Talk to any Harvard old-timer, and he'll tell you that in the good ol' days, eating out meant a choice between The Wursthaus and Elsie's. And if it was a drink you were after, you frequented Cronin's, the Square's faithful watering hole.
Well, that was before the age of the yuppie and the Square's conversion into a virtual consumer's paradise. You'll be moving into a neighborhood of seven Chinese restaurants, four Mexican restaurants, nine pizza places and close to 20 locations where you can get various kinds of salads, sandwiches and dinners. And, don't forget the five bakeries and five assorted ice cream parlors.
On the entertainment side, although the Square boasts a good number of bars, you'll probably want to travel to Boston if you want to see live bands and dancing. In general, if it's environs you're after, you picked a pretty good place to spend four years. Here's a rundown of what's going down in the Square and whereabouts. Have fun.
There's a rumor going around that Harvard dining halls have made a deal with local eateries to serve the very worst food--lots of dry fish and curdled ham--on weekends so the restaurants in the Square can make the most off the free evenings of desperate and hungry college students.
Whether or not this is true, you will soon discover that the dining hall food at Harvard is fair-to-middlin' at best, while the Square boasts an incredible assortment of eateries to satisfy everyone from granola lovers to greasy burger fans. So say goodbye to that new stereo you were hoping to save up for and plan on spending a good deal of your budget on what Cambridge has to offer in the way of gastronomical delights. Here's a sample of the area's finest (and not so finest). Good luck and watch out for the Harvard dining halls' steady diet of cod, scrod, and shad.
The Square is a virtual paradise for the lunch goer with enough salad bar, quichey places around for each and every hungry yuppie. And, if you desire sandwiches or soup and salad for dinner, you'll be happy with most of these places (in no particular order) as well: The Garage (at the corner of Dunster and Mt. Auburn Sts.) provides the highest concentration of healthy eating spots in the Square including: Formaggio, which is famous for its huge fresh bread sandwiches, especially its turkey or roast beef and boursin; Stuff It's, with its sahara bread "stogies," with lettuce, tomatoes and cheese and options ranging from turkey or roast beef to lentil, or brown rice; Baby Watson's (most famous for its desserts), which offers tasty "stroller" wrap-around veggie sandwiches; the Coffee Connection for various melted sandwich extravaganzas to accompany the coffee or tea of your choice (as well as some amazingly buttery croissants); and the old favorite Souper Salad with its bountiful salad bar, light sandwiches and fresh breads. The Stockpot in the nearby Galleria offers similar fare. Furthermore, the walk across JFK St. will be worth it, as the Stockpot is usually less crowded. And, if you want to bag the dining halls, but don't want to venture too far off campus, check out the Greenhouse Cafe in the Science Center for its famous gooey chocolate chip cookies and, its newest addition, pizza.
For burger lovers, the Square offers a host of options. There's the beloved Square landmark for more than 25 years, Bartley's Burger Cottage (1335 Mass. Ave.), where you can get all kinds of juicy, cheese-and-onion bedecked concoctions at reasonable prices. Even cheaper, although greasier, are the cheeseburger platters at Charlie's Kitchen (10 Eliot St.), the self-proclaimed "double cheeseburger king," and Buddie's Sirloin Pit (39 Brattle St.), where you can get great fries and plenty of beet.
Other Square institutions you shouldn't miss are Elsie's (71 Mt. Auburn St.), the home of both the "Big Burger" and the "Roast Beef Special," and Tommy's Lunch, (a the corner of Plympton and Tommy's Lunch, (at the corner of Plympton and Mt. Auburn Sts.) the favorite place for late might (open until 2 a.m.) lovers of cheese steak and pinball. And the trappes (Bostonese for milkshake) are good and thick. Theu, of course, there's the Mug and Muffin (1382 Mass. Ave), a good place to watch the locals and overhear pretentious conversations taking place in a crowd of cigarette smoke. The muffins aren't bad and the coffee is free flowing.
When it comes down to "real restaurants," the pickings get slimmer. The Square may be great for lunch, but if it's a nice dinner (with the 'rents or other relatives paying) you may want to venture into Beantown. However, there are a few places in the Square worth trying for a good dinner. At Grendel's Den (39 Winthrop St.), you'll find a reasonably priced, cheery place that serves up the requisite salad, quiche and burgers as well as some heavier meals, including some Middle Eastern specialties. Next door to Grendel's is the relative newcomer Latacarta, which specializes in pasta and other light nouvelle cuisine dinner dishes. It's a little pricey, but the plant-draped natural wood interior is nice, and makes it a romantic spot. Around the corner on Winthrop St. is another newcomer, Caffe Paradiso, a truly yuppie phenomenon with its gleaming espresso and cappucino machinery. Check this place out for pasta and some sinful pastries and tarts.
33 Dunster St. (in the Garage) is another salad-bar type place that also serves up pizza and other entrees. But you can skip the overpriced, overrated brunch. Upstairs at the Casablanca (40 Brattle St.) offers some veal and chicken dishes at upper range prices. The Greenhouse (3 Brattle St.) is fine but a bit overpriced.
Unless someone else is paying, you probably won't see The Harvest (44 Brattle St.), which sports an outdoor garden and a quintessentially yuppie crowd. More reasonable is Autre Chose (1105 Mass. Ave.), with excellent French provincial specialities that aren't exhorbitant. The Swiss Alps (where Brattle and Mt. Auburn Sts. meet) offers some tasty and reasonably priced cheesey entrees with lots of rich sauces for the cholesterol fan. Upstairs at the Pudding (10 Holyoke St.) is expensive and trendy and clearly designed for after the theater. That's the best--and maybe the only--excuse for going.
Before the Drinks . . . After the ShowS o, you finally made it to Harvard. Now, go get yourself a drink. With I.D. saying 20 in hand.
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