After living in Central Square for exactly a year this week, I thought it would be an appropriate time to write a post in honor of my neighborhood. For those of you who don’t know much about Central Square, Cambridge, it is a fascinating place. Some remarkable things have occurred here over the years – not only is it the location where Alexander Graham Bell made his first telephone call, it is also where the sewing machine was invented.
To this day, Central Square hosts some of the largest candy productions in this country as home to Necco and Tootsie. Just in the past couple of years, a company called Harmonix produced a game which has become a phenomenon in this country – Guitar Hero. Perhaps this neighborhood’s location at the very midpoint between Harvard and MIT has had a creative impact.
Central Square more than anything else is home to an enormous amount of history and diversity, which only takes a brief walk around Mass. Ave and Prospect St. to recognize. Amidst the multitude of colorful murals and eclectic restaurants and shops, many of which have inhabited this neighborhood since the early seventies, one place in particular offers and iconic Central Square experience. Brookline Lunch, which has been owned and operated by the same family for several decades, offers the most delicious, inexpensive, no-frills breakfast experience in all of Cambridge.
When you first walk in to Brookline Lunch, which will most likely be after a bit of a wait, especially on the weekend, you will probably be confused. First of all, it is not in Brookline, but in Cambridge, and you’ll notice that most of its patrons are not, in fact, eating lunch. Furthermore, you will see mismatched crooked booths and an odd mix of local art. The old floors and walls have dust-filled cracks and every spare bit of space is occupied by a potted tree or plant. There is even an inaccessible corner of the restaurant that is full of extra tables and broken booth benches. You will inevitably ask yourself why so many people are waiting to get into this funky spot.
There is usually only one waitress, the matriarch of the family who runs the place. She alone serves all the tables, assisted by someone from the generation below her only to bus and clean tables. As you can imagine, the service is often slow, so you may want to come with your own coffee and read the menu quickly so you may order as soon as she gets to you. Somehow, this remarkable woman can serve an entire restaurant without writing anything down.
The menu is simple but extensive, offering both American and Middle-Eastern options for breakfast and lunch. I suggest ordering their breakfast, which is served with toast, home-fries, and a heaping serving of a medley of whatever fresh, seasonal vegetables they have on hand. Depending on the time of year, this might include Brussels sprouts and squash or tomatoes and spinach.
I typically order the Greek omelet, which comes stuffed with onions, peppers, and spinach, and is topped with a generous slice of fresh feta cheese. When I am in the mood for an extra treat, I substitute the toast with an English muffin, which comes buttered and grilled and served with their awesome homemade jam. I pour a generous serving of their homemade hot sauce over the omelet, potatoes, and vegetables, and I cannot imagine a more satisfying breakfast experience. This meal sets me back only six dollars and comes with such a plate full of food I can only finish it if I show up with a voracious appetite.
If omelets aren’t your thing, try one of their breakfast sandwiches. Priced similarly to most breakfast sandwiches you get a la carte, this one is served with a heaping pile of home fries and fresh vegetables, and comes on a bagel. Try some of their more unusual options, like the egg and chicken breakfast sandwich which comes with spinach and cheese. Or go with the more traditional, but still delicious sausage, egg, and cheese. Everyone at your table will want a bite.
Brookline Lunch is one of the few restaurants left in the area where you can get a fresh, home-cooked meal while hardly denting your wallet. It is located right off the Central Square T stop and is open seven days a week until 3 pm for breakfast and lunch. Though it may not possess the curb-appeal and service quality of other dining establishments, I am sure glad it is in my neighborhood.
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