ICWSM in Cambridge

After six weeks of travel that took me to Rio for WWW, Hamburg for Sunbelt, Copenhagen for NetSci, Chicago for hooding, Alaska for a wedding, Bloomington for PolNet, and St. Louis for another wedding, I am grateful that I don’t have to travel for ICWSM which will be at the Media Lab in Cambridge next week. For those of you unfamiliar with my adopted hometown, I wanted to share some of the sights, bites, and swigs you should check out while here.

Cambridge is the “city of squares” and any intersection you’ll find is a “square” named after one person or another. The bounding box for squares you should check out while here are Kendall Square (closest to MIT), Central Square (the primary commercial and transportation hub in Cambridge if the name didn’t already give it away), and Inman Square (the northeastern-most outpost). The Kendall Square area has changed dramatically since I graduated in 2006, so there is much to explore if you haven’t been back in a few years. Central Square has a “unique” flavor and inhabitants, but some excellents restaurants and bars. Inman Square isn’t terribly convenient to reach via public transportation, but has a number of great restaurants.

Sights

Definitely check out the MIT Museum as well as the Museum of Science if you have a chance — both are excellent. If you want to be a hardcore tourist, then doing a duck tour is essential as it’s conspicuous, interesting, and fun.

Cambridge also has an interesting mashup of club cultures — if you’re into indie music, then you’ll want to stop by the Middle East or All Asia or if a more traditional club music is your scene, then Middlesex Lounge is right across the street.

If you’re around Sunday afternoon, make sure to check out SOWA in Boston — arts, food trucks, and farmers market.

Bites

For breakfast and coffee, I would recommend: Flour (halfway to Central Square on Mass. Ave.), Voltage on 3rd St. (about 5 minutes east of the Kendall/MIT stop), and Cafe Luna (also in Central Square).

For vegetarians, the notoriously granola People’s Republic of Cambridge has a number of excellent options. The Clover foodtruck located in the street behind MIT Medical next to Kendall T-stop, Veggie Galaxy (diner-style food) and Life Alive (juices & salads) in Central Square. For dinner, Helmland (Afghan) and Similians (Thai) near Lechmere or Rangzen (Tibetan) or Baraka (African) near Central or Oleana near Inman are amazing.

For lunch options, you’ll probably end up at the food trucks next to the Kendall T-stop at least once: the lines for Momogoose (asian) and Clover (vegetarian) reveal the preferences of the crowd, but there’s typically also a Middle Eastern and Mexican food truck as well. Firebrand Saints has a really cool video deconstruction installation that’s worth checking out in addition to the sandwiches and roast chicken. There’s also a Chipotle, Au Bon Pain, & Cosi in Kendall if you absolutely must have culinary homogeneity.

For upscale or foodie options, Craigie on Main, Salts, and Cuchi Cuchi (near Central Square) are going to be your best options. Legal Seafood checks the upscale box, but locals generally do not go out of their way to go there for seafood especially when there’s places like Alive & Kicking Lobsters which is out of the way but worth the trip for the freshest lobster rolls. For outstanding high and low Mexican cuisine check out Ole and Olecito (respectively) in Inman, for Southern check out Hungry Mother or Tupelo in Inman. There are a few Asian and Indian places around as well, but none that I would particularly recommend.

Swigs

If you’re a beer snob, there are two notable places worth checking out. Meadhall is just around the corner from the Media Lab and has dozens of beers on tap and some very solid but expensive food. If you’re looking for a more intimate gathering, finding some unexpected beers, and exploring a bit more, then Lord Hobo near Inman Square is for you. Bukowski’s in Inman Square also has an excellent tap lineup and lots of space for groups. More traditional pubs like Atwood’s or The Druid can also be found in Inman. If you’re a cocktail snob, you’ll want to check out Brick & Mortar, Rendezvous, or Green Street, all of which are in Central Square.