Hip to be square

Every city square has a unique identity. For example, we associate Kenmore Square with Red Sox fans and beer pitchers, whereas Davis Square evokes hipster crowds and coffee shops. Right now, Kendall Square's reputation - as a center for local high-tech and bio-tech industries - lacks the sexy allure needed to entice us there for frequent after-work play dates. But a slew of upcoming restaurant openings and an organized revitalization effort might make it a hot 'hood for non-lab rats. Helping spark the transformation is Catalyst (300 Technology Square, Cambridge), a restaurant from chef William Kovel (formerly of Aujourd'hui and now at 28 Degrees). Slated to open this summer, Catalyst will serve French-influenced American cuisine inside a warm, modern environment boasting reclaimed wood, natural hues, a fireplace, and a trellised patio. Meanwhile, Gary Strack, the chef-owner behind Central Kitchen, will soon open Firebrand Saints (1 Broadway, Cambridge), serving up rotisserie options and sandwiches in a space featuring high-tech interior design (think light bulbs that resemble light sabers). That seems appropriate, since Saints leases from MIT, an institution that's banking on Kendall's future: it has launched a multi-million-dollar campaign that may create and renovate thousands of square feet of retail space, transforming the square into a destination for dining and shopping over the next decade. But there's still more to expect in the short term, too: this spring will see the opening of Area Four (500 Technology Square, Cambridge), which will emphasize small plates and gourmet wood-fired pizzas and also feature an adjoining coffee shop. (It's from Michael Leviton and Michael Krupp, the same team behind Persephone, the restaurant component of the sadly shuttered Achilles Project.) And Meadhall (4 Cambridge Center, Cambridge) will offer upscale fare in a former bookstore space. (RIP, Quantum.) Sounds like Kendall could start a new chapter as a dining destination.