John Havard Brew House: Brewhouse
Winner of awards galore, the brew house is huge and as the name states, they brew their own beers, which you can smell as you walk the streets. They make a great dark Irish stout much like Guinness. In fact it is so good I had several. They have some very funky stained glass here too.
Dress Code: casual
Enormous Room - CLOSED: Nightlife
There is no sign, just a door with a red elephant on it right next to Central Kitchen. Upstairs you'll find a corridor of a room that is dark, rich, and alluring. Several platforms line the walls where you can kick off your shoes and lounge with friends amidst the moroccan decor. They have a pretty interesting drink selection most of which will cost you about $9. They also offer some light dishes, the hummus plate is delicious. The quality of the waitstaff is wildly varied and they seemed to be understaffed the last couple of times I stopped in. Still it's a pretty laid-back spot to get the evening started.
Everytime I have gone I have enjoyed it up to a certain point....11pm. This is the time to make a decision. Depending on the type of person you are, you can either leave while the vibe is still mellow or stay to get your dance on when the freak switch gets flipped and the volume goes up. There will be a DJ if you go from Wed - Sat, or you may catch the occasional live show. A lot of people will probably be "shaking it" in your face if you happen to be lounging.
Also be prepared for a line or even a small cover charge if you get there late or go on a friday or saturday night.
ATTENTION: Enormous Room has been replaced by the even more excellent Brick & Mortar. Please see new review.
Dress Code: There's really no dress code but you'll find yourself amongst 20 - 30 something hipsters, young professionals, and students. To blend, your best bet is to just dress up jeans.
Middlesex Lounge: Nightlife
People come here mostly for the music. They feature different DJs every night of the week and for the most part they are excellent. It can actually be quite the event and can have a really artsy vibe. They also occasionally host art shows, comedy shows, full bands, and speakers.
When you walk in you’ll find a square room with minimal décor and high exposed ceilings. The tables and benches are low and on wheels so you can “create your own space.” Mostly it serves as an easy way for people to open up a dance floor. Oh and they WILL dance. The clientele is a strange mix of hipsters, super-nerds, college kids, and average folk. You can easily wear a tank top and high-heels or a t-shirt and ripped jeans and fit in all the same.
On Fridays and Saturdays there is a $5 cover after 9 pm and a ridiculous line. I wouldn't bother waiting in line, it’s not worth it. Get a drink next door instead.
Pros: music, food, a cool space to lounge if you get there at the right time. Drinks are reasonably priced for Cambridge ($6 for a vodka & soda). I’d go on a Thursday.
Cons: lines, few beers on tap, the vibe of the night depends on the crowd.
Man Ray: A taste of the underground
Sadly, Man Ray closed its doors over a year ago. While there is talk about re-opening at a new location in the future, as of yet, there are no specific details. We can hope.....
Man Ray proclaims itself as the home of New England's underground scene, which probably says a lot, these days, about how much of the underground is fairly overground. What it is, really, is a great nightclub, friendly to all, with a very mixed, tolerant atmosphere. If you like to dance, this is one of the places to come, but if you have hang-ups about shaking your booty with members of the Boston area's gay and lesbian community, among other groups, then take yourself somewhere more sedate.
Saturday night features regular appearances from the resident drag queen, Rainbow Frite, who likes to describe herself as the 'long lost love child of Divine and Cyndi Lauper'. It doesn't matter who you are, you're liable to get a tongue lashing from this hostess.
The music is loud, and a kind of new-old mishmash, very danceable, and you're encouraged to get up on the mini-stages and make a spectacle of yourself.
Dress Code: They do have a dress code on certain nights, especially Wednesday (Gothic/industrial) and Fridays (fetish) but Wednesday and Saturday are more of a free for all, even if they welcome creativity on Saturdays. Thursday is definitely college-kid night.
Kendall Square Cinemas: Arthouse movies in multiplex style
The Kendall Square Cinemas is what you might call an arthouse multiplex, with a half-dozen screens showcasing the latest independent and foreign releases. It’s part of the Landmark theatres company, and they have the resources to give you the good parts of the multiplex experience: good-sized screens, comfy seats and pretty decent concessions, along with a selection of movies that outdoes the real multiplexes pretty much any night of the week. Now and then they go a bit overboard on the obscure documentaries, but generally there’s plenty here that can entertain while keeping the brain ticking over.
If you in the afternoon, sometimes you’ll be the only one at a movie (which seems amazing, given the Boston area’s 250,000 college students, never mind others with flexible hours!).
Dress Code: None!
Tommy Doyle's: Irish Pub and local hangout
This Irish Pub (with REAL LIVE Irish men for bartenders), serves up decent food, but that's not why you should come here. It's a cool place because the service is good and the atmosphere feels very neighborhoody (I think I made up a new word) and fun with people who know each other running into more people who know each other. Before long, you'll be knowing everyone too.
The Burren: Good spot for a pre-show drink
The Burren is your basic Irish bar. It's similar to one of the many, many other Irish bars we have in the greater Boston vicinity. There's a backroom where live bands perform and it has a run of the mill bar food menu.
Dress Code: Whatever makes you happy!
- Beer Tasting
- Study Abroad
Toad: Great Bar/Live Music
I will always love Toad.
