Running and Eating Around Cambridge and Boston
I miss Cambridge and Boston already. So many good places to eat. So many good routes to run. No one raves about Boston food like they do about LA or New York or wherever else so I want to be that person and share some of my favorites :)
Charles River Esplanade
Whenever people ask me what’s my favorite thing about Boston, my answer is always the Charles River. There’s no better running or walking motivation than a beautiful route and the Charles River Esplanade is beyond beautiful. Bridges and banks, bike lanes and walking paths, early morning rowing teams and flocks of geese and swans—it’s the same river every day but every run, walk, and bike ride feels different.
Davis Square, Somerville $
Obligatory “I haven’t been to LA or Texas” but Tenoch has the best Mexican American food I’ve ever had in my life. Nowhere else even comes close.
First thing I got was the Torta Asada. You have to see them make this—they do everything right and they do it with love. Melted cheese mixed with steak on the plancha. While that’s going they spread the Telera bread with black beans and then scoop up the whole melted cheese and meat mixture onto it and top with jalapeños, tomato, avocado, onions, and chipotle mayo. Whole thing goes right back onto the plancha and they press it.
Best torta I’ve ever had. Possibly best sandwich I’ve ever had. And with the melted cheese/steak/tomato combo I can close my eyes and pretend it’s a cheeseburger and then it also becomes the best cheeseburger I’ve ever had. $9–10 too. You have no excuse eating at Chipotle in this town.
The other thing you gotta get is their breakfast burrito. I didn’t even know it was a thing since breakfast is only 9–11am. But when Pulkit and Chris came to visit, we stopped by before a hike. Similar composition but this time with scrambled eggs, melted cheese, meat, and potatoes on the plancha before they scoop up that whole beautiful assembly into the waiting tortilla. All the rest of the good stuff plus a squeeze of lime and definitely ask for jalapeños because jalapeños. $7.50 by the way. Geez Louise.
I always go to their Davis Square location but they’ve got one in the North End and two others somewhere else.
Fresh Pond Loop
This is a ~2 mile loop that you can get to from the river by running up Fresh Pond Parkway. I don’t know what’s going on but this loop always feels shorter than it is. It’s also very close to Tenoch so you can do a morning run followed by a breakfast burrito. Best reward in the world.
Lanzhou Beef Noodle Soup Shop
Boston Chinatown is where you’ll find all the old school Canto restaurants. But Allston, home to BU and BC and accordingly, a ton of Chinese international students, is where you’ll find all the cool new places.
This place just edges out Tenoch for restaurant I went to the most—8 visits in my 3 months versus “just” 7 for Tenoch.
Yes, you could order their namesake Lanzhou Beef Noodle Soup (which I’ve tried both versions of—beef brisket and sliced beef) but the best dish on the menu is their Biang Biang Noodles, wide belt noodles tossed with super fragrant chili oil. Don’t worry, it’s not as spicy as it looks. There’s lamb, chicken, and meatless versions and all of them good—IMO better than Xian Famous Foods in NYC. Each portion is good enough for 1.5 people at least and cost $12.
Also I gotta shout out the 口水鸡 (cold sliced chicken with fragrant chili oil), the scallion pancakes, and the pickled mustard poached fish. Oh and it’s cash only by the way.
There’s no better place for lunch than P&K delicatessen. Definition of old school sandwich shop. If you’re in the area, do some work or studying in Cambridge Public Library and then walk a few blocks up to Somerville Ave to get a Meatball Parm or an Italian from Mark. No place like P&K.
I’m a real cheapo (you can tell because every other place on this list is a one dollar sign place haha) but along with M Sushi and Vin Rouge in Durham, this is one of the few $$$ places that is actually worth it.
Sarma serves Mediterranean small plates that are original and actually taste good. They mix up the menu but my favorites are the mushroom manti, the black sesame cornbread, the pumpkin fritters, and the ricotta loukamades for dessert.
First time was with Pulkit when he visited. Then with Chris. And then with Michelle for her birthday. Man I wanna come back for my own birthday now too.
Reservations are a bit tough to get but if you show up outside a little bit before 5:30pm when they open, you’re almost always guaranteed a seat at their 20-seat bar which IMO is way more fun than sitting at a table anyways.
Jamaica Pond and the Emerald Necklace
Most of my runs were just on the river but every now and then you want to run somewhere else and the Emerald Necklace, named after the chain of parks going South, is a great one. You can run laps around Jamaica Pond for extra distance or run over to Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum if you want to add some hills.
