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Farfalle Florentine from Trattoria Newbury

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Parts of this article were first published on the author’s blog, Spilling the Beans.

For the past two years, I’ve been reviewing Boston-area restaurants on my food blog. I’ve experienced every level of awkward food picture-taking, but the satisfaction of a handsome food picture is usually worth the stares.

Although the dining hall food at MIT is edible, that’s about the only thing going for it. I’d take a look at these restaurants instead, all of which are within walking distance or a five-minute T ride.

Brookline Lunch (Central Square)

American, $

Wed-Mon: 8:30 am - 3:30 pm

9 Brookline Street

Cambridge, MA 02139

Although it’s called “Brookline Lunch,” the diner-style restaurant is actually in Central Square on a street called Brookline Street. The menu has a huge variety of brunch and breakfast options that are mostly under $8. The last time I visited, I tried the Atlantic Eggs Benedict, which was eggs benedict with salmon instead of Canadian bacon. The distinct sourness of the hollandaise sauce paired well with the salmon, and the poached egg and toasted English muffin added great texture. To make it even better, it came with a huge helping of home fries and grilled vegetables on the side. Brookline Lunch is the perfect option for cheap, yet delicious, brunch.

Dumpling House (Central Square)

Chinese, $$

Daily: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.

950 Massachusetts Avenue

Cambridge, MA 02139

Accessible by the 1 bus (or a 30-minute walk), Dumpling House offers tasty alternatives to a Chinatown dinner. The menu features authentic Chinese food from soup dumplings to three-cup chicken, and I would recommend visiting the restaurant in a small group to share the food family-style. My favorite dish is the Sliced Fish Szechuan Style, which consists of tender fish pieces soaked in a savory, spicy broth with vegetables. The dumplings are also delicious, each with a juicy filling wrapped in a thick, chewy dough. Be aware, however, that the restaurant usually has long lines on Friday and Saturday nights.

Sonsie (Back Bay)

American, $$

Daily: 8 a.m. - 1 a.m.

327 Newbury Street

Boston, MA 02115

Across the Harvard Bridge on Newbury Street, Sonsie is the perfect restaurant for a refined meal with friends or family. The restaurant’s entire front wall is a set of glass doors that open up to provide open-air seating on nice days. For brunch, I love Sonsie’s French toast with rum bananas and caramel sauce. Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, the French toast itself is essentially perfect. The rum bananas, with a generous helping of caramel sauce, pair deliciously with the toast (as bananas always do), and provide the dish with a sweet glaze.

Trattoria Newbury (Back Bay)

Italian, $$

Sun-Wed: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Thurs-Sat: 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

264 Newbury Street

Boston, MA 02116

Located in the middle of Newbury Street, Trattoria Newbury is a great spot for an elegant, Italian dinner. A delicious option is the Farfalle Florentine, which includes bow-tie pasta with spinach and mushrooms in a cream sauce. Thick and rich, the savory cream sauce pairs wonderfully with the generous amounts of spinach and mushrooms. Even though the sauce has a buttery flavor, it is not greasy like many Italian cream sauces from other restaurants. The homemade pasta is cooked al dente, and the folds of the farfalle pasta pick up the perfect amount of cream sauce in each bite.

Beantown Pho & Grill (Back Bay)

Vietnamese, Thai, $$

Sun-Thurs: 11:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Fri & Sat: 11:30 a.m. - 10:30 p.m.

272 Newbury Street

Boston, MA 02116

With a huge menu of Vietnamese and Thai food, Beantown Pho & Grill is a great option for a casual lunch or dinner when shopping around Newbury. The restaurant’s pho is deliciously aromatic, but my favorite dish is the Chiang Mai Noodle, which is a spicy, curry, stir-fried noodle dish with bean sprouts and cilantro. The thick curry sauce adds a burst of flavor to the crispy noodle bed, reminiscent of a Thai curry with sweet undertones. Especially with the distinct taste of cilantro, the dish is a perfect combination of savory and spicy.

Cafe Artscience (Kendall Square)

American, $$$

Mon-Fri: 11 a.m. - 12 a.m.

Sat: 5 p.m. - 12 a.m.

650 E Kendall Street

Cambridge, MA 02142

Hidden away in Kendall Square, Cafe Artscience is a molecular gastronomy restaurant with a polished atmosphere and modern furniture. The menu is split into four courses: cold appetizers, warm appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Out of the entrees, I have only tried the Colorado Lamb Leg, which comes out as a picturesque platter of lamb, house-made sausage, pistachios, boquerones (anchovies), artichokes, and broccoli. An array of flavors surround the lamb, including the strong sauces that are artfully dabbled onto the dish. Although the portions are not large, the creativity behind each dish makes the restaurant worthy of its $30-$40 price range.

Area Four (Kendall Square)

American, $$

Mon-Fri: 7 a.m. - 12 a.m.

Sat: 8 a.m. - 12 a.m.

Sun: 8 a.m. - 10 p.m.

500 Technology Square

Cambridge, MA 02139

Because Area Four is seated right in Technology Square near various MIT (and non-MIT labs), scientific conversations are unusually common at this restaurant. While the place is known for its pizzas, the brunch options are also delicious and creative. The Hot Mess, for instance, is a skillet with home fries, bacon, sausage, caramelized onions, cheddar, and two sunny side-up eggs topped with scallions and pickled banana pepper relish. The pizzas are hit-or-miss, but the Mushroom and Fontina pizza is always a satisfying choice featuring mushroom sauce, pecorino, and gremolata. The restaurant is ideal for group dinners given its proximity to campus, and since pizza is easily shared — just make sure you have a reservation.

Cafe Luna (Central Square)

American, $$

Mon-Fri: 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Sat-Sun: 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.

403 Massachusetts Avenue

Cambridge, MA 02139

Half a block from Toscanini’s in Central Square, Cafe Luna features consistently well-crafted food, and fantastic service. The tables are covered in blank paper, and crayons are provided for drawing while you’re waiting. I love the Roasted Sweet Potato Sandwich, which is served on ciabatta, and comes with caramelized onions, goat cheese, arugula and bacon. All together, the sandwich manages to mesh three distinct flavors into one entity: the tart goat cheese, sweet sweet potato, and savory bacon combine to form a delightful sandwich.The cafe is ideal for a casual get-together with friends, but reservations are only available for weekend brunch. You’ll have to keep your fingers crossed that an open table is available if you visit on a weekday.

Zinnekins (Harvard Square)

Desserts, $

Mon-Thurs: 8 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Fri-Sat: 8 a.m. - 12 a.m.

Sun: 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.

1154 Massachusetts Avenue

Cambridge, MA 02136

Over in Harvard Square, Zinnekins is a small Belgian waffle shop that features a simple menu: coffee and waffles. For the waffles, there is a choice of either the Liege waffle (“soft n’ chewy”) or the Brussels waffle (“light n’ crispy”). A variety of toppings like Nutella, bananas, berries, whipped cream, and chocolate can be added onto the waffle. I have only tried the Liege waffle with whipped cream, which is indeed soft and chewy, but still freshly crisp on the edges. The skin of the waffle is caramelized, resulting in a sweet treat that is definitely too sugary for anyone’s first meal of the day. The whipped cream is light, making it a pleasant addition to the waffle is was a bit dense. The waffle was the perfect size for me, though I could imagine that it would be considered small for anyone with a larger appetite. It is slightly overpriced at $5 for such a small waffle, but it’s worth it for those special occasions. Because the shop is so tiny, I would not go with a group of more than four people.