Saturday, March 13, 2010

An Evening in Inman Square, Cambridge, MA

It all started a few days ago when I saw a tweet for coupons to eat at Midwest Grill in Cambridge.  I had eaten at Midwest Grill before and loved it, but it had been maybe a year or so since my last visit.  This was a good reminder that I was overdue for another visit.  Having a rare Friday off from work I traipsed over to Cambridge and made an evening out of dinner with several stop in Cambridge's culinary epicenter, Inman Square.

My first stop was at the East Coast Grill.  I had arrived early, as usual, and Dan was running late, as usual, so I stopped off there to see my friend, Mariposa, who works in the kitchen.  The place was busy, but I only had to wait a minute or two for a seat at the bar.  I had a drink at the bar and Mari sent over a couple of ribs for me to gnaw on, which I did with great relish.  They were deliciously flavorful and tender.  I also couldn't resist ordering some Jonah Crab claws.  I've loved crab claws since I was a kid and my dad used to always joke that there were an awful lots of crabs running around on the ocean floor without any claws.  I enjoyed eating them with the citrus mignonette they were served with.  It was a perfect start to my night of eating!

Next on the tour was Midwest Grill, a churasscaria rodizio, open since 1993.  As I overheard the table next to me say, "It's like meat dimsum."  This place serves Brazilian Barbecue, which translates to all the meat you can eat for a set price.  The servers walk around with skewers of rotisserie roasted beef, lamb, chicken, sausage, chicken hearts, and even dinner rolls - why not roast the bread too while you're at it?  They give you a card that is green on side for "keep bringing it" and red on the other for "I'm full".  You just flip the card over when you are ready to admit defeat.  We used our card strategically, and flipped it over to create three rounds, so that we could rest between bouts of meat.

There is also a buffet with plenty of delicious side dishes to chose from that comes with your meal.  There are fresh fixin's for a salad, two different kinds of rice, a traditional yucca-based stuffing, chicken wings (more meat), a couple of different stewed chicken dishes, potato salad, and cole slaw to name a few.  We hit the buffet between each round of meat to eat some vegetables.  Everything was very good, honestly and simply prepared.

The barbecue is spectacular here.  The meat is all very juicy, tender, and flavorful.  Just about everything is kissed with garlic - well, maybe more than just kissed.  We especially loved the beef and I thought the chicken wrapped in bacon was particularly good.  Dan is addicted to their rolls, which are skewered, brushed with garlic butter, and toasted over the fire.  They even managed to make chicken hearts taste pretty good - they are generally too rubbery a texture for me to eat, but at Midwest Grill, they are entirely palatable, even tasty.

Our server Kelly was a delight.  She brought us some delicious caiparinhas, a traditional drink made with a Brazilian variant of rum called cachaça.  They were full of lime flavor and were a refreshing treat against all of the rich flavors we were eating.  She was very good about offering to clear our plates so that we could get fresh ones for each round between eating breaks.  It was a busy night and we appreciated that she took extra care to make us feel welcomed and comfortable.  She even convinced us to have a little flan for dessert even though we felt that we were about to burst.  We were glad we did because it was delicious with a creamy, eggy taste topped with plenty of delicious bittersweet caramel sauce.

The last stop of the evening was Tupelo.  We walked a block up and caught them just before they were closing up for the night.  We sat at the bar and had intended on just getting a drink while our food from Midwest Grill settled, but then I learned that the chef was from Louisiana.  I asked the bartender where in Louisiana he was from since I'm from there too, and he responded by coming out of the kitchen to shake my hand and chat with me a bit.  Now that's Southern hospitality!

Turns out that Chef Layman's mom is from New Orleans and he grew up in Metarie.  I was really impressed with his beautiful menu and I was wishing that I had a second stomach to eat more food.  He invited us to try his gumbo and at first I refused because I was so full, but then reconsidered.  I can't resist gumbo.  We also had to try the red velvet cake.  It was too tempting and we couldn't help by succumb to our chocolate desires.

Chef sent out two heaping helpings of gumbo, which were delicious and spicy.  I loved the viscosity of his soup.  It was just the right thickness and it had quite a kick.  He told us that he seasons with a little Tabasco and jerk seasoning.  I hadn't thought to use jerk spice in gumbo, but it makes sense.  I may try it next time I fix a pot up for me and my friends.  The cake was delicious too: moist, chocolatey, and just the right amount of sweetness.  Dan loved it, especially the tangy cream cheese icing, and got a little weepy while he was eating it.  We will be back for dinner soon - the catfish is calling my name.

We won't be eating for a few days after all of the food we managed to put away in Inman Square last night.  I couldn't have anticipated all of the fabulous food that I would be having at East Coast Grill, Midwest Grill, and Tupelo last night.  I will be returning to all three in the near future for more, and I'm kicking myself for not making it to that fabulous neighborhood more often.  What a fantastic impromptu culinary tour!


  1. Sounds like a fantastic evening! I am definitely falling in love with Inman Square for its dining options. The chicken hearts at Inman Square are some of my favorites but I find some of their meat to be just a bit too salty for me.

  2. We made our first foray into Inman Square this weekend and definitely want to go back for more. We had a great dinner at the East Coast Grill, and hope to make it back for Hell Night in April.

  3. I hear that hell night is quite a scene. the spicy pasta is supposed to be torture. good luck and thanks for reading!