Pleasing Palates

Harvard Square offers plenty of lunch spots.

Linger at lunch in UpStairs on the Square’s festive “Monday Club Bar” section.

The Red House restaurant serves its Mediterranean- and European-style fare on a gracious outdoor patio that sits on a side street closed to traffic: the perfect place for an afternoon meal amid the hubbub of Commencement and reunion week. Though the menu changes often, the fish is always fresh, as are the salads (which include a pickled Harvard beet dish with roasted pecans, for $10), and the sandwiches (try the Maine crab cake with chipotle-caper remoulade at $13). 98 Winthrop Street; 617-576-0605.

Upstairs on the Square offers slightly more exotic dishes, including the Cubano en la Plancha ($12) a slow-roasted pork roulade sandwich with melted Gruyère cheese, spicy aioli (with yam chips on the side), and the succulent eggplant melanzane ($13). Afternoon tea is also served on Saturday and Sunday, with treats like the restaurant’s “famous” milk-chocolate-dipped praline turtles (three for $8). 91 Winthrop Street; 617-864-1933.

If a New England-inspired raw bar is appealing, Harvest offers local oysters and seafood ceviche, along with shrimp cocktail (items range from $11 to $16). The wider menu has classic dishes such as an open-faced smoked turkey sandwich ($12) and eggs Benedict ($16) made with fresh, local eggs. The restaurant’s terrace is also among the prettiest—and most private. 44 Brattle Street; 617-868-2255. 

For a faster meal, check out the Indian food buffets ($8.95 per person) at either Cafe of India (52A Brattle Street; 617-661-0683), which has front windows that open from floor to ceiling, or Tamarind Bay (75 Winthrop Street; 617-491-4552), set in a homey lower level. 

Also speedy is the self-service salad bar (hot and cold food) at Market in the Square (60 Church Street; 617-441-2000). You can eat your lunch on a blanket in the sun at the adjacent Radcliffe Quadrangle. Other picnic items are available at Cardullo’s, which is filled to the brim with European and American chocolates, fine wines, and other gourmet delicacies. Deli sandwiches, including an Italian imported meats special and a luscious caprese (mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil) start at $8. 8 Brattle Street; 617-491-8888.

Or you may walk five minutes from the Square to Darwin’s (148 Mount Auburn Street; 617-354-5233), where what could be the best sandwiches for miles around are named for local streets. Among our favorites is “The Longfellow,” made with ham, sliced green apple, aged cheddar, Dijon mustard, lettuce, and tomatoes ($7.35), which may be eaten under shady trees at nearby Longfellow Park. 

For earnestly healthy food, try Dado, where you can talk over pots of all kinds of tea while munching a carefully prepared pesto tofu salad and a choice of fruits ($7.25), or the Korean rice dish with vegetables known as bi bim bap ($10). Dado is one of the only cafés that also serves beer and wine, always a pleasant alternative to a hectic bar. 50 Church Street; 617-547-0950.

For additional vegetarian options, try a newcomer to the Square, Clover Food Lab (7 Holyoke Street), which offers a small menu of fresh, cheap, perky comestibles. Some of us are hooked on the in-house French fries with rosemary ($3), and love the falafel-like chickpea fritter and the sweet potato sandwiches ($5 each). Veggie Planet at Club Passim (47 Palmer Street, 617-661-1513; the club doubles as the dining room during the day) churns out delicious homemade soups prepared in what some consider an older, hippie style, salads, and flat-bread pizzas with too many combinations to name, along with entrées like peanut udon noodles and macaroni and cheese ($7 to $12 range).

Pizza lovers should try the yummy super-thin crust variety ($8 to $19) at Cambridge 1, a modern-style, sit-down place with low lights, beer and wine, pasta dishes, and thoughtful salads (27 Church Street; 617-576-1111). Or duck into Holyoke Center Arcade for a crispy slice topped with garlicky eggplant, spinach, and feta cheese at Oggi’s Gourmet Food (617-492-6444). A great new entry is Otto’s (1432 Mass. Ave.; 617-499-3352), with its unusual toppings (such as cheese tortellini, apple and bacon, or pulled pork with mango). And of course, there’s still Pinocchio’s (74 Winthrop Street; 617-876-4897) to fulfill that hankering for a saucy, doughy Sicilian square; it’s always good—even when you’re not swinging by at 1:30 a.m.

Read more articles by: Nell Porter Brown

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