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Commonwealth Cambridge Recreates Sunday-Night Dinners

By Kelly Church

As a "restaurant-market hybrid," Commonwealth Cambridge strives to provide food with integrity in Kendall Square, Cambridge. Opened by Chef Nookie Postal in 2013, the restaurant aims for a home-style feel accompanied by food and market goods that evolve with the seasons. General Manager Jennifer MacPherson believes that Commonwealth owes a good deal of its success to its location.

"For years, Nookie researched the perfect spot to open his first restaurant," MacPherson says. "Finally, he saw an opportunity that was not to be missed in Cambridge's exciting Kendall Square. Nookie's goal was to create a place where foodies and families alike could enjoy the very best in local, seasonal ingredients in a laid-back, fun dining experience. He wanted to not only offer a restaurant, but a memorable market, too, where customers could stop in for a latte and a freshly-baked muffin, take home a meal-to-go, or stock up on essentials like milk and butter, all locally sourced."

After setting his sights on the location in Kendall Square, Postal took to the streets. He recruited support from the neighborhood and all the funds he could get with what became a successful kickstarter campaign. Postal's dedication was all because of his desire, explains MacPherson, to make his restaurant a part of "Kendall's vibrant up-and-coming neighborhood."

As for the menu, MacPherson says they work closely with local farmers to provide the freshest ingredients, guided by the belief that what is in season always tastes the best. This seasonality is also an ode to the New England culture, which she believes makes the region's food stand out.

"We take these great ingredients and prepare them simply, the way your body craves them," MacPherson says. "Great food does not need a lot done to it."

Favorites of Commonwealth Cambridge include the fried chicken, served with coleslaw and a biscuit; duck fat fries as a side; Brussels sprouts with pancetta crumb for a vegetable side dish; the Sausage Parm sandwich with sausage, provolone, spicy cauliflower and basil, which is only served during lunch; and the Hot Pastrami Rachel sandwich with coleslaw, Swiss cheese, thousand island dressing on marbled rye, also on the lunch menu. All sandwiches during lunch are served with a side salad and duck fat fries. The dinner menu features significantly more options, including a selection of oysters that changes daily.

The decor, like the food, is meant to give patrons a feeling of home. Kendall Square, bustling with laboratories, tech companies, and of course, MIT buildings, can feel a little sterile, so the Commonwealth Cambridge team wanted to bring a "warm and comforting look" to the neighborhood, explains MacPherson. They decorated the space with finds from antique markets and used scrap wood from shipping pallets to build chairs, doors and tables for a vintage feel. All of this is supported by their philosophy of creating "an experience that is reminiscent of Sunday dinners in a relaxed and casual environment," says MacPherson. Their business has a story behind it, and so does every piece in the space. Inspired by that, they hope the Cambridge community comes in to hear those stories - and to create their own.

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