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MIT Campus
Photograph: Shutterstock MIT Campus

Kendall Square neighborhood guide

Discover the charms of Kendall Square with Time Out's comprehensive neighborhood guide

By Eric Grossman and Time Out Boston Staff

Some incredibly bright folks attend that other top Cambridge college, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Kendall Square. The architecture of its various buildings is wildly diverse, ranging from the neoclassical walls of Building Ten to some striking modern structures by the likes of I.M. Pei and Frank Gehry. In the past decade, the area has boomed with rapid growth and development. Drinking and dining options are stronger than ever; it comes as a shock to some locals that Kendall Square is now one of the hottest neighborhoods in the Boston area. Once you’ve had your fill of Kendall Square, check out our guides to the best restaurants in Bostonbest live music in Boston, and best museums in Boston. 

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Boston

Deli masters we love so much we invited them into Time Out Market Boston

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Sophie P.

Mamaleh’s Delicatessen

Restaurants Delis Kendall Sq

This modern Jewish Delicatessen—from the same team behind Kendall Square neighbors Café du Pays and State Park—has been satisfying locals’ cravings for high-quality deli faves since 2016. You might find office workers sitting at a counter stool for a quick bite, or local families filling booths and enjoying relaxed get-togethers. All are drawn to homemade, hand-sliced pastrami and corned beef, plus matzah ball soup and appetizing plates of kippered salmon and smoked whitefish. Drink options run the gamut from housemade celery soda and hard-to-find beers to a global assortment of fine wines, including several Israeli labels. The robust bar program — which offers the city’s largest selection of slivovitz (plum brandy) — also impresses. If you find yourself over in the Fenway, head over to Time Out Market Boston, where the Mamaleh’s outpost serves a pared-down selection of house favorites.

Where to go in Kendall Square

Cambridge Brewing Company, Bars, Cambridge, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Cambridge Brewing Company

1. Cambridge Brewing Company

Bars Breweries Kendall Sq

Boston is a pretty serious beer town—and Cambridge has never been one to be outdone. Thus, the Cambridge Brewing Company approaches the task of drawing beer geeks to its bar with panache, brewing classic styles such as the Regatta Golden, as well as bolder cask-conditioned brews and seasonals like the Arquebus Barleywine. Grab a seat on the nifty patio and enjoy a sampling session. The kitchen churns out fresh, approachable pub grub.

Lord Hobo, Bars, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Lord Hobo

2. Lord Hobo

Bars Beer bars Inman Sq

Leaving behind the diner/bar legacy of its predecessor, the B-Side Lounge, Lord Hobo has embraced the booze-snob trend, bringing Cambridge locals quality after-work cocktails and craft pints. Lord Hobo opened a brewery in Woburn, making this a great spot for fresh beers and pricey, hard-to-find bottles. The clientele that crowds the dim space is an interesting mix of young professionals, indie kids, and MIT students.

Kendall Square Theatre
Photograph: © Michael Ascanio Peguero

3. Kendall Square Cinema

Movies Kendall Sq

This MIT-area staple is a good place to see first-run independent films, but purists wouldn’t call it an independent flickhouse. The indies run alongside mainstream hits; the whole place is owned by Landmark Theatres, who wrangle dozens of cinemas nationwide. 

The Garment District
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/The Garment District

4. The Garment District

Shopping Thrift stores Kendall Sq

A source of second-hand and vintage threads for cash-strapped students and rockers since the 1980s, the Garment District shares its crumbling warehouse premises with a costume shop—the perfect combination if you're off to a fancy-dress party. On the ground floor is the fabled By the Pound—literally a pile of clothes, shoes, belts, bags and assorted junk dumped in a pile on the floor. Everything is $2 a pound. (On Fridays, it's $1 a pound.) Head upstairs for a vast array of second-hand jeans, branded clothing and vintage attire, some of it unworn—we loved the immaculate 1950s PJs.

Kendall Square Rooftop Garden
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Rob Sheppard

5. Kendall Square Rooftop Garden

Things to do Kendall Sq

Atop a multi-story parking garage in Cambridge’s Kendall Square sits a clandestine garden made up of tulips, trees and rose bushes. Though not as undiscovered as it was a few years back—there’s actual signage now, with urban gardens and occasional cooking demos and fitness classes—the garden remains the perfect spot for a restorative midday lunch for one.

Butter crack cake
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Steven G.

6. The Smoke Shop

Restaurants Barbecue Kendall Sq

Chef Andy Husbands—of the now-closed Tremont 647, in the South End—has invested more than two decades of barbecue practice and planning, in the process becoming a world champion pitmaster and author. His menu showcases slow-cooked meats and savory sides such as sweet-spicy coleslaw and cornbread with honey sea salt butter. The bar carries more than 200 whiskies, and the craft beer list offers something for everyone.

A4 Pizza
Photograph: Courtesy Area Four

7. Area Four

Restaurants Pizza Kendall Sq

This Kendall Square brick oven pizza purveyor is known across town for its signature flatbreads, made with a focus on back-to-basics recipes using simple, high quality ingredients and 30-hour-fermented dough. The weekend brunch menu is a hearty affair with pastries from the A4 cafe like orange matcha scones and blueberry cornbread making a welcome appearance.

Photograph: Michael Ascanio Peguero

8. Abigail's Restaurant

Restaurants American Kendall Sq

While many of the area’s bars fill up on weekend nights, there’s seemingly always a spot for you at Abigail’s long bar. The underrated cocktail spot has something for everyone—ranging from “Lite N’ Easy” offerings like the Pimm’s Cup to the party-starting (or, depending on your tolerance, night-ending) Hadron Collider—a half-pint of stout, a shot of Jameson and a glass of champagne. Diners enjoy a varied menu of creative comfort fare. The bartenders are friendly and knowledgeable, and there’s even patio seating in the warmer months.

State Park
Photograph: © Michael Ascanio Peguero

9. State Park

Bars Cocktail bars Kendall Sq

The tiny, beloved bar area at the now-closed Hungry Mother eventually led to the opening of State Park. You can split a pitcher of Tom Collins with friends at the indoor shuffleboard table or jukebox. Or grab a seat at the bar and focus on what’s really important—drinking. Knowledgeable bartenders will make anything you ask for, and the beer and wine lists are solid.

The Automatic
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jonathan C.

10. The Automatic

Restaurants Eclectic Kendall Sq

With connections to two dearly-departed nearby hangouts - the East Coast Grill and B-Side Lounge - The Automatic sports strong bloodlines. The eclectic menu includes everything from Sichuan-style beef jerky and buffalo-fried sweet plantains to a “frito pie from hell.” The Flat Patty burger—topped with American cheese and a “super secret sauce”—is a popular option for pairing with one of the shot-and-a-can drink specials.

Photograph: Courtesy Meadhall

11. Meadhall

Bars Beer bars Kendall Sq

A massive, U-shaped bar at the center of Meadhall is lined with nearly 100 taps. Mead is on the menu, of course, but the list of craft beers on draft is the main draw. The changing list, written on a chalkboard, includes many styles—IPAs, Belgian whites, lambics, dunkels, Flemish reds, and much more. Equally impressive is the glassware collection to match each style. Occasional tap takeovers spotlight beloved craft breweries like Founders, and other events feature rare beers or “showdowns” between breweries. The huge space also includes table seating where you can try beer-friendly fare like poutine, pretzels, and pizza.


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