Moksa, Cambridge’s newish “Pan-Asian Izakaya” 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 each sign of the Chinese zodiac and each of the elements (classical four, not scientific 118) – but the food is no slouch either.
Weather permitting, I recommend the patio, a nice brick alley adjacent to the Central Square Theater. Recently, I enjoyed a half bottle of Henri Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre.
Moksa’s food menu is a riotous array of small plates, many inspired by street food, others spinning off from classic dum sum, rice dishes and roti. Bring lots of friends so you can try as many as possible. I especially enjoy the Twice-Cooked Green Beans with onions and soybeans, both whole and sauced. The beans are somehow still just crisp enough to the bite after two cookings.
Other notable dishes include the possibly hyperbolic Fried Rice with Twenty Vegetables, the sushiesque Tuna Poke with Avocado and Hearts of Palm, the border-blurring Popcorn Shrimp Roti, and an array of grilled meats on sticks, including chicken hearts, beef tongue, and smoked duck breast. The menu changes often, so some of these might be gone for now or forever, but I’m sure something just as good will take their places
Can it be we’ve gone two years without a Savory Scone Update? Well, let me assure you, I have not gone two years without a savory scone, that’s for sure. My new local spot, Dwell Time in Cambridge, offers a nice scone selection, including more than one savory option! At my first visit, I tried the whole wheat bacon scallion scone, pictured blog right.
It was small, but that’s not a bad thing since your average scone is 105% butter and has more calories than you’l burn in a lifetime of sitting in coffee shops writing blogs. It was on the crumbly slide, as opposed to the sometimes chewy type of scone. Visible bacon bits, a good sign for sure. It most certainly hit the spot. Highly recommended.
At a later visit, I tried the Goat Cheese Scallion Scone. I must say the goat cheese was subtle, and that’s not the vibe I usually get from goat cheese. But here’s what sets this scone apart: the scallion was actually visible and tastable, like it is in the better scallion pancakes you can sometimes get in Chinese restaurants, or , if you’re super lucky, in the homemade kind.
A touch of spring onion-ness and buttery goodness. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to sweet scones.
I went to check out the newish Dwelltime Coffeebar and Bakeshop in the newly-hopping Broadway zone of mid-Cambridge. Whilst enjoying an americano, smooth and served with a glass of water like they do in civilized nations, and a whole wheat bacon scallion scone, not too large, crisp and savory, all for a bit more than $5, I took notice of two notices.
First, the are going to turn off their wifi during lunch hours to reduce, well, dwell time, and to avoid becoming a co-working space. Second, they have a petition going to get the
Peoples’ Republic City of Cambridge to allow them more than 20 seats, a number to which they are limited because they have no off-street parking. Are these things related?
Item 2, crap anti-business elitist NIMBY zoning
There’s a bus stop out front and the place is 4 blocks from the red line, but somehow the city thinks that the business needs to provide parking. And the penalty for not providing parking is to be restricted to perhaps half the seating capacity it could serve. Certainly the last thing I want in my precious Cambridge neighborhood is a cafe full of people. Ugh, the thought of it. I’m sure the only reason the neighbors tolerate that school across the street, teeming with germy children and no doubt swamped with SUVs at dropoff and pickup times, is some kind of grandfathering. Awesome pro-business stance there, Cambridge. An empty storefront across the street from a school is a much better idea.
Item 1, people who sit in a cafe all day
Before Dwelltime opened, I remember hearing a piece on the radio in which the owner talked about reducing the number of electrical outlets to prevent people from setting up camp all day. I laughed. Maybe that will slow down some people with crummy computers, but you can easily go four hours on a modern laptop, all day with an iPad, and as long as your supply holds out with an actual book. So now they’re throttling wifi to keep people moving? Again, that’ll hold off some people, but it won’t hold off technological progress. Tablets, phones and hotspot devices let you skip the cafe’s wifi, as I am doing right now with a personal hotspot from my phone connecting me to a 4G data network.
It’s a social, behavioral problem, and restricting the tech, even if it could really work, won’t do the job. High unemployment, scads of students, cheap technology, and a sense of entitlement will keep people camping out all day at cafes.
So, what to do?
Obviously the need to turn over the tables faster is exacerbated by having fewer tables than you might “naturally” have in the space. At the same time, having people move through quicker would mean parking spaces would also turn over faster. Most of the parking nearby is resident or metered with a two hour limit. If metered parking really worked, it would probably cut back a little on the all-day cafe types, but I’m guessing many of them are walking or taking transit. I’ll leave the zoning thing alone for now except to say that the city needs to price street parking appropriately and let the cafe live or die on its own merits. For the all-day cafe dwellers, I suggest…
A modest proposal: waiters
People sit in cafes all day because they can. Passive-aggressive moves like restricting power outlets and internet won’t cut it. You need to make those people pay up or move on, and I think table service is the way to do it. If I get a single coffee at the counter and hunker down for six hours, nobody’s coming over and asking me to buy more stuff to earn the right to stay or telling me that another party is coming in and they need the table. But that’s exactly what waiters do in restaurants. The better ones are less obviously obnoxious about it, but they all do it. “Anything else for you sir?” Subtly-yet-pointedly leaving the bill. You know the drill.
They way I see it, a skilled waiter or two could increase the average revenue per seat per hour and keep the malingerers moving along. Plus, despite the best efforts of city planners, it would create another job, and it would make the cafe a bit safer by having another set of eyes on the floor.
Your mileage may vary, but if you’re car-free in the area, you should drop by Dwelltime and sign their petition.
Just about two years ago, I wrote about Cambridge’s Cronin Park, a triangle of green near Central Square. These days, location-based stuff is all the rage, and I was pleased to note that Cronin Park is a place on Foursquare. I quickly became the mayor.
But when I was taking screenshots for this post, I noticed that something was off. Foursquare’s Cronin Park pin, if you zoom in on it, turns out to be across the street from the actual place – in an adjacent green patch that is authoritatively labeled by Google Maps as… James Cronin Park. Didn’t I add James Cronin Park to Google Maps two years ago? What gives?
A search for “Cronin Park” shows two places: map point A is next to Google’s mislabeled Cronin Park; map point B is the center of the actual Cronin Park as added to the map by yours truly in 2008. Indeed, you can see my car parked across from the park on Franklin street.
Just to make sure, I visited the site today, and “my” Cronin Park – the triangular one – is indeed, still James P. Cronin Park, still marked by a big rock with a plaque on it. The park across Franklin Street has no name that I could find on site, but it seems to have been anointed by Google Maps. Neither place is mentioned at the City of Cambridge’s DPW page of parks or shown on the Park Maintenance district 2 map.
What does this all mean? Probably not much you didn’t already know. Google Maps isn’t perfect, crowdsourcing with curation cuts both ways, the City of Cambridge website isn’t encyclopedic. We’ll see if this post or my efforts with Google and Foursquare make any progress in getting Cronin Park properly located and noted. In the mean time, be sure to check in if you’re passing by.