No one eats at the dining halls. They're nice places to visit, but you wouldn't want to eat there. As you wander the byways of this college town, peering into restaurant windows and pondering where to get some real food and drink, keep in mind that you are not the first-and probably the least eminent-visitor.
Some say Jean Paul Sartre wrote Nausea at the Cafe Pamplona, still a haunt for aspiring existentialists. Cafe Algiers, where Humphrey Bogart really met Lauren Bacall, is another Cambridge cafe of the same pseudointellectual pedigree. Located under the Brattle Theater (which shows great old Bogie movies), Algiers sports a smoky, sophisticated clientele and expensive food and drink.
Piroshka's is probably one of the most reasonably priced of Cambridge cafes, (which is not to say cheap), but though it has a fairly varied menu, it seems to be out of half the items most of the time. Try its desserts.
Mrs. Olson, that famous Folger's palate, sups at the Coffee Connection in the Garage on Dunster St., where you'll find the largest selection of coffees at the highest prices, a variety of teas, and outrageously expensive desserts. Up Brattle St., at The Blacksmith House, Cotton Mather used to fire his brimstone with a cup of tea and one of their excellent pastries. Behind the Coop at Passim's, Alan Ginsberg still howls his poetry and listens to their live, and good, music.
Pat Sorrento and his boys eat at Harvard Pizza, where they can watch T.V. and chew. Strangely enough, Harvard Pizza's reheated slices are often better than their made-to-order pies.
Pinocchio's, with branches on Winthrop and Linden St., is generally packed with a gregarious-sometimes obnoxious-late-night crowd. Despite the noise and the antics of its area (especially at Linden St.), the pizza is generally very good-very cheesy, with lots of basil in the tomato sauce.
Luciano Pavarotti can often be found at Bel Canto, ballooning himself on the most interesting pizza in Cambridge-some say the best. Bel Canto offers weird toppings like broccoli and walnuts, thick white or whole- wheat crusts, and generous-through costly-servings.
A tour of Cambridge restaurants is a lesson in the cosmopolite ethos. While the general populace is presumably worldly enough to eat almost anything, each restaurateur clings tenaciously to his particular brand of commercial ethnicity.
French food is well represented in the mid-priced to expensive range. Marco Polo, a well known Francophilic big spender, wines and dines his friends at Voyagers. The food is reputedly quite good, if overpriced, but no student has ever been wealthy enough to verify it. Isabella took Columbus to Ferdinand's on Mt. Auburn St., another posh place with good eats. The Sunday brunch there-and at Autre Chose up Mass Ave.-is usually very good, and reasonably priced.
Chez Jean, on Shepard St. off Mass Ave near the Radcliffe Quad, serves reasonably priced well-prepared, if somewhat undistinguished French country-style food.
Who eats at the Harvest on Brattle St.? Business and law students-they're the only ones who can afford it. But if you can too, the food is excellent, with imaginative and carefully planned daily specials.
In the cafe vein, Swiss Alps on Mt. Auburn and its offspring LaFondue on Boylston St. visited occasionally by Hannibal and his elephants, serve a lot of cheesy stuff, plus quiches, eggs and good tomato soup. The Patisserie Francaise, a few doors up from La Fondue on Boylston St., has good coffee, but only mediocre pastries.