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THREE OR FOUR YEARS AGO, Harvard Square was a center of Movement culture--a gathering place for a New Left politicos, an arena for folk and rock concerts and street theatre, and a staging ground for protests and periodic riots. Since then the Square has become commercialized, the radicals have been arrested or become quieter, and much of the Movement has moved away from the more pastoral surroundings.
But a residue of times gone by remains. Strung-out freaks panhandle, play music or sit and talk in front of Holyoke Center. Streethawkers confront passersby with Boston's two youth-oriented weeklies, The Phoenix and Boston After Dark. Tourists crowd the shops and streets and restaurants on weekends and sunny days.
Other trends in the Square continue stronger than before. Centuries-old traffic patterns--a city planner's nightmare--cause bumper-to-bumper line-ups on side streets as well as main thoroughfares. Old storefronts fall and are replaced by the modern facades of state or nation-wide retail chains. High-rise buildings make way for office space, apartment dwellers and the trappings of modern commercial affluence.
While the Square is no longer unique, it still remains unusual, if only because it orients itself towards a young, semi-intellectual audience. This article is humbly offered as an aid to the physical layout of the area, a recommendation of some places worth going to and things worth seeing, and a warning on which places would be better avoided.
Few students will get through the first week's bill-of-fare at the Union without a strong sense of gastronomic restlessness. And the Square's many eateries are ready to oblige Harvard's hungry or nauseous.
If what you want is sandwiches, the best places are Elsie's (at Mt. Auburn St. and Holyoke St.) and Tommy's (60 Mt. Auburn St.). Elsie's specializes in huge delicatessen sandwiches; Tommy's has subs, good pinball machines and a jukebox. Hazen's (next door to Elsie's) isn't as good, but has more counter space and booths to sit down in.
For more expensive sandwiches, and a much larger menu to choose from, try the Midget Delicatessen (1712 Mass Ave, near the Radcliffe dormitories). The Mustard Cup, across the street, has great cheese cake. Roy Rogers (1613 Mass Ave) is worth avoiding unless you like pre-processed roast beef and the atmosphere of a McDonalds.
The roast beef at Hungry Charlie's (right in the Square) is not much better, but Charlie's apple beer, served in a tall mug, is worth trying.
If you're after hot dogs, the Square offers two restaurants devoted to them. Newly opened (and prone to flooding on rainy days) is the Underdog (6 Bow St.), which has kosher dogs with assorted garnishes. The Underdog also has good bagels with cream cheese and lox. Zum Zum (9 Brattle St.), part of a small East Coast chain, serves knackwurst, bratwurst and bauernwurst, with very tasts potato salad. The dark beer is really good.
Hamburgers can be had in nearly any shape or form at Barley's Burger Cottage (1246 Mass Ave). Starting from the basic Bun 'n' Burger, Bartley escalates to the Muenster Cheeseburger, the Super Pizzaburger, the Hawaii Pineapple Burger, the Texas Chiliburger and on ad nauseum.
If your palate cries out for something more exotic than hamburgers and hot dogs, try the Hungry Persian (52 Boylston St.). The Persian serves its sandwiches in hot Syrian bread, and the contents--mostly sliced and shredded cold cuts--are flavored with tahini sauce and have a refreshing Middle Eastern taste. For less than a dollar your empty stomach can be satisfyingly filled. The baklava is delicious.
There are three pizza parlors in the Square, all of which serve their product with the normal options on demand. They are Joe's (at the corner of Mass Ave and Linden St.), the Pizza Pad (at the corner of Mt. Auburn St. and Plympton St.) and Pinnochio's (74 Winthrop St.). Joe's seems to be the favorite of most Harvard students.
The Square also has its share of ice cream parlors. Some have standard fare, like Brigham's (next to the Coop) and Bailey's (21 Brattle St.). Others are a little more exotic, like Baskin Robbins (1230 Mass Ave) which has 31 flavors, and the Spa (0 Brattle St.), which serves frozen yogurt.
For late breakfasts, try the Pewter Pot (3 Brattle St.), which has excellent muffins, or As You Like It (1326 Mass Ave). As You Like It has good eggs and sausages, and big cups of hot chocolate, but not much else worth eating. Nornie B's (61 Church St.) has good donuts.
