Three mile desert of Chinese food on Mass Ave around Harvard

I hadn't really thought much about local Chinese food with an actual Chinatown so close to home, but when Jason asked me to suggest a good Chinese restaurant in Central or Harvard, I realized that I'm living on a boulevard of pretty unimpressive Chinese restaurants stretching for miles!

Let's start at Harvard and head North first.

Yenching, 1326 Mass Ave.  There are plenty of positive reviews, but I am not impressed.

Changsho, 1712 Mass Ave.  Grand and imperial looking, but not that exciting.  Plus, they slipped slices of ham into their vegetarian eggplant. And it looks like part of a chain now.

Wok n Roll, 1908 Mass Ave. Right in Porter, but never seems to make the list.  Maybe it's the name.

Qing Dao Garden, 2383 Mass Ave.  We're most of the way to the Arlington line and finally, an agreeably low-key joint with fresh and interesting dishes.

Back to Harvard now, heading South...

Hong Kong, 1238 Mass Ave.  OK, I get it, it's a comedy club and they have really big scorpion bowls.  That in itself should disqualify it.  Do not eat here unless already drunk.

New Asia, 1105 Mass Ave.  Meh. But they do deliver!

(note the 600+ house numbers of nothing right through Central square)

Mary Chung, 460 Mass Ave.  Almost Halfway to MIT, we find the other border of the desert.  Mary Chung is an institution for good reason.  I think they have one of the highest food to decor rating ratios (over 3:1) in all of Zagat.  Don't miss the suan la chow show. (And when a dish has its own wikipedia page that mentions a restaurant, that should speak volumes)

It's 3.2 miles along Mass Ave - give or take - between Mary Chung and Qing Dao Garden, and as far as I'm concerned, there's not much to eat Chinese-wise along that strip, which encompasses three of the major squares of Cambridge.  Sort of disgraceful, don't you think?

Just for yuks, let's venture past Mary Chung for a bonus round heading towards MIT and swerving on to Main Street a bit.

All Asia, 332 Mass Ave. Known for music not so much for food.

Pu Pu Hot Pot, 907 Main Street. Divey, but I like this place in spite of or maybe because of the name.

Royal East, 792 Main Street.  Fancier than Changsho and with more culinary chops to back it up if you ask me.

I'm sure plenty of differing opinions will surface, but I do want to recognize a place that I've omitted because it's a bit off the beaten track of Mass Ave, but well worth the trip if you're stuck in the 3.2 mile Chinese Rut: Zoe's, at 289 Beacon Street, next to Petsi Pies.  I'm not even 100% sure they're still in operation, but especially given the above, I'm going to make a point to seek them out again soon.

16 Responses

  1. Zoe's moved across the street. But I'm on the side of the crevasse that says it's awful.
  2. Bishop22
    Agreed all around. I've been to both Zoe's and Qing Dao Garden with Ben Read, and while it helped to have a chinese speaker order off the secret menu, I get the feeling the food would have been good even without. QDG was the better of the two, IMHO. My experiences at Yenching parallel yours. The grad students loved it, but I saw the dishes they were ordering and really wondered if we were eating at the same joint. Certainly below Mary Chung's or PPHP. Never made it to Royal East, even though it was right near Cherry Street, so I saw it all the time.
  3. sco
    Take the 73 from Harvard Square to Shangri La just across the Belmont Line. It's a mere 2 miles away from Harvard Square.
  4. Here via the Hub, and I can report that Zoe's was still in business as of a couple of months ago.They moved across the street into the old Happy Garden digs, and there's a Vietnamese/Thai place in Zoe's old space called Pho 'n Rice. Both are excellent.
  5. Kaz
    By limiting to Mass Ave/Main St, you miss Mulan of Kendall Square at 228 Broadway. It is Taiwanese and pretty good (I like the lamb in garlic and hot pepper sauce...VERY spicy). It's only 1.6 miles down Broadway from Out of Town News.
  6. Great point, Kaz - with the demise of Anise, Mu Lan is the undisputed queen of Kendall Square Chinese, but it didn't fit my headline meme. I blogged about Mu Lan not that long ago:
  7. Shari
    I suggest you give Changsho another shot--their "Dim Sum" brunch, which is a buffet including some Dim Sum-style items, is really wonderful (if a bit pricey, at $20 a person).
  8. Todd
    I find Mary Chung to be really disgusting. Especially their dim sum. Changsho is our favorite for "suburban" Chinese.
  9. Kmart
    There's the nonprofit Greater Boston Buddhist Cultural Center on Mass Ave They have bookstore, vegetarian restaurant and tea house, open until around 6pm most days. Food is very good! 950 Massachusetts Ave (between Dana and Hancock), 1/2 way between Harvard and Central Squares (Red Line) or bus routes like #1
  10. Rob
    I always thought that Changsho was really good.
  11. Thanks Kmart, I was wondering when somebody would bring up GBBCC. I don't really consider it a restaurant but I have heard that they serve some excellent vegetarian food. This link seems a bit out of date but I'm pretty sure they do a monthly dinner thing.
  12. oldhousegeek
    For authentic and extraordinary, try the Chilli Garden in Medford Square. Part of the menu offers the tired old cliches; General Whosits Chicken, etc. But under Sichuan Specialities, you get the real deal. Fabulous! But when they say a dish is spicy, believe t!
  13. nb
    what about wisteria down cambridge street, not bad.....
  14. Bishop22
    I ate at GBBCC once: I found it was a better idea than it was an actuality. It was OK, but nothing memorable.
  15. Admit it. None of these compare to a piping hot plate of Mapo Tofu with the unwashed masses and the Queen of England in Davis Sq.
  16. It's true, Frank. It's all pants compared to that. When are we going back to Peach Farm?
  17. [...] Cambridge’s newish “Pan-Asian Izayaka” is a welcome freshening of the Mass Ave Asian food scene. As the Izayaka label suggests, Moksa takes the drinks seriously – they have cocktails for [...]
  18. […] it seems not entirely odd that I’m eating leftover Chinese food (Suanla Choashou from Mary Chung) with my apples and honey. A little sweet and sour with the sweet, I […]

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