A stalwart Portuguese spot, a mountain of mezze, and plenty more circle this Cambridge square on the border with Somerville.
Though it isn’t the largest square in Cambridge, Inman Square is your inroad to just about every cuisine you can pack on your plate. From near — New England favorites dished out in a Puritan-chic space — to far, with mezze that meanders the Med and back again. Fork over this list of ten spots, and remember that when it comes to dining, it’s hip to be (Inman) Square.
Good luck finding a better Portuguese restaurant this side of the Charles River (or, for that matter, the Atlantic). The family-run spot has been dishing traditional Portuguese delights from its homey Inman spot since 1996. Take your time with a relaxing weekend dinner, munching on olives and dipping crusty bread in olive oil while you sip tinto red wine and peruse the menu. Chef-owner Fernando Gomes focuses on classics — hearty caldo verde with thinly sliced kale and chouriço sausage, little necks in a garlicy white-wine sauce that’s packed with parsley. Bet on the bife a Portuguesa (house-marinated steak topped with a fried egg and served with potatoes and rice) and the shrimp Mozambique. Both come with a dreamy, sop-up-every-drop-with-bread sauce and in ginormous portions.
1200 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-491-8880, restaurantcasaportugal.com.
Christina’s Homemade Ice Cream
Owner Ray Ford opened this Cambridge stalwart in 1983 and crafts frozen treats with the kind of focus normally reserved for savory fine-dining. Sure, you can gobble down classics like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. But the extensive list of rotating beauties includes flavors like Concord grape sorbet with sourced in-season grapes at Fish Hawk Farm in Cotuit, plus lemongrass ice cream, carrot cake, adzuki bean, and just about everything under the sun. Ford also operates Christina’s Spice & Specialty Foods just a block away, so he has a whole pantry to play with — sometimes kicking up chocolate with Chinese five spice. For you, that means you can pick up a sweet treat and then head to the spice shop to find some heat with Japanese barbecue sauce and much more.
1255 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-492-7021, instagram.com.
The magic of this petite, classic Irish pub is its laid-back atmosphere and a menu that somehow transforms pub grub to masterpieces. Check out the spell-binding sausage beans and mash, a showcase of house-made Irish sausage, beans, and mashed potatoes. The butter-packed potatoes also crown the homey shepherd’s pie, sitting atop saucy roast lamb and root vegetables. For brunch, meanwhile, stick with the Irish inspirations. Sample steel-cut oats dolloped with Irish whiskey cream and fresh berries, plus generous traditional breakfasts of Irish meats, beans, and hearty brown bread. The plates are the perfect duets to the Saturday sessions of traditional live Irish music.
1357 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-497-0965, druidpub.com.
The “momi” part of Chris Chung’s Hawaiian-inflected Japanese izakaya means “pearl” in Hawaiian. It’s a fitting name for the delicate slivers of fish and rich sauces that abound at this gem, with its wood bedecked walls and hip industrial vibe. As such, come here expecting a bit of a (well-worth) splurge. Currently, Chung is offering reservation-only seatings of an omakase chef’s tasting menu that shifts with his whim and what’s fresh at the moment. Options range from 15 to 25 courses, where Chung will talk you through his treasures, including courses that might feature premium Japanese fish, live uni from Canada, seared wagyu beef, and boatloads of caviar. Better yet: bring 14 of your friends and you can have the whole spot to yourself. Check out the take-out menu, too, to bring some dining decadence home.
1128 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-945-7328, mominonmi.com.
The mezze at Moona are mouthfuls of over-the-moon flavors. Carrots glazed with sweet-heat honey harissa and served with goat cheese and dates. Bright fattoush spotted by gemlike pomegranate seeds. Mussels swimming in an herby broth of Arak (an anise-like spirit), coconut milk, and dried peppers. The 30-seat Arabian and Eastern Mediterranean restaurant also showcases larger portions — beauties that include chicken tagine that zings with preserved lemon, and grilled whole fresh fish. Whether you choose a bevy of bites to share or larger plates, all of the goodies sing with house spice blends, preserves, and more. Some of these future-pantry-staples are available to purchase for you to bring Moona flavors to your everyday meals.
