Kendall Square: Where Geeky Meets Groovy

A guide to exploring the most innovative neighborhood in the world

Packed to the gunnels with geeks, technology cadets and startup sharks, Kendall Square has no difficulty living up to its self-styled reputation as "the most innovative square mile on the planet"—not bad for a former bug-infested salt marsh in the margins of the Charles River. The local tone is set by the sprawling campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where the future (from radar to electronic ink) is regularly conceived and created: you'll notice the spirit of innovation infusing pretty much everything in the vicinity, from cocktails to museum exhibits and fast-food menus (check out the local branch of Clover Food Lab). You don't need a PhD in biotech to feel at home in Kendall Square: natural curiosity will do just fine.

Spiced Quinoa at Catalyst
Spiced Quinoa at Catalyst (Courtesy Catalyst Restaurant)


The unending quest for knowledge in Kendall Square tends to work up a prodigious hunger, but satisfaction awaits at Catalyst, where classic French technique meets local ingredients and refreshing simplicity. A table at ArtScience Culture Lab & Café takes you directly to the future of dining—founder David Edwards lays on regular seminars and exhibitions for a multi-faceted cultural experience. And at nearby Sumiao Hunan Kitchen, regional Chinese spiciness is balanced by bold, artful modern design.

Bikes outside MIT Museum
Bikes outside MIT Museum (Courtesy MIT Museum)


Curious book hounds can expect a mini-utopia at MIT Press Bookstore, which has placed itself at the intersection of science and the arts, offering incredible tomes on all aspects of design, as well as the latest written developments in everything from neuroscience to big data. Be sure to check out the journals rack too. Over at Cambridge Bicycle, freewheeling souls can equip themselves to join the strong local cycling community, and if you're only visiting, head to the rentals counter. Zip around the neighborhood on a Linus Dutchi or Roadster Sport from a very reasonable $35 per day.

Miracle of Science Bar + Grill
Miracle of Science Bar + Grill (©Dave Wells)


Once upon a time, mead halls were the province of drunken lords, unruly retainers and the occasional murderous ogre—but the updated Kendall Square version is rather more civilized. Meadhall offers a stupendous line of tap ales, from India pale to Baltic Porter, but tips its hat to the medieval past with a menu that includes wild boar meatballs. The Miracle of Science is the perfect local venue to relax and ponder, and the beer list is expertly weighted, while The Automatic has a well constructed 'Shot and a Can' menu—we're especially impressed by "The Shifty," a lo-brow, no-nonsense combo of Tecate and blanco tequila.

Installation at MIT Museum
Installation at MIT Museum (Courtesy MIT Museum)


As MIT's contemporary art museum, the List Visual Arts Center provides not only a showcase for mind-blowing creativity but a laboratory for wide-ranging experimentation. Here's where science and the arts are mixed in a test tube, then heated vigorously with a Bunsen burner. The recently refurbished Kendall Square Cinema is a great place to catch an indie movie among learned cinephiles (not to mention a nice drop of wine—very civilized), and the MIT Museum combines ongoing installations with unique exhibitions, book talks and a regular Idea Hub (Saturdays).