Harvard Square Blooms Again

New businesses arrive in the neighborhood—and old ones take on new life. A Harvard2 Local Business Roundup

After two quiet years, Harvard Square comes alive with Commencement, hosting ceremonies and celebrations from Monday, May 23, until Friday, June 3. Happily, there are plenty of new shops, restaurants, and diversions in the Square, too—so what better time to reacquaint yourself with the neighborhood?

Fête your favorite graduate at decades-old Brattle Square Florist. It had announced plans to shutter earlier this year, much to the dismay of loyal customers. Fortunately, it also has strong roots: Longtime manager Stephen Zedros, whose family ran the original shop, stepped in to take over. He’ll relocate down the block, to 52 Brattle St., by spring (www.brattlesquareflorist.com).

Pop in for a bouquet at the new Brattle location, then duck into L.A. Burdick (www.burdickchocolate.com) for a gift box of gourmet chocolates or a slice of chocolate raspberry cake, made with French raspberries and dark chocolate ganache. Then take your gift to new dimensions with a trinket from Lovepop (www.lovepop.com), a specialty 3-D gift shop launched by Wombi Rose, M.B.A. ’15, and John Wise, M.B.A. ’15. Browse pop-up cards, paper bouquets, Star Wars figures, and even pink flamingos.

Or you can raise your spirits at Bonde (www.bondewines.com), a wine micro-mecca and tasting room run by Bertil Jean Chronberg, known for neighborhood gathering place Beat Brasserie. Explore eco-friendly American wines, rare magazines, artisanal culinary tools, and even jewelry for oenophiles. Browse alone, or book a sipping session with up to seven friends.

For a tropical experience, slip into the narrow Conductor’s Building for tiki drinks at Wusong Road (www.wusongroad.com). The restaurant is an homage to bygone Cambridge institutions like the Aku Aku. Sip fairly priced renditions of Zombies and Mai Tais paired with Chinese-American classics like crab Rangoon with homemade cream cheese and pineapple sauce. Or find a seat at the buzzy, neon-backlit La Royal bar (www.laroyalcambridge.com), where bracing drinks showcase macerated liquor (try the pomegranate-macerated pisco with lime and egg white). It’s the newest spot from celebrated restaurateurs JuanMa Calderón and Maria Rondeau. Their Peruvian restaurant, Celeste, in Somerville, was named one of Esquire’s best.

The new Bar Enza at the Charles Hotel (www.bar-enza.com) is also making waves: This is where Mark Ladner, the award-winning chef from Manhattan’s Del Posto, now makes his signature 100-layer lasagna and fiery lobster ravioli. Request a seat on the leafy patio overlooking the hotel’s courtyard, familiar to fans of longtime tenant Rialto. Neighborhood standby Grafton Street has also moved into a new location in the former Park space on JFK St. (www.graftonstreetcambridge.com), serving duck-egg carbonara, salt cod fritters, and a large-format Mai Tai named for the old Bow & Arrow Pub—well-known to long-time Harvard denizens.

Interior of Life Alive Organic Café

On the go? Grab a veggie-focused bowl from Dig Inn (www.diginn.com), or detox after a night of revelry with elixirs, tonics, green juices, and more from Life Alive Organic Café (www.lifealive.com). Brand-new Bosso Ramen (24 Holyoke St.) serves quick, unconventional takes on sushi, sake, and ramen; Menya Jiro (www.menyajiro-boston.com) is another popular new ramen spot with fun additions like pork belly buns and grilled unagi bowls. Or try the newest outpost of local mini-chain The Smoke Shop (www.thesmokeshopbbq.com), helmed by Andy Husbands (Tremont 647). Get Nashville hot chicken sliders and brisket served on buttery Texas toast.

Of course, because it’s the Square, some things (almost) never change: Charlie’s Kitchen still pours the cheapest beer in the neighborhood (www.charlieskitchen.com), but now they also offer private outdoor greenhouses for maximum safety. A few blocks away, the Harvard Book Store (www.harvard.com) continues to thrive and might even expand with backing from Red Sox owner John Henry. It’s just the latest chapter in a neighborhood that continues to evolve.

Read more articles by Kara Baskin

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