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Kendallside Cheap Eats

Pizza, Burgers, and Burritos

By Erik Blankinship

Staff Writer

Emma’s Pizza

40 Hampshire St

(Near Citizen’s Bank at Kendall Square)

(617) 864-8534

Slices available lunch and dinner ($1.50 - $2.00)

A few years ago, a friend of mine discovered the best pizza she’d ever eaten. Ecstatic about the pizza place, she told everyone about it and even offered to buy them pizza so they could experience it. Intrigued, I marched through a snowstorm to order a pie at the counter only to be told they were too busy with dinner orders -- the orders had been placed that morning! Fortunately, Emma’s Pizza always has slices available, and, because of the high demand, the slices are fresh. But my trip through the show left me wondering: how could a pizza place be so good that people order half a day in advance?

The answer is easy. Emma’s pizza is the best pizza I have ever had in my life. It is a thin pizza, with your choice of sauces and your choice of cheeses. Creative toppings and combinations of toppings make for pizza you’ve never tasted before. I recently had bacon, potato, and cranberries, and it was so good! Cheese slices are $1.50 and slices with toppings are $2.00, and the menu of available slices rotate so there is always something new. Be sure to try the caramelized onions. You may choose to eat at the counter or carry out your food, and seated dining space is available if you are willing to wait.

Another reason behind Emma’s success is the people who work there, who are very friendly. When Emma’s recently moved to Kendall Square, they sent a letter asking for donations of flatware so they would have an eclectic collection of forks and knives. The crew who works there are a diverse crew as well, but all are friendly and genuinely interested in making great pizza and making Emma’s a great place to eat.

Boca Grande

149 1st St

(Near the Cambridgeside Galleria)

(617) 354-5550

Burritos, tacos ($2.95 - $4.95)

Boca Grande is fantastico Mexican food at unbelievably cheap prices. I have lived, literally, for weeks on nothing but food from Boca Grande. This summer, my brother and I invariably found ourselves choosing Boca instead of cooking breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The reason is that the food is inexpensive, filling, and wholesome.

Burritos ($3.95) and their bigger brother, the Burrito Grande ($4.95), are the best on the menu, available with optional sour cream and fresh guacamole. My Mexican friends argue that the food is not genuinely Mexican, since ingredients are just thrown into a tortilla and mixed together, but I’ve never known a burrito to be any different. Other favorites on the menu include the half ($2.95) or quarter grilled chicken ($3.95) with grilled corn tortillas. It’s served in styrofoam but I insist it is a small part of heaven.

Whether or not the food is truly authentic, all of the cooks are Mexican -- some hardly speak any English. They are very friendly, though, and eager to gab in Spanish with you while they prepare the food. They also have a cool CD collection, playing musical groups like Los Tigres Del Norte, and they’d be glad to suggest other Mexican CDs if you express interest.

Sammy’s Grill and Deli

1 Kendall Square

(617) 252-0044

Hamburgers, hot dogs ($3.75 - $5.00)

Throughout the summer and into the fall, Sammy’s Grill is fired up over in Kendall Square, cooking up all manner of meats and a few veggies. The grill is located out in front of Sammy’s Deli in Kendall Square; you’ll know you’ve found it when you see the smoke filling the courtyard. The cooks are big men with husky voices who look like they have been working the grill for a long time, and their experience makes for mighty good meat.

Cheeseburgers are $3.75, with a complete line up of toppings including really good mustard. The Kosher Hot Dog ($3.75), advertised as “the big one”, comes with optional sauerkraut piled on top. Chinese sausages ($4.95) are available, as are kielbasas ($4.95). For the vegetarians, there are veggie burgers and veggie roll-ups available, although it is not clear if they get their own part of the grill to themselves.

Before it gets too cold, you owe it to yourself to get over to Sammy’s Grill to enjoy one last cookout before the summer really slips away.