Out on the road to find inspiring, less-well-known nabes devoted to the fresh, the local, the sustainable—and the drinkable. Produced by Cindy Hatcher
East: Area Four in Cambridge, Massachusetts
When Chef Steve Johnson crossed the river from Boston's top-ranked Hamersley's Bistro to work at Cambridge's perennially popular Blue Room in 1996, his city-chef friends thought he'd pulled into the slow lane. Cambridge was small-time, with mom-and-pop places that cooked for students. Then, all that changed. "Landlords got aggressive," Johnson says. "Suddenly they were offering deals."
Now it seems every ambitious chef in Boston is following him across the river to what's known as Area Four, the small stretch between Cambridge's Kendall and Central squares.
Since Johnson opened his own Rendezvous Central Square in a former Burger King, it's become a standard for New American cuisine characterized by particularly fresh fish: He lives and fishes from a houseboat on weekends. Then Tony Maws (pictured) moved his popular Craigie Street Bistro two blocks from Rendezvous, renamed it Craigie on Main, and the area officially became the new hot spot of fine dining.