Dining by Degrees

Candidates for culinary honors, just a stroll from Harvard Yard

SUMMA

Upstairs on the Square (91 Winthrop Street, 617-864-1933) is a reincarnation of Upstairs at the Pudding, and the faithful rejoice. The décor is over-the-top unsomber in each of the two restaurants that comprise the establishment. At the Soirée Room on the top floor (dinner only), with chef Amanda Lydon in the kitchen, the food is superb. One may start with "duck foie gras two ways: torchon on toasted brioche [and] pan-roasted with pomegranate and braised red cabbage" ($24) and move on to "rabbit two ways with escarole, chanterelles, bacon and potato gnocchi" ($32). The Monday Club Bar on the first floor, with its own chef and kitchen, offers less formal, less expensive, less swanky, excellent, and possibly lighter lunching and dining, and a late-night menu until 1 a.m. Along with steak, duck, swordfish, and so on, here one finds the apotheosis of the grilled-cheese sandwich, varying in composition but recently a marriage of fresh figs and gorgonzola dolce, priced at $7 at lunch and $10 at dinner.

Jody Adams, chef at Rialto in the Charles Hotel (1 Bennett Street, 617-661-5050), has been restaurant-crawling in northern Italy, her publicists advise. She has come back with tastes in her mouth from fishing communities along the Adriatic, for instance, and offers her patrons such dishes as salt cod fritters with grilled artichokes, onions, spicy greens, and tomato vinaigrette ($12) and seared skate with garlic, anchovies, capers, olives, roast cauliflower, and braised tomatoes ($26). Rialto's furnishings are understated, the service deft, the food consistently rated among the best in Greater Boston, the clientele numerous and power dressed, the bills whopping by Cambridge standards.

 

MAGNA

Harvest (44 Brattle Street, 617-868-2255) is an old favorite of Harvardians—faculty and administrators flock there, for lunch especially—and agreeable it is. The ambience is casually sophisticated, just like the faculty and administrators. Chef Eric Brennan works in some New England touches to his New American offerings, such as this starter: smoked Cape Cod bluefish, with apple-pear gazpacho and horseradish crême fraîche ($12). Eating on the outdoor terrace has much to recommend it if the weather's right.

Sandrine's Bistro (8 Holyoke Street, 617-497-5300) offers fine French fare in a civilized, unpretentious, undeafening space. One of the few places in a timorous world where one can get calves' brains, although they are just now coming encrusted with semolina and sesame—not the expected thing in brains. Chef Raymond Ost offers a number of his native Alsatian specialties, redolent of onions, bacon, and cheese.

Craigie Street Bistrot (5 Craigie Circle, 617-497-5511). A delectable bit of France in a residential area two blocks from the Sheraton Commander hotel and a 10-minute march from the Yard. You wouldn't want to, and you shouldn't, hurry with your réglisse (licorice)-encrusted Rouen duck, with glazed salsify, petite épautre (spelt), and purée of quince ($31).

 

CUM LAUDE

Casablanca (40 Brattle Street, 617-876-0999). One can eat well in this moderately priced oldtimer—Mediterranean dishes: the scallops come with grape leaves, rice, pine nuts, marinated tomatoes, and lots of herbs—and under those murals of Bogey, feel oneself back in college with all the usual suspects.

Henrietta's Table (1 Bennett Street, 617-661-5005). A cheerful family restaurant in the Charles Hotel, where the food is farmers'-market fresh and weekend brunches elaborate. One may eat under café umbrellas in the hotel courtyard. Henrietta, incidentally, is a pig.

Legal Sea Foods (20 University Road, across the courtyard from Henrietta's, 617-491-9400). Want a baked stuffed New England lobster? Here's the place, an attractive new addition to this dependable chain. Also offers courtyard tables. The first Legal to serve weekend brunch: poached eggs Oscar, for instance, with crabmeat, asparagus, and hollandaise sauce, $11.95.

The Red House (95 Winthrop Street, 617-576-0605). A small, red, clapboard house, charmingly configured into a restaurant, with a main dining room and outdoor deck in back and three small private dining rooms in front. The best thing about the food in this newish, one hopes still-evolving place is that much of it may be had in both small and large portions.

