The winning formula at Trina’s Starlite Lounge blends a retro dive bar with gonzo comfort food. This Inman Square neighborhood spot, just over the Somerville line, is worth seeking out any night of the week, but to truly experience Trina’s, take a Monday off for brunch. That’s when you’ll find the rowdiest crowd reveling in plucked-from-childhood comfort food like Pizza Bagels and House-made Pop Tarts, alongside a nationally renowned plate of Fried Chicken & Buttermilk Waffles. At all hours, the Trina’s bar is one of the best for craft cocktails like Fallen Angel, with tequila, jalapeño syrup, mango, lime, and a barbecue-dusted rim; and Matt’s Quickie, a Nesquik-inspired brunch drink.
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Inman Square may be small, but it’s full of big flavors. This charming neighborhood toes the Cambridge and Somerville line, and its dining scene takes us all over the globe and into one-of-a-kind concepts. From a cell phone-free dessert bar to a hole-in-the-wall Irish pub and some of the best Mediterranean food around Boston, here’s where to go for the best food in Inman Square.
Before Ana Sortun was a James Beard award-winner and co-founder of Sofra and Sarma, she debuted Oleana. The acclaimed chef’s original restaurant in Cambridge—which is technically situated off the edge of narrow Inman Square, but it’s so good we’ll include it in any relevant guide—feels as fresh as ever. Oleana keeps us coming back for its spice-packed takes on Middle Eastern meze, like the crispy, tender Spinach Falafel with beet tzatziki; and the sticky-sour-sweet-smoky Sultan’s Delight short ribs. Two other reasons we constantly want to return? One of the city’s best patios, and the surprising triumph that is the Baked Alaska dessert.
Housed in the oldest wooden mercantile building in Cambridge, The Druid is a must-visit in a city filled with Irish pubs. It has the right look and feel, thanks to eclectic art from the Isle and lived-in booths. It also serves up the ultimate pub fare, from a proper pint of Guinness to hearty comfort food like roast lamb Shepherd’s Pie and Oxtail Soup, a cold-weather special from September through March that shouldn’t be skipped. The Druid Fish and Chips is like opening a present on Christmas morning as it’s delicately wrapped in a food-friendly newspaper. Pro tip: order a side of the Signature Curry Sauce to dip your chips. The Druid is reliable, too, offering Sunday brunch and food nightly until 10 p.m., with pints flowing until last call. Oh, and did we mention the live Irish music three times a week? Sláinte!
Christina’s Homemade Ice Cream may lack the sexy design and slick branding of the new-wave ice cream shops springing up across Camberville (it currently doesn’t even have a website), but this Inman Square institution has been experimenting with flavor since 1983. Around 50 ice creams are on the menu each day, with evergreen delights like Green Tea, Burnt Sugar, and an actually-tastes-like-the-real-thing Banana alongside frequently changing flavors. Christina’s also maintains a 33-flavor-strong list of seasonally rotating sorbets to satiate any dairy-free sweet tooth, too.
One of the first chef-driven restaurants to open in the neighborhood, Will Gilson‘s Puritan & Company finds inspiration in rustic New England traditions while borrowing liberally from world cuisine. That explains how Berkshire Pork Belly and harissa-honey Roasted Carrots share space on the menu with next-level Waygu Tri-Tip Carpaccio and Swordfish Pastrami Toast. This isn’t some precious, white tablecloth place, however. It’s casual and lively, with a great wine selection, whimsical desserts, and a street-side patio. Since making his name in Inman Square, Gilson has expanded with three place-making restaurants in a new development nearby called Cambridge Crossing.
In Arabic slang, “Moona” translates to “storing” or “pantry”—and that’s what Cambridge restaurant Moona is all about: Using traditional, Eastern Mediterranean spices and preserves to enhance bold, seasonal meze dishes (Mezza) like Pomegranate Fattoush, Feta Fritters with orange blossom honey, and the colorfully composed Dips Plate. For larger portions, Moona dishes up classics such as Chicken Tagine and a Grilled Whole Fish of the day with Turkish seafood seasoning. The focus on pantry ingredients extends to the cocktail program, which incorporates the likes of cardamom, sumac, and rose petal with spirits from around the world. Try the Korkom&Carrot, made with Lunazul Tequila, carrot, orange, saffron, and smoked paprika. The 30-seat restaurant has a small bar and a lively scene, but Moona is also one of the best outdoor dining options in Inman with a secluded patio spilling with florals.
This cozy yet modern Japanese tavern is a neighborhood destination for chef’s-choice sushi and top-shelf sake. Chef-owner Chris Chung takes monthly reservations at Momi Nonmi for nigiri omakase dinners ranging from 14 to 28 pieces, featuring the freshest seafood he can source from Japan and the U.S., such as premium fish, uni and Hokkaido scallops. While dining in is a chef-guided experience, you can enjoy a la carte offerings at home with just a little planning ahead. With at least 24 hours’ notice, you can preorder takeout sushi, sashimi, rice bowls, and izakaya-style cooked dishes such as Shishamo (fried Japanese smelt), A5 Wagyu, and Miso Roasted Fish Collar of the Day. Chef Chung’s omakase is even available to-go. For the most up-to-date dishes and last-minute omakase availability, be sure to check Instagram.
Parlor Sports is “Not Your Average Sports Bar.” Sister restaurant to next-door Trina’s Starlite Lounge, it’s another home run for the ownership team including legendary local bartender Josh Childs and chef Suzi Maitland. The food menu at Parlor is filled with crowd favorites like Classic Parlor Nachos, piled high and perfectly layered with homemade tortilla chips, creamy cheese, and all the fixings; or a good ol’ Griddled Dog. Hunker down for the game with a pitcher of craft beer from the rotating selection, or slide in for a quick “Porch Beer,” which is Parlor parlance for crushable cans like Miller High Life. There are cocktails and shots, too. Besides the quality food and drink, what sets Parlor apart is that it’s truly for everyone, even non-sports fans (just see it on Bachelor night). Everyone here is on the team rooting for a good time.
Zuzu’s Petals is a treat, a place free of distraction. Named for an important symbol from the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life, it’s a wine and dessert bar with a no-cell phone policy, so it’s a great spot to kick off a carefree night out or swing by when you’re not quite ready to call it a night. Desserts are fresh, seasonal, and handmade by Alexandra Whisnant, the Chez Panisse-trained pastry chef behind Gâté Comme des Filles chocolatier at nearby Bow Market. All wines are sold by-the-glass. Not sure which to order? Co-owner Bobby MacLean—who runs the Picnic & Pantry shop in Bow Market—offers tasting notes and pairing suggestions for each glass pour and menu item.
Eric Twardzik contributed reporting.