Lockdown dining options from One Ramen, Formaggio, Abbey, more
A weekly notebook about dining options during the Covid-19 shutdown, with a focus on quality and ease of pickup and delivery. Remember, the people serving up the food are part of the front line; keep it in mind when tipping.
One Ramen & Sushi
One of my favorite ramen spots, primarily because I don’t eat a lot of red meat or pork – so the virtues of the pork tonkotsu broth at the nearby and wildly popular Yume Wo Katare are lost on me. Sapporo Ramen, another nearby favorite doing takeout, makes its broth from chicken stock; One Ramen’s stock is a creamy rich miso broth that you can (and should) spice up with the kimchi option. The soft-boiled eggs that adorn your bowl always come out perfect, with the yolk slightly gelled and succulent. A good choice is a noodle upgrade to spinach ramen. The sushi is pretty fresh and inexpensive compared with some, and there’s great service and attention. Mix-It, just reopened down the street for takeout, has some similar items but a broader pan-Asian menu, including a spicy coconut curry that you can (and should) get with tofu and zucchini noodles.
One Ramen and Sushi (1759 Massachusetts Ave., Agassiz near Porter Square)
If you can’t keep up with the vast number of cheese, pates and specialty foods via Facebook or Instagram or don’t know exactly what you want, an attentive employee will walk you through a phone call with informed suggestions. Some of the items that wind up in your bag may pleasantly surprise you. The Robiola Incavolata that showed up in mine wrapped in cabbage – a slightly “stinky” and weepy cheese made from sheep, cow and goat milk – took me by storm and now is on my regular reorder list. The carrots, greens and other produce from area farms are fresh in ways you can’t imagine until you bite down on them, and if you need wine, give Formaggio your yen and price range and prepare to have your palate introduced to something exciting. Call in early for a curbside pickup time slot and if you drive, try not to park in the bike lane; there’s ample parking just yards ahead.
The bar may be closed, but you can still get a burger with Savenor’s grass-fed ground beef cooked your way and hot to go; the perfectly battered fish and chips (I skip the chips and get it on a bed of Brussels sprouts); and the classic spicy bison bolognese – not to mention growlers of beer. The Abbey is open for pickups Wednesday and Saturday. Food is at the door, cooked as ordered and just out of the oven, so it’s warm for you when you sit down to eat at home. You can buy pints of turkey chili and wine too, and the warm Bavarian pretzel sticks with a slather of butter are a stomach-friendly preamble. Call (617) 714-4944 to order. Update on May 6, 2020: Bottles of wine and beer growlers are now available too.
The Abbey (1755 Massachusetts Ave., Agassiz near Porter Square)
Veggie Grill serves food you know – burgers, pastas and chicken clubs, but with meat substitutes (tempeh and seitan) as well as bowls and salads. It’s a chain, but this is good low-cal, low-cost vegetarian eats. I recently had the VG Beyond Burger (prepared simply with pickles, a light sauce and a thin, airy sesame bun) and was blown away by how fresh it was and how well the flavors came together. Call it simple elegance, but it was satiating beyond expectation. The spicy beef barley soup took me by surprise too. I’ve been a fan of its zucchini spaghetti and meatball pasta (zucchini isn’t on it – the zucchini is cut into pasta strands) and the Grillin’ Chickin’ has my eye, but that burger is hard to shake. There’s a delivery option, but pickup is laid out in a mindful manner, and it’s easy to get in and out of Harvard Square during the shutdown, with ample parking if you drive.
Veggie Grill (57 JFK St., Harvard Square)
The Half Shell
The family-owned pizzeria that feeds many of Cambridge’s finest – after 4 p.m. and into the evening, you’re bound to see a few black-and-whites out front) – has been serving up its thin crust, tastily sauced pies throughout the shutdown, as it has for the past 22 years. The pies are a tongue and stomach pleaser, but the menu is diverse, with a full range of subs (I love a turkey and provolone with banana peppers, pickles, olives and oil and vinegar on soft, chewy and sweet Italian loaf), grilled fare (burgers and wings), salads and gyros. Did I mention the owners are Greek? Want to do it up right? Get the gyros pizza. The homemade red lentil soup is another winner, and there are often spinach pies. Call (617) 876-9596 to order and pick up in a store reconfigured with social distancing in mind.
Other good ’za choices include Armando’s at Concord and Huron, also a family-owned classic; Area Four, with its beloved soft, warm dough in Kendall Square; Ma Magoo’s out by the Fresh Pond Mall; Davis Square’s Dragon Pizza, where you have to try the chicken skewers; and the Harvard House of Pizza, with its thick-crust Greek pizza, which just came back online this week.
The Half Shell (1760 Massachusetts Ave., Neighborhood 9 near Porter Square)