Al’s Café, a New Sandwich Shop, Opens in Holyoke Center

Al's Harvard Square Cafe
Sharon Kim

Al’s Harvard Square Cafe has opened in front of Oggi’s inthe Holyoke Center.

A new sandwich shop, Al’s Harvard Square Café, opened yesterday in the Holyoke Center arcade, quickly attracting dozens of hungry patrons.

“Right before we opened we had 35 people standing at the entrance,” said owner Alan F. Costello.

Costello said his motto is “low profit, high volume.” Customers can get a 10-inch sub, 20 ounce drink, and a bag of chips for $6.75.

Costello added that he promotes high efficiency.

“People don’t want to wait 15 minutes for a sandwich,” Costello said. “It works well with business people and now with students.”


A business efficiency study conducted by Dartmouth researchers recorded that it took 3 minutes, 47 seconds for a customer to get their sandwich from another location—Al’s State Street Café in Boston—starting at the sidewalk outside.

Al’s menu includes 24 sandwiches, including hot and cold, soups, and salads. Featured items include the Harvard Square Café Special with prosciutto, mozzarella, basil and tomatoes, and the chicken salad.

The shop uses quality ingredients, including all white meat chicken, Costello said. Bread is freshly baked every five minutes.

“I make the sandwich the way I want to eat it,” Costello said.

The Holyoke Center shop—located in the former Harvard University Press display room—was supposed to open in October but was delayed due to construction constraints.

Harvard Square is the third Al’s Café location. Costello first opened Al’s State Street Café over ten years ago in the Financial District. Al’s South Street Café opened in September 2008.

Those locations primarily serve office workers in the area. Costello said he is looking forward to serving students.

Freshmen Parker W. Sebastian ’14 and Manuel M. Cominsky ’14 took advantage of the bag lunch deal soon after the shop opened.

“We had seen it under construction  for a while and decided to try it out today when we saw it open,” Sebastian said.

The students were impressed by the quality and size of the sandwiches.

“I’m never going to Subway again,” Cominsky said.

The shop’s large windows in the Holyoke Center allow passersby to see the inside, which includes a counter, large menu, and murals.

“People get to see the buzz if we’re busy and what’s going on,” Costello said.

Al’s Harvard Square Café has scheduled a grand opening for Wednesday, March 9, when everything will be half price.

—Staff writer Kerry M. Flynn can be reached at