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The Center Cafe

4.3
269 reviews
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$30 and under
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American
Top Tags:
  • Neighborhood Gem
  • Fit for Foodies
  • Special Occasion

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About

A converted commuter rail stop with the friendly, down-to-earth atmosphere of a neighborhood hideaway serving terrific American Cuisine. This family run gem has a lot of cooking talent, a varied menu, good wine list and craft cocktails.
Dining Style
Casual Dining
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Cuisines
American, Seafood, Steak
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Hours of operation


Dinner Only:

Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 5:00pm - 9:00pm

Friday - Saturday: 5:00pm - 9:30pm


Closed Mondays


Summer Hours may vary.
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Phone number
(781) 455-8800
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Payment options
AMEX, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
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Dress code
Casual Dress
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Executive chef
Vanessa Cortesi
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Private party contact
Steve Waller: (781) 455-8800
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Neighborhood
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Cross street
Needham Bank/Eaton Square Pedestrian Walkway
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Parking details
There are two, free parking lots adjacent to the restaurant: one across the train tracks from our front door and a municipal lot in in back of the restaurant.
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Public transit
We are on the commuter rail line at Needham Center Station.
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Entertainment
We offer musical entertainment for special events.
Additional
Beer, Full Bar, Gluten-free Menu, Non-Smoking, Takeout, Wheelchair Access, Wine
What 269 People Are SayingWrite a review
Overall ratings and reviews
4.3based on all time ratings
4.3
food
4.2
service
3.9
ambience
4.3
value
Noise · Moderate
93% of people would recommend it to a friend
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4.0Dined on August 19, 2017

Food and service were good. Ambiance fair. Did not have several of the wines listed. Would go back and would recommend.

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4.0Dined on July 28, 2017

They are closing so it really doesn't mean crap. They sold the place it will now be a bar

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5.0Dined on July 22, 2017

So nice and friendly. Food is always great. I have eaten there six times. Have brought friends who also loved it.

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4.0Dined on July 20, 2017

Our meal was tasty and well prepared. The people who served us were pleasant and friendly. Although we were not in a hurry, the service was very slow. We had a long wait to order and a longer delay to receive our meals. We did not see anyone for a long time after we had finished dining, except for a wait person who was spending a lengthy time across the room in a deep conversation with another table. Despite these complaints, I would return.

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4.0Dined on July 15, 2017

Had a fantastic dinner with my wife and college age daughter. This is a wonderful, family owned restaurant with excellent food a culinary would enjoy! Owner provides great advice, fantastic service and recommendations and made our meal fantastic! We will definitely be back again and come here on a more regular basis. Bravo!

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5.0Dined on July 8, 2017

Great food & drinks! Very welcoming restaurant owned and managed by a family that makes you feel like part of their family when dining.

Great customizable drinks, wonderful apps - esp the crispy ribs! The food is always full of flavor and plenty too. Recommend the perfectly prepared creme brûlée!

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5.0Dined on June 18, 2017

Very friendly owner and waiting staff
Good food
Will return

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3.0Dined on June 3, 2017

Prices are high, especially for the starter salads

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4.0Dined on May 21, 2017

We all enjoyed our meals, very nice staff and very attentive 👍

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5.0Dined on May 13, 2017

The food is always good, and the staff remembers and welcomes us. A very pleasant place to have dinner. We have been going since they first opened.

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5.0Dined on May 12, 2017

Food and service were excellent! The staff is extremely knowledgeable and friendly.

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1.0Dined on May 12, 2017

Triple crown Worst service ever bad food ambiance stinks no parking. Probably the worst experience I have had in a restaurant ever.

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5.0Dined on May 12, 2017

Fantastic as always! Food was great, great service and the owners are wonderful!

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4.0Dined on May 6, 2017

This is an interesting place. The owners are very, very quirky, and at first glance, rude. Then somehow, they make you feel like family! Even hugs as we left! Go in with an open mind, have a glass of wine straight away, before the rude hostess (and owner) can upset you too much. The food is quite good, and somehow it all comes together.

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1.0Dined on May 5, 2017

Highly disappointed. Food took way too long and our son's fish had gone bad (very fishy taste). I expected a completely different experience and will not be returning anytime soon.

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5.0Dined on April 27, 2017

Great people who own it. Friendly and good is good.

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5.0Dined on April 7, 2017

Wonderful as always

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3.0Dined on April 1, 2017

We had a decent meal, and were glad to be at a table in the back, which was less noisy. The wait staff are extraordinarily friendly, and quite talkative, so that made things more interesting. This is a fine place for simple comfort food. The selection wasn't extensive, and I wish there were more appetizers or things made without butter. I don't do beef, so maybe those dishes didn't have butter. Although our waitress and waiter said they'd be available anytime we needed them, they both forgot to check on us for periods of time.

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5.0Dined on March 30, 2017

A great neighborhood place to eat. The owners are personable and the wait staff professional with a good send of humor.

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2.0Dined on March 25, 2017

This is a tough one. We had heard a lot about this place and were excited to try it. Basically, seems like they were having staffing issues--wait staff being sharp with each other, the host/owner being sharp with the wait staff and the kitchen. Long wait for everything: water, bread, order taking, food to arrive. No share plates were brought even though we were sharing, no steak knives (butter knife for the steak?) water was not refilled, no one checked on us or explained about the delay. Wait staff said something to manager like, "you can yell at me, but I still can't fix it." Food when it arrived, was solid, unassuming decently prepared food. The only saving grace was that this is clearly one of those places where people know each other and are very friendly. The couple seated next to us were clearly regulars, who went on and on about how nice the owners are and how great the food is and how they come there at least once or twice a week. They were fun. Unfortunately, our overall experience was not fun. This may have been a one-off and the owner did explain that their chef had broken his leg, but really, it wasn't the food, it was everything else. If I can convince my family to give it another try, we'll do that, but the main fun was hearing about Needham history from the other customers seated near us.

