Lockdown dining options from Montrose Spa, Druid, Redbones, 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.
The little bodega owned and run by Tommy Rodriguez since 1974 (after immigrating here from Castro’s Cuba in 1970) serves up some of the best, under-the-radar breakfast and deli sandwiches in 02138. The classic Cuban is never greasy or oozes; the French bread is pressed tight and thin, and is accented with a just-right amount of tangy mustard and pickles that bring out the savory medley of ham, pork, fresh mozzarella and Swiss cheese. The Desperado (hot, pressed smoked pepper turkey and Swiss) is another favorite. Order up an egg and cheese on an English muffing with a large cup of coffee and you’ll pay less than $4. Best to call ahead at (617) 547-5053, but Tommy will likely be there to serve you.
Montrose Spa (1646 Massachusetts Ave., Neighborhood 9)
One of the few Korean eateries in Cambridge that also serves pan-Asian staples, from pad thai to spring rolls and teriyaki bento boxes. The thing to have is salmon tartare bibimbap with a healthy dose of sweet and spicy gochujang (chili) sauce. Other favorites are the shrimp tempura udon soup – silky, succulent and tasty yet light – and the soondubu tofu soup in vegetable, seafood, bulgogi and kimchi versions that’ll help clear your sinuses. They’re hot soups, so sit times and pickup-to-table time can be a factor.
Cho Cho’s (Lesley Building, 1815 Massachusetts Ave., Porter Square)
The old go-to has reopened for pickup and delivery. Sure, the St. Louis and Arkansas ribs and smoked brisket are what it’s famous for, but don’t dismiss the homestyle comfort food of Redbone’s pulled pork and chicken. The wings are top-notch too, big, succulent and fall-off-the-bone savory. Get them grilled with a sampling of sauces – a hot and sweet switchback is a great fire-and-ice changeup for the taste buds. Other favorites include the half-grilled chicken, fried okra and Buffalo shrimp. The mashed potatoes never cease to surprise me, and the coleslaw is simple, clean (never overloaded with creamy additives) and vinegary.
Redbones (55 Chester St., Davis Square, Somerville)
My favorite veggie burger has always been the one at the Miracle of Science (it’s not homemade, but the patties are flame-broiled, the aioli is spicy yet creamy and the buns are perfectly airy). But here comes a contender that is homemade. The Irish pub, an Inman Square institution, has opened for curbside orders on weekends and will be tweaking its hours as things progress. The classic fish and chips, beef stew, burger and shepherd’s pie are all there, as well as that veggie burger made from barley, carrots and zucchini and infused with ginger. It’s all held together with oatmeal and egg. (That’s as much as the staff would tell me without having to kill me.) Get it with Irish cheddar and a side of buttery mashed potatoes with diced scallions, which gives them just a touch of crunchy zing. Beer and wine are available as well. As with any food that’s fried and/or on a bun, the highest taste bud rewards come from grabbing and gobbling as best you can make happen in these masked days.
The Druid (1357 Cambridge St., Inman Square)
Serving a takeout menu Thursday through Sunday, with a classic North African couscous as the base for their main entrees – including a generous slab of buttery salmon topped with a rich smear of spices, served with an even more lavish side of vegetables. While these are warm and filling, the menu is packed with striking flavors, including a sweet, onion-topped zaatar and pungent spicy lamb and beef Merguez sausage. Other inviting Baraka Cafe appetizers include chicken wings with a creamy dip and a Moroccan split pea with zesty accents of lemon and cumin. Dinner and aperitif wines are available. It opens at 5 p.m. to take orders.
Baraka Cafe (1728 Massachusetts Ave., Neighborhood 9)