243 Hampshire St., Cambridge, 617-945-7448, moonarestaurant.com.
Savor this Brazilian restaurant’s hearty namesake fish stew served up steaming hot in clay pots. The muqueca is a masterpiece of generous slabs of fish in a tomato-based broth with lots of chopped onions, tomatoes, and herbs — served with fish gravy and fragrant rice. Get it Bahia style to savor the silkiness of coconut milk, green peppers, and dendê oil, which is a slightly sweet olive-like oil common in Afro-Brazilian cuisine. Other standouts include the feijoada bean stew (its rich depth is thanks to a hearty helping of pork), plus perfectly seared steak topped by fried eggs and caramelized onions. And the fried yucca — crispy on the outside, light and fluffy on the side — might be worth the trip here alone. Gobble it down with a side of creamy garlic sauce, or better yet, a few kicking caipirinhas.
1008 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-354-3296, muquecarestaurant.com.
Even before you dig into the small plates of chef-owner Ana Sortun’s Middle East-inspired restaurant, it’s worth sitting in the cool, earth-toned interior and letting the smells wash over you. The herby za’atar that’s sprinkled over breads and roasted chicken. The sharp dukkah that smothers chunks of trout. The nutty and lemon-laced hummus. It’s almost filling enough. But do dive into the deviled eggs — fresh tuna cuts through the creamy yolk — and the lighter-than-air whipped feta served alongside peppers and seeded crackers for just the right amount of crunch. As tempting as it might be to just traipse through the globe-trotting plates (don’t skip the kebab of Vermont lamb paired with Turkish bread, for starters), do save room for dessert of baked Alaska. The passion fruit caramel cuts through the creaminess of coconut ice cream in just the right way.
134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, 617-661-0505, oleanarestaurant.com.
The counter service may be quick, but the flavors at this approachable mainstay specializing in Indian street eats absolutely linger. The goat masala curry just might be the GOAT — greatest of all tastes — here, with a punchy sauce perfect for soaking up with soft fried poori bread, along with spicy vindaloos that pack that back-of-the-throat pinch. The servings are beyond generous, too, with a boatload of curries cradled in metal trays and served with dinner-plate-sized grilled naan and fragrant rice. And the samosas, the little purses of perfection that are stuffed with potatoes and peas before a dance in the deep fryer? Onion chutney boasts a bite to balance the hearty vegetables, with the creamy confection of mango lassi on hand to cool the fire.
225 Hampshire St., Cambridge, 617-547-8272, punjabidhaba.co.
Puritan & Co.
Where there’s a will there’s a way. Or, more accurately, where there’s a chef / owner William Gilson, there’s a host of pristine flavors on their way to hungry diners. His Inman eatery pays homage to his Mayflower ancestry and New England history, with locally sourced, seasonal plates that harken to meals of yesteryear. Back when farm-to-table was known as just, well, dinner. Starting with the fluffy and perfect parker house rolls is a must, and from there, the world is your oyster (especially the fresh oysters with cucumber-ginger mignonette). Traipse through the toasts menu, throwing back the swordfish pastrami on pumpernickel, before the main events of seafood risotto with crab butter and lamb sugo-slathered orecchiette. The hungry-yet-indecisive can savor the always on-point seasonal tasting menu.
1166 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-615-6195, puritancambridge.com.
Trina’s Starlite Lounge
Oh-so-hip Trina’s finds its home in the small slice of Inman that’s within Somerville. But what’s not at all small? The colossally stacked griddled hot dogs on the menu, the creative daily specials, and the Starlite style dog heaped with cheese, fries, house aioli, and a cooling slather of coleslaw. Dinners hone in on comfy cuisine — chicken and waffles doused with hot pepper syrup, gooey and Ritz-topped mac and cheese — with Sunday and Monday brunches boasting house-made spins on classic craveable, junk-adjacent foods, namely PopTarts and pizza bagels.
3 Beacon St., Somerville, 617-576-0006, trinastarlitelounge.com.