NOW THAT THE Revolution has resolved itself into scheduled meetings, you can stop carrying around bag lunches and try out something new. The Yard of Ale has given its site over to ZumZum and the University Restaurant has been remodeled, combining its Greek-oriented cuisine with a plush and pretentious Toga Lounge for cocktails.
The new UR is probably the closest thing the Square has to a place where you could take your parents to dinner and tell them that they're getting local color. It has everything from baked beans and franks to a five-dollar filet mignon. ZumZum is designed to be more of a meeting-place or after-the-movie snackbar. But few people would want to meet in such a clean well-lighted place; with all the sausages hanging around like overgrown tonsils it reminds me of an operating room. Also, of course, the bright lighting makes it impossible to see anyone outside, the best feature of the Pewter Pot and of the old UR. The new UR has tiny boxed windows--and, as of a week or two ago, horrible little yellow curtains strung across their middles. For all that, I'd prefer not to be seen if I can't see, and the UR at least is softly lit.
THOSE SAUSAGES hanging in ZumZum are fake; I asked the waitress--they're all very friendly--and she told me that they're made of some very solid, very heavy material. This sounds to me like a pretty accurate description of what they actually serve. Unless you like German food--about five different kinds of wursts--it's best to stick to the frankfurter with sauerkraut, a big juicy hotdog for 35 cents. The desserts, doughnuts, fruit salad, and apple crumbles, are also cheap and good. What ZumZum does best is breakfast, the standard fare plus apple pancakes, although you have to eat it off pewter plates. A nice filling breakfast with assorted German jams and maple syrup will cost you just a dollar.
The University Restaurant is a much fancier place. Prices are a good deal higher (75c minimum) but the food is just about worth it. It is the first place in the Square without much character--a respectable restaurant for when you don't feel like eating Chinese or French but would like something better than Hazen's. The club sandwiches and the lunch specials will fill you up for under two dollars, including onion rings and French fries and cole slaw--also ketchup, which ZumZum doesn't supply, being strictly German. (Instead they have china pots of mustard cutely labeled "Das Sweet" and "Das Hot".) For supper you can get the usual things, with hot rolls. I tried the filet mignon. Most of the artistry was on the part of the steer, not the chef, who made it medium rather than rare. Still, the meat was tender, and he makes a fine shish-kebab ($3.25) although if you want Greek food you'd do better in Central Square.
Basically, the UR is as American as Elsie's. Elsie's will appease your hunger, but the UR will satisfy your appetite as well. Before I go back to ZumZum, though, I'll have to be starved.