Cambridge, 1 (27 Church Street, 617-576-1111). A minimalist setting—exposed brick, concrete floor—with a really nice panoramic view of the Old Burial Ground. All you can get here is drink, gourmet pizzas, and salad in variety, all excellent.

Café of India (52A Brattle Street, 617-661-0683). One of the better Indian restaurants hereabouts, with friendly service, a warm décor with booths, a buffet at lunch, and a menu full of good things, modern and traditional. For the morning cosmopolite, the place serves breakfast— Indian dishes and standard American. Its glass front opens in warm weather to allow what feels like alfresco dining.

Finale (30 Dunster Street, 617-441-9797). Some lite bites are on offer, but the main draw are the imaginatively confected and elaborately presented "plated desserts"—see the sample on previous page—served after 6 p.m. (5 p.m. on Sunday). Wines and liqueurs are also available. The first Finale, in Park Plaza in Boston, and this encore are the creations of Harvard M.B.A.s Paul Conforti and Kim Moore.

 

OTHER CANDIDATES

Grafton Street Pub and Grill (1230 Massachusetts Avenue at Bow Street, 617-497-0400). An Irish-pub pretender, popular with Harvard staffers for lunch and a gathering place at cocktail hour. Affable barman. Good fish and chips.

Daedalus (45Zx Mount Auburn Street, 617-349-0071). Another Irish-pub pretender, but smaller. Go upstairs.

Pho Pasteur (35 Dunster Street, 617-864-4100). Hugely busy Vietnamese eatery. Service brusque.

Spice Thai Cuisine (24 Holyoke Street, 617-868-9560). Simple, friendly place. Popular. Flavorful food. No liquor license.

Iruña (56 John F. Kennedy Street, 617-868-5633). Down an alley, this rustic Spanish relic has its habitués. Fine garlic soup, and give the Basque omelet a try.

Casa México (75 Winthrop Street, 617-491-4552) Subterranean and cramped, but some admire the margaritas and the mole.

John Harvard's Brew House (33 Dunster Street, 617-868-3585). A high-decibel trough, tolerated mostly by the young.

Fire & Ice (50 Church Street, 617-547-9007). You select raw ingredients and sauce and a chef stir-fries them for you on a huge central grill. Chaotic. All you can eat. You have only yourself to blame.

Dolphin Seafood (1105 Massachusetts Avenue, 617-661-2937). Nothing fancy, but consistently good. Recently refurbished.

Roka (1001 Massachusetts Avenue, 617-661-0344). If you prefer your fish raw, this long-established Japanese restaurant, a couple of blocks farther down the avenue from the Dolphin, offers decent sushi, first-rate tempura, and sake in variety.

Cardullo's Gourmet Shoppe (6 Brattle Street, 617-491-8888). Takeout sandwiches, pâté, caviar, chips for a picnic by the river.

Broadway Market (468 Broadway, 617-547-2334). Takeout sandwiches, salads, soup, stuffed grape leaves, laundry detergent, and more, diagonally across the Yard from Cardullo's.

~C.R.

     
Read more articles by: Christopher Reed

You might also like

John Manning Appointed Interim Provost

Harvard Law School dean moves to central administration

Facebook’s Failures

Author and tech journalist Jeff Horwitz speaks at Harvard.

Kevin Young Named 2024 Harvard Arts Medalist

Museum director and poet to be honored April 24

Most popular

An Orphaned Sewing Machine

The multifaceted global and interdisciplinary impact of a useful object

Harvard Discloses Top Earners

The annual report details administrators’ and endowment investment managers’ compensation.

Photograph of Humsa Venkatesh in her lab

The Brain-Cancer Link

Growth-stimulating crosstalk between the brain and cancer tumors presents a new target for therapy.

More to explore

Michael Hill in a Marlins quarter zip

Leading with Care

Michael Hill strikes the right balance.

illustration of robotic hands manipulating a wooden maze to guide a worm in the maze to a target

Computational Control of a Living Brain?

How an AI agent learned to guide an animal to food—and what it might mean for Parkinson’s patients.

Naomi Bashkansky sits on a table with a chess board behind her.

Strategic Planning

A chess player’s moves on AI safety