The Next Restaurants You Go to Should Be The Shops At Porter


Katie Green

Pictured: Tofu curry from Tampoco.

Katie Green, Head Copyeditor

Hidden behind the doors of Lesley University’s Porter Square campus is a hidden gem. Take a few steps beyond Bourbon Coffee and you’ll meet a hallway of small East Asian restaurants, all of which have something fresh to offer. You’ve just entered what is formally known as “The Shops At Porter,” one of my favorite places to take friends to, whether they’re new in town or have lived in Cambridge their entire lives. Here are some recommendations:

Sapporo Ramen, although lesser-known, surely rivals Santouka (the ramen chain found in Harvard Square) once you discover it. The offerings are simple: a selection of ramen bowls simple yet loaded with toppings; even their “House Ramen” is full of egg, scallions, seaweed, and pork. With a bowl as large as they give you (enough for two, I’d argue), all for just $11.50, you won’t mind taking a T ride to get this delicious deal. 

ChoCho’s is the closest thing you can get to an Asian-fusion experience at The Shops at Porter; if you’re indecisive, it’s the place to go. While the decor and specialties of the restaurant are all Korean, there are several dishes from around East Asia, like pad thai, tempura, and Chinese scallion pancakes. Their bibimbap is particularly good, with a variety of pleasing textures and colors. Their soon (Korean silk tofu) soup has a lot of depth in its flavor—which is to say, it’s not just spicy. Especially if you want a classic restaurant feel instead of the table-service cafe styles of the other eateries, ChoCho’s is a must-try. 

Although small, ChoCho’s sister shop, Yotopia, offers a wide selection of dessert options: Japanese candy and soft drinks, mochi, frozen yogurt (the matcha flavor is my favorite), as well as made-to-order Thai bubble tea and Korean shaved ice (bingsu). While the bubble tea is your average fare, the latter, decorated meticulously with tons of fresh fruit and syrup, is a completely different story—you’ll never even want to see a sno-cone again.

Lastly is Tampopo, my favorite place in The Shops at Porter. The menu focuses on Japanese staples (such as udon, curry, and katsudon) and puts an emphasis on customization. With any of the dishes, you can swap out proteins or combine them as you wish to make your own unique plate. Their service is quick, their servers are knowledgeable, their restaurant is cozy, and the food is absolutely amazing. The meat is well-cooked, and their tofu, fried or steamed, is incredible with any dish. Their shrimp or vegetable tempura is also the best tempura I’ve had yet. There’s only one fault with Tampopo: due to limited seating, you’ll have to wait in line during popular dining hours. But, for Tampopo, it’s worth it.

Now, I send you off to try out The Shops At Porter. You could scope out menus online before you visit—or, better yet, you could just take a walk through the building itself. You’re bound to find something you like and a place you can return to with confidence.