S&I To Go
We’re back in Allston for the spiciest food I’ve had all year. Tiny takeout restaurant with just three tables but if you love spicy food you gotta go and order one of the authentic Thai dishes with five 🌶🌶🌶🌶🌶 symbols. So good but so hot. The last time I went I had to drink two glasses of ice water and a thai iced tea to get through the pad krapow moo but it was worth it.
Tracksmith’s Half on the Half
Start at Tracksmith on Newbury or the Boston Marathon finish line in Back Bay and then run along Comm Ave and Beacon St out to Heartbreak Hill and back. Takes you through BU and Coolidge Corner and gets in some nice hill work too.
FYI Heartbreak Hill running store usually puts out water for runners.
New City Micocreamery
Central, Cambridge $
Best ice cream place in the area, easy. After Jeainny took me here, I think I got it three days in a row when Chris and Pulkit visited.
Fresh cones. High quality ice cream. Good interesting flavors. If they still have it when you visit, you have to get the baklava ice cream with a fresh cone. Actual baklava pieces in that—no joke better quality baklava inside this ice cream than in this one random Turkish cafe I tried in Allston.
Zinnekans Belgian Waffles
Harvard Square, Cambridge $
My other favorite dessert place in Cambridge along with New City Microcreamery. You can customize your liege waffle however you want but I always just do a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Every time you walk by this place it smells amazing and it looks so warm and cozy and you just have to go in. $4.90 for a waffle. $2.75 to add a scoop of ice cream.
Cicada Coffee Bar
Central, Cambridge $-$$
Sunny Vietnamese coffee shop during the day. Neon light Vietnamese dinner spot at night. I want my house to vibe like this one day. Lots of natural light. Tons of plants. Nice little backyard area. No wifi but if you sit close to the front you can mooch off Whole Foods.
Best thing I’ve gotten here is the house-made passionfruit greek yogurt they serve for dessert during their weekend dinner service.
Banh Mi Ba Lẹ
Best banh mi I’ve had in the US? This place right here. I’ve had everything from $4 cash only banh mis from Eden Center in Northern Virginia to bougie $12 sandwich shop renditions and Ba Le in Dorchester is the best (and still affordable at $6ish dollars).
Perfect bread. Not too bready, not too dry. Perfect. They spread three different types of sauce on these—this gloopy yellow beef tallowy looking stuff idk what it is, then this scallion sauce, then this sweet fishy sauce—then comes the lemongrass BBQ beef (because that’s what you gotta order) and then the daikon and carrot pickle, cucumbers, and jalapeños and there you have it, best banh mi ever. Yes the meat is tasty but IMO the magic is in the sauce.
They also do fresh sugarcane juice and smoothies and all these other hot bar items and baked goods.
South End, Southie, and Castle Island
If you really want that banh mi and don’t want to deal with red line construction, you can run through the South End, South Boston, and the coast.
Hing Shing Bakery
Cash only bakery. Get a mooncake here for Mid-Autumn festival and a $1.50 蝴蝶酥 (aka palmier) any time you’re nearby. I’m done with dainty palmiers—these are loaded up with butter and sugar and way way better.
Why wait in line to pay $5 for a mediocre cannoli when you get 3 of these bad boys??
Central, Cambridge $
This might be the best deal in all of Cambridge/Boston/Somerville. $12 gets you a massive and delicious Taiwanese salt and pepper fried pork chop plate (椒盐排骨饭) with sides of ground pork, green beans, marinated egg, and pickled veg. Plus the always complementary hot tea and sweet pickled cabbage.
Dolphin Bay in Allston gets an honorable mention here too (similarly gigantic portions at a great price) but I slightly prefer Mu Lan’s version.
I think they only take credit card for orders greater than either $15 or $20.
North End, Boston $$
I’m not the biggest fan of the North End. Way too many tourists and lines for literally everything.
One place that actually is worth lining up for (unlike Mike’s/Modern/etc.) is Giacomo’s. If you get there right at open you can get in no problem and order the calamari. I love their calamari—fresh, hot, and lightly breaded. Served with lemon and good quality marinara.
The pasta was okay. Cash only here too.
So we visited because of their porchetta sandwich (crispy pork skin, super rich, maybe a bit too rich). But we also got this fall mushroom sandwich with wild mushrooms, cauliflower cheese, and all this other stuff and wow one of the best cold sandwiches I’ve ever had.
It’s not even on their menu anymore since it’s seasonal but I can confidently say that this place makes amazing vegetarian sandwiches.
Louie’s Alive and Kicking Lobsters
Great clam chowder. They do seafood chowder on the weekends. Also known for their lobster sandwiches (sandwich, not roll) but I haven’t had it yet.