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OF the Seven Deadly Sins, gluttony has received the least attention from this generation. Judging from the reception accorded to unchastity and sloth, the neglect can only be attributed to ignorance, not lack of interest.
The Seventh Sinners will appear as a regular feature dedicated to facilitating informed gluttony. We will highlight an eclectic selection of Cambridge and vicinity restaurants ranging from the very cheap to the very expensive, encompassing all types and qualities of cuisine. As students, we recognize that dinner at the Ritz may be followed only a few hours later by pizza from Joe.
We will try therefore to anticipate your needs by being equally sensitive to the hazards of food poisoning and overcooked filet, greasy spoons and an inadequate wine list.
Buddy's Sirloin Pit
For years, Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage was the place to get a hamburger in the Square. But the hamburgers there have shrunk and the price has swelled, and unless you have a passion for the exotic (Radcliffe Burgers, Swiss Cheese Burgers, Mushroom Burgers), the mantle has shifted to Buddy's Sirloin Pit.
Nestled in a corner of Cardell's Cafeteria opposite the Brattle Theatre, Buddy serves an awesome 1/4 pound Big Hamburger for $.95. Its chief distinction is that it is charcoal broiled rather than deep-fried in the remains of someone else's Hot Pastrami. The Big Cheeseburger ($1.05) is topped with a big scoop of soft cheddar cheese, a welcome and novel departure from the usual flimsy slice of American.
Buddy's offers a further option: you can order your hamburger cooked to varying degrees of completeness. Even more important, the decision is a Choice, not an Echo. Rare differs from medium; and medium is distinguishable from well-done. Buddy's secret ingredient, I think, is Meat. He uses it and makes his patties thick enough that they are not cooked through by being squeezed in a warm hand.
All the hamburgers are served with potato chips. French fries--fat and crisp--and available for another $.25. In addition to the Big Burgers, a regular hamburger is also available for $.75, a cheeseburger for $.85.
Buddy's announced specialty is a Sirloin Steak Dinner for $2.46 which is served with a baked potato, Texas toast (toasted and buttered longitudinal slice of French bread), and a tossed salad. It's no filet mignon, but you certainly get your money's worth.
Buddy's is open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
C'est Si Bon
At the height of Harvard Square's equivalent of the Parisian May riots, in April of 1970, I came upon a Proustian looking youth contemplating the pastry in the shattered window of the French pastry shop C'est Si Bon on Dunster Street. After many moments of intense scrutiny he decided on a golden croissant which he carefully picked from out of the broken glass.
Just then, hand in hand, a couple came down Dunster Street, stopped, and cautioned him, "They're all stale you know."
"Oh dear," He put the pastry gingerly back on its dish. "Merde," I heard him say, as he put his hands in his pockets and disappeared into the shadows.
A legitimate nibble from C'est Si Bon, 46 Dunster Street, can be purchased fresh from 8:30 to 5:00 Monday through Friday and until 6:00 on Saturday. Should the offerings at C'est Si Bon or its sibling establishment at 17 Arlington Street in Boston remind you of the pastry tray at the Ritz Carlton, there is a simple reason: one chef is father to them all.
With your tarte au fraises, on a hot afternoon, you might have a citron pressee ($.50) made with lemons squeezed there in front of you. With a Babu au Rhum doused with extra rum and sugar, you might have a cup of tea; with a Napoleon, a cup of American coffee. Croissant and French coffee are as dependable as De Gaulle's amour propre.
For light lunch there are quiche, meat pasty and goose liver pate on French rolls. The mustard on the ham and cheese and salami and cheese sandwiches comes from Dijon. Onion soup and hot cocoa are the patisserie's only concessions to winter. As in any French, cafe the crockery is so think that whatever beverage or food is hot, coffee or quiche, becomes lukewarm straight away.
The Spaghetti Emporium
The Oxford English Dictionary (abridged) defines emporium as "a pompous name for: the Mart 1839." The Spaghetti Emporium, 33 Dunster Street, is a pompous excuse for a restaurant in Harvard Square. It opens for lunch at 11:30 a.m. and remains open until midnight Sunday through Wednesday and until 1 a.m. Thursday through Sunday.
It advertise several times a day over WEEI that its Decor "defies description." The shelves of the "priceless antiques" are lined with Readers Digest Condensed Books. Germaine Greer, Bobby Orr, Spiro T. Agnew, Margaret Mead and others are illuminated in apostolic garb against the far wall. At best, the decor can be described as eclectic, at worst, obscene.
So is the menu. The Mushrooms ($2.25) are "fresh, fat, and...fondled by the..." Tomato Sauce ($1.75) which pleads "squeeze me." The Cheese Sauce ($2.25) is "embraced by a hot naked butter sauce," and the Chicken Cacciatore ($2.95) is made from "the oldest of domestic fowls."
For the price of all these sauces, you also get spaghetti, sourdough bread with plain or garlic butter, salad, coffee, and spumoni ice cream. The salad swims in the dressing of your choice; the House dressing is bland and oily. The butter is whipped and the garlic effective. The spaghetti was delicate, but disappointly overcooked. The coffee was cold, but the spumoni was authentic--the real Italian kind complete with fruit and nuts.
The wine list is well-rounded and reasonably priced. The house burgundy is full-bodied--if a little brutish. The large decanter, about twenty ounces, is $2.80.
Fifty-two feet and polished. That's what the bar is. I can only fantasize how long it is at the Spaghetti Emporiums in Kansas City and Atlanta.
The waiters and waitresses all look like they were picked up on waivers.
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