The Best Outdoor Dining in 9 Cambridge Neighborhoods

By Scott Kearnan  |  May 19, 2015

We recently took a neighborhood-by-neighborhood look at the Best Outdoor Dining Spots in Boston. But we couldn't leave out Cambridge! So this time we turned to the other side of the Charles, hopping between 'hoods and squares to select our favorite alfresco options. Take a look — then tell us your favorite in the comments.  

  • Cambridgeport: Zephyr on the Charles

    Aside from take-out joints, there's not much of a dining scene in the Cambridgeport neighborhood. (Though it does boast one food-related claim to fame: it's here that the Fig Newton cookie was first produced.) This elevated spot for seasonal American in the Hyatt Regency Cambridge flies under the radar, except perhaps to hotel guests. But its Charles River-side patio has excellent views of the water and Boston skyline. 

    575 Memorial Dr., Cambridge; 617-492-1234

  • Credit: Melissa Ostrow

    Central Square: Naco Taco

    "Irreverence" is the watchword at this just-opened taqueria from chef Michael Scelfo (Alden & Harlow). Yes, the tacos eschew tradition in favor of bold and creative combinations invoking pig's head, fried smelt and more. But the whimsy also extends to the loftlike interior, boasting arcade games and a horseshoe-shaped bar for sipping craft suds, and a huge 90-seat patio that features a 30-foot trailer/food truck containing the whole kitchen's operations.

    297 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge; 617-945-1548

  • East Cambridge: Loyal Nine

    Named for a contingent of Colonial-era patriots and protestors, and run by a motley crew of high-end-restaurant and pop-up vets, this new rustic-chic East Cambridge eatery emphasizes "East Coast Revival" cookery, its hand-pottered small plates serving locally sourced shellfish, veggies and meats. The just-opened patio sounds like the perfect place to pull up a seat for one of Spring's Must-Try Oyster Dishes, and kick back with a curated selection of grower-produced wines, domestic beers and ciders. (Plus a rum- and brandy-focused cocktail list.)

    660 Cambridge St., Cambridge; 617-945-2576

  • Harvard Square: The Sinclair

    It was especially hard to choose a single outdoor dining spot in Harvard Square; the alfresco hideaways at Russell House Tavern and Harvest both merit a mention, and the rooftop at Daedalus has been a high-flying mainstay for years. But this year we have to give a standing O to the roof deck at The Sinclair, which lures Harvard Square hipsters and music lovers for dinner and a drink before hitting a concert at the restaurant's adjacent nightclub component. Plus now there's an even newer reason to visit: this month the restaurant unveiled a newly redesigned upstairs bar, dubbed the Club Car, a cool eight-seater steps away from the roof deck. The Club Car is designed to look like an art deco-era train depot watering hole, with design elements inspired by vintage rail ties, an antique train-signal switchboard and photograph installations that evoke picture perfect glimpses of an "American landscape" whirring by.

    52 Church St., Cambridge; 617-547-5200

  • Inman Square: Oleana

    Chef Ana Sortun's Turkish and Middle Eastern-leaning stalwart by Inman Square is a consistent people pleaser. A menu dominated by marvelous meze landed Oleana among the Top Three in our most recent Boston's Best Restaurants Survey; head here to check out a video visit to each of them. The verdant, cloistered patio is its own star attraction, a green garden oasis in the middle of the city. 

    134 Hampshire St., Cambridge; 617-661-0505

  • Kendall Square: West Bridge

    There is still lots of open space and several large plazas around Kendall Square, which means many restaurants, from pub Cambridge Brewing Company to upscale American Catalyst, have plenty of room to spread out and set up outdoor dining areas. (We also offer a nod to BELLY Wine Bar, where the sunken patio is always a favorite for its fire pits and DIY s'mores roasting.)  But for one of the best people-watching vantage points, find a table at the patio of West Bridge and dig in to some delicious French-New England fusion from Matt Gaudet, previously deemed a "Best New Chef" by Food & Wine. 

    1 Kendall Sq., Cambridge; 617-945-0221

  • Lechmere Square: ArtBar

    Italian fave Dante, which is also housed inside the Royal Sonesta Hotel, gets a lot of the attention around these parts. So consider this an overdue nod to ArtBar, which lines its interior with interesting exhibitions — and offers even better views on its Charles River-side patio. Plus in June the restaurant will launch its annual Summer Patio Party series, where each installment revolves around a different theme: from lobster to sangria, trivia to live jazz crooners. 

    40 Edwin H Land Blvd., Cambridge; 617-806-4122

  • Porter Square: Temple Bar

    The small patio at this American bistro feels slightly more like seating overflow from the dining room, where retractable floor-to-ceiling windows let even indoor diners enjoy a nice breeze. It's a popular Porter Square brunch spot, and one major dinner highlight is a vegetarian prix fixe: a $29, three-course extravaganza of particularly sophisticated plant-focused plates. 

    1688 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge; 617-547-5055

  • West Cambridge: Sofra

    Ana Sortun scores two spots on this list. Her Eastern Mediterranean bakery and cafe has savory fare (like meze platters and shawarma) and plenty of pastries: cookies, sticky buns, tarts and more. There are only a few outdoor seats, but in an area of town where patios are at a premium, that's very a sweet treat. 

    1 Belmont St., Cambridge; 617-661-3161