The best place to get Chinese food is at Joyce Chen's (with one branch at 302 Mass Ave and another at 500 Memorial Drive), but its prices are too high to be included in this listing. More reasonable are the Hong Kong (1236 Mass Ave) and Young and Yee (27 Church St.). The Hong Kong is the more expensive of the two, partially because it recently did a complete overhaul of what, for want of a better word, is called interior decorating.
Truly excellent Japanese food can be found at Osaka (617 Concord Ave.), but the prices can get high if you're not careful. The sushi, or raw fish, is certainly the best in the Boston area, and probably better than any west of California. If your tastebuds are more accustomed to Western flavors, try Osaka's very fine teppanyaki or sukiyaki. Matsuya (1768a Mass Ave) is not quite as good, but also serves Korean dishes. The Tempura Hut (444 Portland St.) has adequate sukiyaki and caters much more to a Western clientele than do Osaka or Matsuya.
If you're not too concerned about your pocketbook, many more of the Square's restaurants are ready to please (or displace, as the case may be). Chez Jean (1 Shephard St.) has very fine French food, considerably better than Chez Dreyfus (44 Church St.) But Dreyfus attracts many distinguished Harvard faculty members and administrators, including President Bok, who eats chopped sirloin with mushroom sauce there on most working days.
For decent steaks, Barney's (22 Boylston St.) and Buddy's Sirloin Pit (across from the Brattle Theater) are both good. The Wursthaus (4 Boylston St.) has family fare with a slight German accent (mostly affected), and is a little over-priced. The headwaiter and the waitresses tend to be rude to students. Cesa Mexico (75 Winthrop St.) serves really good fancy Mexican food, but the prices are high. Iruna (56 Boylston St.) is the same story with Spanish fare.
And there are hundreds of others which have been left out due to space limitations. Some of the more notable ones will be reviewed in these pages in later issues. A cup of coffee can be a pleasant way to end a day or break up an evening's work, and the Square offers some comfortable, quiet places to sip and talk. The Pamplona (on Bow St. next to the Underdog) and the Window Shop (56 Brattle St.) are outdoor cafes--the Pamplona's chocolate mousse is very good. Grendel's Den (on Boylston St. across from the Hungry Persian) is a pleasant basement coffee house with canned music and arab food.
If you'd rather get drunk, the Square lets you do it either in quiet or in noisy surroundings. A nice place to get quietly bombed is the Blue Parrot (123 Mt. Auburn St.). The sangria is so good and refreshing you can drink it like water and the music is softly calming (although canned). A little louder is the Casablanca (40 Brattle St.), and a little hokier the Toga Lounge (1274 Mass Ave), but both can get you smashed without spending a fortune. Cronin's (114 Mt. Auburn St.), a traditional Harvard beer-drinking establishment, should be avoided because of the owner's intransigence is a dispute with a newly-formed waitresses' union which has protested the restaurant's working conditions.
Two spots are fine for getting drunk noisily--Jack's (1952 Mass Ave) and the Club Zircon (298 Beacon St.) Both have live rock most nights. Jack's is almost always jammed with students, and is run by a Harvard alum. The Zircon occasionally has a cover charge.
One thing the Square won't have this summer is an all-night restaurant. During the school year, Hazen's stays open 24 hours a day, but they've cut back their hours for the summer and close at 2 a.m. If you're really hungry and it's past 2, Dunkin Donuts (616 Mass Ave at Central Square) never closes. And if you're up for a little bit of adventure and have a car or a lucky thumb, Mondo's (in Haymarket Square in Boston) is worth the trip and serves good cheap food.
Movies in Cambridge are much cheaper than they are in Boston, where $4 is not a rare price to pay for Hollywood's latest. The Cambridge films tend to be a little less current than those shown across the river, but they're consistently better.
The best theatre is the Orson Welles (1001 Mass Ave) which contains a film school and a restaurant aside from its two theatres. Pick up a schedule because the Welles holds week-long festivals at least one of which will be worth planning ahead for.