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5.0Dined on March 24, 2017

Great experience consistent with our prior visit. Great local spot!

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5.0Dined on March 4, 2017

Always have a great time. Steve, Karen and Sandy are the best

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5.0Dined on March 3, 2017

We wanted a nearby restaurant with a good menu and cozy atmosphere. The reviews all indicated that Center Cafe was a neighborhood gem but our experience exceeded expectations. The warm and generous proprietor, Steve, also happens to be a fellow Boutbon enthusiast. When he learned of our mutual affection, we engaged in a great conversation about Bourbon today and his extensive selection. He also insisted on giving us some tasters of his favorites. We had a delicious meal, delightful service and an informative discussion. We will DEFINITELY be back.

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5.0Dined on February 17, 2017

Our favorite restaurant in Metro West. Everyone and everything always meets our expectations.

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5.0Dined on February 14, 2017

It truly is a great restaurant

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5.0Dined on February 11, 2017

Wonderful gem in the old Needham train station. Very welcoming and personable treatment from the husband & wife owners, children and other family members working as the chefs and bartender.

Food was cooked to perfection, the crispy ribs were awesome, cocktails were perfect, steak temperature was exact, the creme brûlée was excellent - cool custard and warm crunchy torched sugar top!

Only regret - we didn't go there sooner to discover how wonder they are. Looking forward to returning back very soon.

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5.0Dined on January 14, 2017

Wonderful local spot. Family business with very personal service and excellent food. Great advice on wine and bourbon with tastings that make it a novel and fun experience. Great evening every time.

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5.0Dined on December 31, 2016

We ate here New Year's Eve. The food was excellent and close seating quarters afforded us the opportunity to meet our table neighbors and exchange New Year's greetings. The owner is always friendly and accessible. The kitchen and waitstaff were a bit overwhelmed by the busy-ness of the evening so service was slow but we expected that because it's a small kitchen. We'll definitely return!

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5.0Dined on December 31, 2016

The Center Cafe is an excellent local restaurant in Needham. We have dined there for many years. The food is always top quality, in what I would call a classic style. Portions are reasonable. It's a small and fairly intimate restaurant. The staff (and owner) are very friendly and will recognize you from your second visit onward. This is one of our favorite restaurants.

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3.0Dined on December 28, 2016

The main reason we like this place is because it is small, quiet, and never rushed. The food is good but not really special. The menu needs a little more diversity and perhaps a few healthier choices (not covered in sauce or fried).
It is family run and the owners are always present. The husband is very social and visits with all the customers. At times I find him a bit intrusive-coming by while we are talking, and talking with us too long! Others obviously enjoy this aspect of the restaurant.

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2.0Dined on December 23, 2016

Extremely loud. Could not hear the person next to you. Someone's dirty wine glass was left at our table, water glass was dirty, they forgot to give us bread, and we waited forever to get our food. Veal was overbteaded, thick tough and terrible. Don't waste your time coming here, let alone trying to find the place (GARDNER St. not Great Plain Ave.)

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5.0Dined on December 17, 2016

Food was excellent. Tuna and cod exceptional. Great experience.

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5.0Dined on December 14, 2016

Center Cafe continually delivers excellent food. The lamb was perfectly prepared and the fish and chips arrived screamingly hot. Draft beer options include Allagash White (my favorite). Save room for the brownie sundae. Kudos to Chef Vanessa and to the welcoming atmosphere set by co-owner Steve. We'll be back!

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5.0Dined on December 10, 2016

Dining at the Center Cafe is like being in your friends dining room. Steve and Karen and their staff make everyone feel relaxed and comfortable. Even with being short one server due to illness, the entire staff worked together to get everything for everyone.
The bartender himself brought the bottle of wine to our table so I could taste it prior to ordering.
We had the swordfish special and duck, each entree was prepared perfectly and brought to us as soon as the dish was ready in the kitchen.
We never expect to eat and run when we choose to dine here. We plan to relax and enjoy the food and the ambiance, chatting with our neighbors at adjoining tables. No one is a stranger here.

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4.0Dined on December 9, 2016

Very good restaurant! All people in my party loved what they had. Clam chowder and split pea soup were just perfect. Main courses delicious! Duck with butternut squash and sprouts was amazing! Salmon very good as well. Loved the cape code red wine. Nice dessert! We will be back!

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5.0Dined on December 9, 2016

When we want to have dinner at a local venue this is our first choice. There's usually a special that I haven't tried yet and Sandy knows what to recommend. Karen and Steve always make us feel welcome.

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5.0Dined on December 2, 2016

Terrific! We love dining here.

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5.0Dined on November 25, 2016

Never disappointed!

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5.0Dined on November 6, 2016

Steve, the owner, is a terrific host and the food was sensational.

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2.0Dined on October 28, 2016

Based on the 4.6 star reviews my expectations were high. This restaurant is quite basic. A step up from a diner but definitely not a 4+ star experience.

Additionally, one of the servers had a pretty animated conversation with a nearby table about the upcoming election and was quite vocal expressing opinions about their preferred candidate. We went to dinner to escape the election!

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