Tagged: central square

Meat on sticks in an urban alley at Moksa

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

The price of Cronin Park is eternal vigilance

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.

The Mayor of Central Nowhere

A lot of the people who said that microblogging or Twitter was the Big Thing of 2008 or 2009 are saying that location or Foursquare is the Big Thing of 2010 or beyond.  I don’t know if Foursquare is played yet, or if Twitter already has jumped the shark, but I’m starting to worry that the actual, physical concept of location might be on the way out as businesses evaporate from downtowns, especially in my own Central Square.

Earlier this week, I noted a bit in xconomy singing the praises of Central Square as a new startup hub, singling out a particular office building and featuring a couple of its startuppy tenants.  I’m all for it, having previously noted Beta House and OpenCoffee among others.  Plus, Central is home to Harmonix Music.  Good news, to be sure.

But the day before that article, Hollywood Express closed their Central Square store, adding to a distressing list of businesses vacating Central Square and its environs.  In fact, I was both pleased and saddened to discover an entire blog devoted to the disappearance of businesses along Cambridge’s Massachusetts Avenue.  Compare for example my February 2009 post on the decline of the furniture cluster to Empty Mass Ave’s post on the same topic in February of this year.  Apparently, we’re all in this together.  Empty retail space around Central now includes the long-gone Gap, Pearl Paint, all those furniture stores, the space next to the Central Square Theater, and I’m sure more.

The other good news is that restaurants seem to be thriving even as retail suffers – Rendezvous, Four Burgers, Craigie on Main and Garden at the Cellar are all great –  but I can’t help worry that we need a bit of everything to make a neighborhood that all those fancy startup types will actually want to inhabit.

We can blame the economy for some closures, especially the furniture stores.  We can blame changes in technology and media for the demise of record stores, video stores and maybe even bookstores. We can blame landlords, that’s always popular.  I think we often forget to blame ourselves for not shopping, working and doing business enough in our own neighborhoods and cities.

Jazz brunch at Cafe Luna

This morning, like many Sunday mornings, I headed down Mass Ave to what’s always a difficult brunch choice, Mariposa Bakery on the right, and Cafe Luna on the left.   Today I went left.

Cafe Luna has spiffed up a bit of late, and I definitely approve.  When I arrived near 11am, it was close to empty but by noon there was a line out front.  They have a full brunch menu, but I tend to stick with the smaller savory items, such as the breakfast sandwich (bacon egg and cheese with spinach grilled on a ciabatta, $4.95) or the healthy wrap (egg whites, spinach, cheese and roasted red pepper in a whole wheat wrap, $4.95) and of course coffee.

Cafe Luna is also the source of some fine gelato and free wifi, and they have a scrabble set too.  I will forgive them for once stocking “puffo” flavor.

Sunday brunch is augmented by live jazz most weeks.  The usual combo seems to be Hiro Honshuku’s Trio La Luna, with Honshuku on flute and EWI, Casper Gyldensøe on guitar, and Alex Raymond Busby Smith on bass.  Last time I was there a quartet was playing but I didn’t get their name.  If you can ID them, I’d be hapy to link, they were quite good.

If you arrive early, don’t get too comfortable in the window, that’s where the band will start setting up.