Cambridge's three other theatres--the Brattle, the Harvard Square, and the Central--are all under the same ownership. All of them show good films. The Central has two theatres in one building--one of them has been featuring only one double-show for 73 weeks now. The two films are Phillipe De Broca's "King of Hearts" and "Give Her the Moon." "King of Hearts" is the one that draws the crowds, and still sells out on weekends. It's light and funny and worth the $2 admissions price.
If you are prospecting for clothing stores, the Square area is a veritable gold mine. And the prices are just what you would expect in a gold rush town--sky high.
If you just walk around the Square you will find small stores everywhere. The year-round Cambridge resident is continually "discovering" new places to shop--and new places to stay away from. A walk to Central War Surplus (433 Mass Ave) is well worthwhile to pick up jeans, t-shirts and supplies such as knapsacks and mess kits. The store has a large stock and reasonable prices. But the Square also has many stores offering jeans and shirts for sale. There are two Slak Shaks (485 Mass Ave and 59 Church St.), for example, with the standard fare for shops specializing in pants. The Coop (1400 Mass Ave), the store that stocks almost any item you can think of, also has a fair selection both downstairs in the women's department and upstairs in the men's.
For those Indian and Mexican shirts and smocks so many people are sporting over their jeans, Serendipity (Mt. Auburn St. near Plympton St.), Bown and Board (1063 Mass Ave), George's Folly (30 Brattle St.), and The Lodge (20 Brattle St.) are all possibilities. Serendipity has the largest selection.
Expensive, good quality clothing for men can be found at the Coop, J. August and Co. (1320 Mass Ave), and at several small stores in Brattle Square. For the women and men who can wear boys' sizes The Prep Shop (31 Church St.) is a good idea. Boys' size shirts are a bargain.
Expensive and fashionable clothes for women can be found primarily at three stores: Caezio's (30 Dunster St.) goes in for shoes of that brand name and skirts and dresses of manufacturers such as Crazy Horse. Ann Taylor's (in the glass building in Brattle Square) imports pretty clothes and shoes from all over Europe--for a price. And upstairs from Ann Taylor's is the famous--and infamous--Design Research, or DR as it is called. Specializing in Scandanavian material and clothing as well as imported household goods, DR attracts a chic clientele.
Staples of women's clothing such as underwear and blouses can be picked up at the Coop, or Corcoran's (14 Brattle), or Touraine (38 Brattle St.). Both Corcoran's and Touraine stock reasonably priced and ordinary looking dresses and sportswear, though the latter also carries attractive and expensive shoes.
As you can see from this very partial list, your choice of shopping places is enormous. With fortitude and skepticism you can probably find almost any item you desire at a store near the Square.
The Square is book country. A thriving local industry has grown up on the demands of knowledge-hungry scholars. And competition has managed to breed some excellent bookstores.
The Coop is the largest bookstore and the usual source of textbooks for courses. It carries all of Harvard's textbooks--or at least most of them, most of the time. All of the Coop's books are found in the Annex in back of the main building. Textbooks are on the third floor, paperbacks on the second, and hardcovers on the first.
The Harvard Bookstore (1248 Mass Ave) also stocks many textbooks and the staff is much nicer than the Coop's. They have a big used textbook section, and at the end of the term you can sell them your books for fairly good prices.
Another fine shop is the Paperback Booksmith (37a Brattle St.). PB is open 24 hours a day and provides a haven on those dark nights of the soul when nothing but a book will still the pain. It has the best science fiction selection around, and a lot of good and hard-to-get books on other subjects. The staff is friendly and won't bug you if you spend four hours making up your mind not to buy anything.
Reading International (47 Brattle St.) is okay, its chief attraction being its many foreign periodicals. But for foreign language scholars, Schoenhof's (1280 Mass Ave) is the greatest boon. The store specializes in books of any language, from Amharic to Welsh. Anything you want that they don't have in stock, they will get for you.
Three smaller shops are great for browsing. The Grolier Book Shop (6 Plympton St.) is fine for poetry, the Star Book Shop (29 Plympton St.) buys and sells old and rare books, and the Mandrake Book Store (8 Storey St.) is pleasant all-around.
The Square has two great newsstands which stand across Mass Ave from one another. They are Out of Town Newspapers and Nini's Corner. Out of Town stocks an incredible number of papers and magazines from all over the country and the globe. Nini's has an amazing porno collection, and fruit and peanuts besides
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