Bunker Hill Bridge to the Prudential Center, and everything in between. Following the Lechmere canal to the Charles River, this path along the Cambridge Parkway leads to the Longfellow Bridge, which then allows foot traffic to cross into Beacon Hill. And once your feet have landed in the downtown soil, it’s only a matter of time before your path leads you down Beacon Street, through Boston Common, and beyond. This walk is a great excuse to bypass driving, and even the T. I’ve also found that it’s a great place to take visitors, as it presents several picture-perfect photo ops, as well as a walking tour through the various faces of the city, free from bloodthirsty drivers and the possible run-in with a meth addict on the green line. And of course, you can walk for hours and not spend a dime.

Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

One of the things I do NOT like about Massachusetts is the lack of gas pump holders (a collapsible brace that fits on a gas pump nozzle handle for holding the valve open). Growing up in Pennsylvania, I had taken this wonderful device for granted; it is apparently illegal in Massachusetts. The homesickness did not fully sink in until the first time I went to fill up on a cold day, and discovered, to my crushing dismay, that I had to stand there and hold the pump handle as my hand and fingers slowly went numb in the sub-zero temperatures. (Maybe that’s an exaggeration of my feelings, but, hey, in the middle of a blizzard, it comes pretty damn close.) But then I stumbled upon the shining beacon of Mass gas stations, one that has somehow slipped under the radar in keeping the elusive gas pump holder. At the risk of blowing their cover, I will make the ultimate sacrifice for NFT; I will relate to you the name of this magnificent establishment: the Shell Station on Route 128 in Cambridge. Now, run, children! Run to the Shell Station and gas up with your hands in your pockets, before the feds come and ruin all our luxurious comfort! You’re welcome.

Posted By:  Joy Mazzola
Photo:  Joy Mazzola

Harvard Bridge
MIT frats are notorious for pranks that combine typical fraternity recklessness with disturbing elements of scientific experimentation. An example of this appears along the Mass Ave Bridge. Traversing it, you’ll notice that the sidewalk is marked off in numbered “Smoots” (20 Smoots, 150 Smoots, and so on). This is actually the body length of one Oliver Smoot, a long-ago graduate of MIT. Being the shortest pledge to his fraternity in 1958 (5’ 7”), said fraternity decided to see how many of him it would take to span the length of the bridge (364 and change, it turns out). They literally rolled the poor boy, ass over teakettle, along the bridge, marking each Smoot along the way. Since then, the same fraternity has preserved the markers, re-painting them each year (most are in 10-smoot intervals, though there a couple of areas where two Smoots in a row give the viewer an idea of Oliver’s actual height). The Smoot is now an official length of measurement in MIT circles, in addition to the mile and the light year. One has to wonder with some trepidation what is in store for the 50-year anniversary of the Smoot …

Posted By:  Shalini Srinivasan
Photo:  Shalini Srinivasan

The Courtside Restaurant and Pub is less restaurant, more pub. The menu is definitely designed for a forgiving (or anesthetized) palate. Someone is the proud owner of a Fry-Daddy, I’m guessing. But anyone can sing out his or her little heart at the front of the room and enjoy three minutes of exhilaration and short-lived fame. Examine the folder with the song listings, scratch down the number of what you’d like to sing, slip it to the deejay, and you too can be a star! There are certain patterns present in the karaoke universe (tangential to my own, connecting only at the point of this article). There is a cast of characters present at karaoke studios: the spunky girl with the short haircut and the great pipes, the guy with the deep voice who does Devo and Bowie, the soulful guy who only sings R&B songs about true love and dreams coming true, and the really, really drunk people. The drunks are usually the best, in sort of a classic Beckensian way; as I winced along to one poor soul’s rendition of Superman, I took note of the gleeful smirks and snickers. Personally, I like spunky girl. I’d rather listen to a great singer than laugh at people who have the bravery but not the vibrato to be a “Genie in a Bottle.”

Posted By:  Suzanne Cope
Photo:  Suzanne Cope

Opa! This charming Greek corner restaurant is tucked among the residential streets of east Cambridge, not far from the Cambridgeside Galleria and the city courthouse. Named after the town in Greece from which the style of food is modeled, one of their signature dishes is Saganaki—a plate of sheep’s milk, set on fi re and served, the fl ames licking the edges of the plate. While the décor is not fancy, the food is certainly delicious and, if one can judge by the groups of diverse locals and Greek families populating the tables, authentic as well. Complementing the entrée choices of fi sh and meat dishes is a full bar and a nice selection of wines. If you stop in for dinner on most weekend nights, a keyboardist playing Greek tunes straight from the Old World will serenade you while you sip your Ouzo after a hearty meal.

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