The Best Food in Porter Square, Cambridge

By Emily Millian
Dear Annie Boston
Photography by Brian Samuels

Compared to Harvard and Davis squares, Porter is an often overlooked stop on the Red Line. Don’t let the station's 199 stairs scare you: this eclectic Cambridge neighborhood boasts culinary charms (and parking spots) aplenty. From of hidden gems and under-the-radar delights to big names in bagels, pasta, and ramen, here's where to dine out around Porter Square.

BAGELSAURUS Porter Square Cambridge

If you’re not a Porter Square local, you might aspire to become one after a visit to Bagelsaurus. The tiny bakery and sandwich shop on Massachusetts Ave. serves up airy, crackly-skinned bagels born from a decades-old sourdough starter. Open early until sellout just Thursday through Sunday with limited online ordering available, a wait in line is rewarded with a baker’s dozen choices baked that day, such as Sea Salt, Cinnamon Raisin, or Black Olive bagels. You can also opt for hearty breakfast sandwiches like the almond butter-banana-honey-bacon T-Rex, or our fave, the zesty Eggspañola (add avocado).

Dear Annie

Smoked Spanish Mackerel at Dear Annie Wine Bar

Choose your own adventure at Dear Annie. The brilliant brains behind this wine bar—chef Andrew Brady and Sara Markey of Field & Vine, and Lauren Friel of Rebel Rebel—are rethinking the idea of “pub culture,” with a focus on natural wine in a communal atmosphere. Wine lovers and newbies alike should feel comfortable to engage staff for suggestions on food and wines by the glass and bottle. Small plates such as local cheese boards and house-preserved Not Tinned Fish are the perfect pairing. Lifelong student at heart? Get tickets to Monday Wine School and stick around for after-school snacks at Pizza Night. This cool spot is intimate, unadulterated, and next-door neighborly.

Giulia | Best Restaurants in Porter Square Cambridge

Giulia is as close to Harvard Square as it is to Porter, but it’s within walking distance—and worth it for homemade pasta dishes—like a decadent Pappardelle with Wild Boar—and other Italian food favorites. Rustic meats like Chicken Liver Crostini and and fresh Lamb Sausage are comforting and craveable, the Affogato comes with house-made gelato, and classic cocktails like a Negroni are riffed on just right at this Massachusetts Ave. restaurant. Reservations can fill up a month in advance at this longtime Cambridge destination. (Consider checking out new sister spot, Moeca?) If you’ll be dining in a big group, inquire about the 12-seat Pasta Table, where cooks work by day and a Chef’s Tasting Menu is served by night.

Sapporo Ramen

Interior of Sapporo Ramen Boston

The Japanese food court inside the Porter Exchange building at Lesley University is one of Porter Square’s best-kept secrets. Make your way there and you’ll undoubtedly find folks queuing up along a wall near the entrance: That’s the line for Sapporo Ramen. After putting in your time in line, you’ll be rewarded with huge ramen bowls that deliver thick, al dente noodles in a porky, creamy broth. It somehow feels lighter than most other bowls—including the neighborhood’s more famous noodle house, Yume Wo Katare (more on that in a bit).

Honeycomb Creamery

No need to leave the city to find that small-town ice cream shop: Just visit Honeycomb Creamery on Massachusetts Ave. The goods here are made with high-butterfat Jersey cow’s milk from Hadley, Mass., pasteurized in-house in Cambridge. The list of frozen treats includes scoops such as Honey Lavender and Salted Caramel Crackle, plus frozen yogurt and soft serve, and seasonal flavors like Basil Goat Cheese and Ginger Rhubarb Crisp. Even if you are usually a cup person, you’ll want to check out the homemade cones in flavors like vanilla, chocolate, and matcha. Pay a visit on Tuesdays to wax nostalgic for a homemade ice cream taco, or take a pint or two home anytime. 

Urban Hearth

Urban Hearth | Best Restaurants in Porter Square Cambridge

Urban Hearth takes on farm-to-table dining starting with the motto, “slow food for fast times.” Diners are right at home at this cozy, neighborhood gem with a lively, open kitchen. Chef Erin Miller approaches each locally sourced and globally inspired dish with casual precision and a light touch. Whether you make a reservation for the nightly five-course Chef’s Tasting Menu, or opt for a la carte dishes like Provencal Lamb Tartare with Morels, Scallop Crudo in Aguachile Verde, or Fiddlehead and Wild Mushroom Cavatelli, you can’t go wrong at Urban Hearth.

Vanilla bean loaf from Hi-Rise Bread Company
Brian Samuels

Family-owned Hi-Rise Bread Company, founded by baker (and a former Boston magazine restaurant critic) Rene Becker, has excellent pastries, lunch options, and a full coffee bar. Tarts are made with local fruits and many treats employ extra-rich European butter, and plenty of the savory stuff is vegetarian-friendly. More than a dozen varieties of bread are baked in-house each day, and you can get your gluten fix by taking a loaf home or ordering a colorfully named sandwich, like Fern’s Problem Solver, (roasted turkey on grilled sourdough with Monterey Jack, avocado, and Russian dressing). Rustic wooden seating and good natural light make this bakery-café a pleasant place to while away an afternoon within walking distance of Porter Square.

Yume Wo Katare

The eternal line outside Yume Wo Katare is reminiscent of its noodle house-neighbor, Sapporo, but otherwise this is a very different ramen experience from Sapporo. The piping-hot bowl is absolutely loaded with fat noodles and a porky, 24-hour broth that’s showered in garlic. What really makes this place truly unique? If you order a “free dream,” you’ll be asked to stand up after eating (hopefully you’ve emptied the rich and robust bowl, but we totally get it if you can’t!) and share your dream with the crowd. It’s a strange and essential dining experience in Porter Square—and a very delicious soup.

Umami Omakase

Umami Omakase sushi | Where to Experience the Best Omakase in Boston
Credit: Brian Samuels Photography

Omakase translates to “I’ll leave it up to you,” and we’re happy to say the word at Umami Omakase. Chef Gary Lei, an Uni alum, takes the lead to bring diners on an 18-course culinary journey from assorted sashimi and sushi to decadent Japanese cuisine like Japanese A5 wagyu, foie gras, and truffle chawanmushi (a savory steamed egg custard). Each dish is presented beautifully as it shows off fresh and flavorful ingredients. In addition to the tasting menu, there are sake tasting flights with three, four, or five different sips—a treat for both sake lovers and novices alike. Not in the mood to go out? No problem. Umami Omakase takes care of the at-home crowd offering both omakase dinners as well as a la carte options for pre-ordered takeout.

Chalawan Asian Eatery

Chalawan Asian Eatery

Chalawan Asian Eatery serves an authentic Southeast Asian menu with wide-ranging seafood, meat, and vegetarian options. It takes guests all over the map, with notes on dishes’ origins ranging from the island of Borneo, to Royal Thai cuisine, to Hainan, China, and Penang, Malaysia. Starters like Aunty Wang Steam Snapper Dumpling and Lang Kawi Crispy Calamari are perfect for sharing, along with entrees such as Padang Style Fish Curry and Sumatra Wagyu Beef Cheek Rendang. The allergen-friendly restaurant offers a full vegetarian menu and notes gluten-free dishes, as well.

Eric Twardzik contributed reporting.

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