I worked close to Toad for a while, and was an after-work regular when the graffiti on the bathroom walls was math formulas thanks to the many MIT students and professors who lived nearby. The crowd was different the last time I went, younger, and less math-y, but the music was every bit as good, and the bartenders were as wonderful as ever. Want proof? I was five years away, and Jeff remembered my name and my drink.
You say, the photo here shows “Christopher’s,’ what gives? Toad is the little window-front on the left, and it is exactly as big as it looks. Capacity is about 60, making this one of the most intimate performance places in town. I’ve helped float drum gear overhead to the table-sized stage, and ducked under bass guitars to get to the aforementioned bathrooms. If a band has too many musicians, they sit at one of the six tables with you.
Toad is owned by the same people who own Christopher’s, which means if you ask the bartenders nicely you might be able to bring something over. They also own Cambridge Commons and the Lizard Lounge (down Mass Ave., closer to Harvard), so check the music schedules for both – if Toad is full, you might be able to see the same bands over there.
Please PLEASE note: it is not “The Toad.” It is Toad.
And it is glorious.
Dress Code: None
The Middle East: Dancing on the tables
The Middle East is a Cambridge legend - an alternative music club (let's be honest: if you're not hip to what's happening on the music scene, you won't have heard of 90% of the bands on the calendar) and restaurant that specialises in, well, fare from the Middle East. They first opened their kitchen doors way back in 1970, and the music followed in 1975.
Don't worry too much about who's playing: just tell yourself that it you're very cool, and it will all be okay!
The food, by the way, is fabulous: the dishes are mostly Lebanese, and there are many bean dishes. We love Maklouta, and the pumpkin kibby is excellent, too. It's all very fresh, and very funky.
Dress Code: Relaxed, pleased, relaxed, although some of the patrons of ZuZu, the classier restaurant in the Middle East 'complex' do the all-in-black Eurotrash thing.
Shay's: Shay's is my favorite pub in Cambridge...
Shay's is my favorite pub in Cambridge. Shay's is small English style pub that is slightly 'sunken' into a small upward sloping sidewalk near Harvard Square. The outdoor patio, which sits between the sidewalk and the building, is almost as big as the inside area and is great for watching the world go by.
Drinking pints while sitting on the 'sunken' outdoor patio at Shay's makes me feel like I am back in college at Ball State skipping classes to drink with friends at Muglys. Whether it's a rainy spring day, a warm summer afternoon or cool fall evening; it just feels comfortable there so drop by for a pint (or two)...
- Beer Tasting
People's Republik: At the end of the line...
This is the place that every Cambridge pub crawl seems to end up - usually at the end of the night. It's a big rectangle, always apparently packed with people trying to get past each other on the way to the bathrooms/dartboards/bars/exit/the cute guy on the other side of the bar, but somehow it works. We heard that they've made the giant bar a little smaller, and all we can say is, about time, because it took up a huge amount of the limited space for just two bar staff. The decor is eclectic, and the name pays tribute to Cambridge's left-wing rep, but mostly People's is just about the drinks, cheap and frequent.
And, did we mention that this is one of the few Cambridge bars that serves until 2am on weekends?
Bukowski Tavern: Not just for barflies
Named for the legendary writer/barfly Charles Bukowski, this is the second outpost of Bukowski Tavern (the first is in a parking garage near the Hynes Convention Center in Boston).
It's a perfect fit for the funky Inman Square neighborhood, with decent bar food (some of the menu items are well above the usual bar fare), and an eclectic selection of beers: the beer list isn't the longest in the area, but there's always something new on tap, sometimes out in left field.
The only downside is that they really crank up the music sometimes: fine for later in the evening, but it can get in the way if you're dropping in for a meal (no "quiet drinks" here!).
Lizard Lounge: Great music, easy style
This is the basement lounge of a good local retaurant (Cambridge Commons). The bands play in the middle of the space, so it's intimate, and some of the best bands and musicians in Boston are regulars. A well-stocked bar and a variety of beers on tap, and you can order food from upstairs, from sweet potato fries to a full meal.
The Field: One of our favorite Irish pubs!
This is one of those rare Irish pubs abroad that really captures something of the authentic feel of an old Irish bar: it's small and nothing fancy, but it has a consistently great local crowd, which makes the place feel like a kind of home away from home. They pull a great pint of Guinness, and rumour has it that Irish luminaries like Seamus Heaney drop in for a drink when they're teaching at nearby Harvard. They serve (average) food during lunch and dinner and Guinness aplenty as the hour grows later.
In the rarely crowded back room, there is a even a pool table and dart board!
Dress Code: None: very casual.
Hong Kong: Scorpion Bowls in Harvard Square
What can we say about this Harvard Square legend? It's been around since the 1950s in one guise or another, and these days it's a restaurant, lounge and nightclub on successive floors, a true all-in-one night-on-the-town solution that gets packed after midnight with Harvard kids and everyone who feels the night is still young. The place is famed for its Scorpion Bowl drinks: no-one knows how much alcohol they actually contain, but everyone insists you should not drink alone, and each comes festooned with very long straws, most of which end up underfoot when the dancing gets serious. As long as it's not completely overcrowded, it's hard not to have a good time here.
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