The Square As You Like It
Open 8 to 12 daily, or at least until the new shingle arrives.
AS WAS freely predicted from the start, the Bick did not long survive the Nixon Administration. It succumbed sometime between the U.S. all-out invasion of Cambodia and Al Vellucci's all-out war on drugs-no more a mutual aid society for sinister street people, threadbare elderly, and the most violently wrenched of Harvard's children. Where this crowd has scattered is anyone's guess. Not, it seems, to Hungry Charley's, a business which draws from the wealthier strata of the Square's transients and picks up a nice proportion of Harvard undergraduates.
Nor will they much like As You Like It, a little sprig of urban renewal that is filling the breech these days at the Old Bick headquarters. As You Like It is possibly the cleanest and politest eating place this side of the Window Shop. It resembles the kind of homecooking enterprise that Dale Evans would launch if she and Roy moved to Cambridge. Not that the ambience is pseudo spurs-n-saddles. On the contrary, the decor is functional suburban, with its variegated red-brick walls left completely bare. Those huge blocks of lumber around the store-front so far as I could make out are there either to suggest the Forest of Arden or to keep the windows from being trashed.
The new restaurant, a notch or two above a stylish luncheonette, has been lovingly sanitized. Don't bother looking for a speck of dirt or any antique grime cherished from the old Bick era. A dark blue rug covers the ungodly Bick tile, and a double set of glass doors throws up a space-lock between the dining room and the filthy sidewalk ecology outside. The fancy Shakespearean name and the fleur-de-lis table mats won't fool too many patrons: this place is about as Elizabethan as Dayton, Ohio.
The parlor interior is smaller but much lighter and brighter than Pewter Pot's. The menu is also twice as extensive. A silver-haired, grandmotherly woman will smile and bring you coffee while your waitress waddles over in her Elizabethan pantaloons. A glance down the menu reveals nothing exotic-just square Middle American fare. The only ethnic flavor maybe is a pale, faint hint of Pennsylvania Dutch that is suggested by the filling hot sandwiches and gravybread. The hot roast beef sandwich comes with a good bowl of French onion soup, the sopped bread floating on the top. Even if it does not quite match the Maitre Jacques version (it needs melted cheese), the soup contributes substantially to a rather cheap meal.
Count on the sizzling charburgers to be a well-grilled and just barely pink quarter-pound of ground beef. You can find a better hamburger in the Square, but only if you don't think Bartley's Burget Cottage is a greasy spoon. The clam dinner at $1.75 is the best bet of the fish entrees.
A DINNER for two can fall comfortably under $4.00. But the customer assortment last Friday night was by no means a date crowd. It included mostly college girls spending a shop-and-study day in Cambridge and one rather self-conscious graduate student sitting alone. The noon lunch hour seems to fill the room not with professors but with their secretaries or just plain Christmas shoppers. You can always tell how badly a restaurant wants the shopper-secretary clientele by the care the chef takes with the salad bowl. As You Like It offers
for $1.75 a delicious and delicate green concoction of julienne white meat turkey, sugar cured ham, Bermuda onions and hard-boiled egg slices, served with hot Johnny cakes.
Such fare will make it no favorite with Harvard sectionmen and no rival to the lackluster Lehman Hall. Nor will As You Like It supplant the once legendary University Restaurant - which a year or two back donned a toga, added a lounge, raised the prices, and drove the coffee-dawdling academics out of the building. Veteran junior faculty, though, still pine for those good old days when you could drop into University Restaurant at 11:30 a.m. and find Bailyn in one corner dazzling his listeners or Banfield in another corner infuriating his. Well, that's what they remember. That kind of intellectual give-and-take requires big round tables and a remarkably patient management, two phenomena fast disappearing from the Harvard Square economy.
As You Like It dose not have big round tables. But it does have well-scrubbed integrity of its own, a solicitous staff, and a home-made rice-and-raisin pudding that will be a revelation to the regulars of Harvard dining halls.