The Best Restaurants in Cambridge

May 1, 2018
by Zagat Staff

The area's top spots.

Pizza · $$

Chef Michael Scelfo (Alden & Harlow) lures guests to this "trendy" Harvard Square–side kitchen with "incredible, innovative" coastal cuisine, including everything from seafood-topped pizzas and pastas to shared plates of roasted meats and fish and classic caviar service; a "fantastic" , "knowledgeable" staff tends to the aquatic-inspired dining room, complete with a gleaming raw bar, open kitchen and cocktail bar pouring "unique" concoctions, some made with absinthe.
Little Donkey
Breakfast · $$

Fans say the "hype is well-deserved" at this "hip" Central Square spot, where chef-duo Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette (Toro) deliver "super-inventive" , globally inspired small plates that "keep you on your toes" , plus unique raw-bar eats and "inspired" cocktails; the airy room – with floor-to-ceiling streetside windows, exposed brick and slatted wood furnishings – can get "packed" , but "knowledgeable" service adds to the reasons to "go back."
Italian · $
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.3 · Service 4.5

"Fabulous" homemade pasta steals the show at this Porter Square Italian, where fans praise the "great care" evident in "exquisite" , "thoughtfully prepared" plates with "precise flavors" and seasonings that work in "symphonic harmony" ; "unpretentious, attentive" service enhances the "comfortable, stylish" oak and brick–filled space – that is, "if you can get in" ; P.S. the pasta prep space is repurposed as a chef’s table at night.
Cafe Sushi
Japanese · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.4 · Service 4.1

"Chefs work like jewelers" arranging fish so "fresh" it’s practically "just off the boat" into "delicious" , "creative" sushi dishes at this longtime Harvard Square joint; the surrounds "may not be luxurious" , but the staff is "friendly" and the vibe "down-to-earth" , so all in all, it’s a strong "value.
Alden & Harlow
Brunch · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.4 · Service 4.4

"Adventurous eaters" descend on this Harvard Square "hot spot" , where the "superb" , shareable New American offerings are "seasonal" and "inventive" , and there’s also a notable ‘Secret Burger’ (available in limited quantities at dinner); "accommodating" service and "creative drinks" from "excellent mixologists" assure "lively" crowds at the "exciting bar" and an atmosphere of "electricity" in the subterranean space featuring a "contemporary" spin on rustic decor.
Area Four
Breakfast · $$
Food 4.4 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.1

These "upbeat" siblings "will make any solid American hipster content" with their "delicious" , "inventive" pizzas featuring "scrumptious" dough and toppings that bespeak a "farmer’s pedigree" , all served with "rarefied" craft beers by "enthusiastic" staffers; the Kendall Square original, which opens earlier, is also a "go-to" for morning coffee, while the artsy Ink Block sidekick emphasizes open-flame New American cookery alongside the pies.
Parsnip Restaurant & Lounge
French · $$$

This pretty little Harvard Square treasure goes for simple, seasonal ingredient–driven plates (including a five-course tasting menu) with a modern European sheen, complemented by biodynamic wines and classic cocktails created with interesting housemade infusions. A midcentury-modern style pervades the fireplace-filled bi-level space, from the high-ceilinged dining room to the swank upstairs lounge with a white marble bar.
Loyal Nine
American · $$

Named for a contingent of Colonial-era patriots, this "stylish and simple" East Cambridge eatery offers a "unique menu" emphasizing East Coast Revival cookery, its hand-pottered small plates piled with "imaginative" , "delicious" spins on locally sourced shellfish, veggies and meats; the bar serves an "original" wine list, domestic beers and ciders plus "creative" cocktails, while a "friendly" cafe annex with a "cool" patio turns out coffee and light bites starting at 8 AM.
The Table at Season to Taste

'Top Chef' alum Carl Dooley sets the table at this "intimate" restaurant within the catering facility of Season to Taste, where just 20 guests are accommodated for an "original" four-course tasting menu (with optional beverage pairings) that marries contemporary French technique with local ingredients and global influence for "outstanding" , "special occasion" –worthy results; the "quiet" , minimalist space also features a standing bar offering drop-ins wine and small plates, and "welcoming" service completes the picture.

Though à la carte dining is available, innovative prix fixe menus are emphasized at this hip Cambridge eatery offering Japanese- and Spanish-inspired small plates in a homey space filled with warm, live-edge woods and an open kitchen. Seats are reserved via prepaid ticketing at the restaurant's website.

Local sourcing and hyper-seasonal menus are the driving force behind this adorable New American dining room just outside Harvard Square, a passion project from alums of the Ten Tables location that once inhabited the space, and one that preserves that former restaurant's farm-to-table ethos with inventively tweaked classic dishes and selection of organic, biodynamic wines.