Go from ho-hum meals to A-plus soufflé pancakes and masterful bowls of ramen.
Harvard Square offers a crash course in cooking that you won’t find in a classroom. Check the books (well, the menus) at these ten restaurants for cutting-edge farm-to-table dishes, pizzas with heritage sourdough starters, and sushi that’s a study in simplicity. Topped off with homemade pasta swimming in sauce and more, the dishes on the program here pass the taste test.
Alden and Harlow
Michael Scelfo’s new American gem may be located in the basement of Brattle Hall, but the flavors soar skyward. Here, and in the upstairs Longfellow Bar, familiar favorites enjoy a luxury lift. Take the New York strip served with red wine butter and the roasted parsnip ravioli drizzled with umami-heavy smoked chicken sauce. And don’t miss the not-so-secret secret burger, either — it features a house grind of Creekstone Farms meats topped with a special sauce and loads of goodies like salted onions and fried cheese crisps. But in the spirit of secrecy, you’ll have to take our word for it: the menu simply suggests that “your faith” is what’s on the burger.
40 Brattle Street, Cambridge, 617-864-2100, aldenharlow.com.
Bosso Ramen Tavern
Since opening in March, this Japanese izakaya has been making waves. Start with a handful of small entrees, namely the smoked salmon potato salad (trust us) and the scallop carpaccio, before becoming addicted to the sushi, especially the scallop roll tangy with yuzu. Those who roll vegan can savor the quick umekyu sushi (a combo of pickled plum and cucumber) and dive into the ramen too, especially the house specialty (and aptly named) umami ramen. With a pork bone base backed by chicken broth, it’s a flavorful wave, with wooden ear mushrooms and pork strips for the ride.
24 Holyoke Street, Cambridge.
Sticklers might protest that this gem of Boston’s best is technically between Harvard and Central Squares (though closer to Harvard). But no one is complaining about the bold flavors of this bright and stylish place. From platters and specialty samplers, Chef Seizi Imura plays it both deceptively simple (the pristine nigiri, for starters) and downright stylish with ready-made ingredients. Japanese herring with glazed onion, anyone? They’re still only open for takeout and delivery at the moment, so you’ll have to wait a bit longer if you missed out on seeing their big 2018 renovation.
1105 Massachusetts Ave., 617-492-0434, cafesushicambridge.com.
Pardon the grilling, but what’s the surefire way to enhance the flavor of your meal? Find the answer with a bite of the wood-grilled steak, chicken, and pickled vegetables offered at this lively, laid-back haunt. The magical char is due to the grill’s blend of hickory, maple and oak, and you can savor the smoke in everything from tomatoes in fresh salsa to a fried burrito stuffed with citrus-marinated steak and drizzled with queso. Pair it with a frozen strawberry margarita on the ever-moving rooftop terrace, and lo and behold you’re cooking.
21 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-354-9944, felipesboston.com.
With a large patio featuring a pergola, Harvest is about as perfect as it gets. Factor in the plates of homemade pappardelle with stuffed mushrooms and miso butter? Near perfection. It’s no surprise that this local legend with its focus on New England farmers and producers has been delighting diners since 1975. Pan-seared Atlantic salmon with dill crème fraiche resists the test of time, but that doesn’t mean executive chef Nick Deutmeyer can’t be downright forward-thinking. guard in the garden. Check out the creative take on a traditional side of roasted carrots, served here with a coffee glaze, accompanied by vanilla parsnip puree and toasted hazelnuts. Pair it with pan-roasted chicken breast and spend hours by indoor or outdoor fireplaces.
44 Brattle Street, Cambridge, 617-868-2255, harvestcambridge.com.
Before everything was dubbed “farm-to-table”—accurately or with a bit of trickery—there was Henrietta’s Table, which has been sourcing organic produce from local suppliers for over 20 years. And speaking of fudge, check out the pain au chocolat pudding with vanilla bean ice cream and caramelized rum bananas. From his skylight-flooded American restaurant within the Charles Hotel, chef Peter Davis dazzles daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Savor a leisurely breakfast of poached eggs served over baked Harrington ham and anadama bread, or stop for lunch and sample the roast panini. Come for dinner, savor Pineland Farms of Maine Pan-Seared Sirloin served with creamy blue cheese mashed potatoes. And the weekend brunch? Stacks of buttermilk pancakes promise a sweet escape from the stress of your busy week.
1 Bennett Street, Cambridge, 617-661-5005, henriettastable.com.
Crowning a windowed building that overlooks the bustling square, Maharaja offers Indian dishes in portions fit for royalty. The novel-length menu has something for everyone. Those looking for convenience should look no further than the creamy, crowd-pleasing chicken korma. Want tandoori? Savor the grilled jumbo prawns marinated in cream and served with paneer. The biryanis provide warmth, and vegetarians delight in the faux savera, spinach and cheese balls cooked in a butter and tomato sauce. Drizzle the last bit of sauce with lamb naan, but save room for dessert, as the traditional gajar halwa carrot cake, served warm and with a touch of warming spices, is the perfect crowning glory to the meal.
57 John F. Kennedy Street, Cambridge, 617-547-2757, maharajaboston.com.
Far from the crowded streets of students, Orinoco takes diners to Venezuela, with a menu inspired by the roadside eateries of the Andean nation. Antojitos might mean “little cravings”, but this little section of the menu packs a mighty punch, with the savory bombshell of almond-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, plus chunks of curd cheese served in plantain strips. Elevate empanadas (the shredded beef-stuffed pocket comes close to perfection) from a snack to a full-course meal with a side of crispy yucca fries or starchy tostones balanced by bright mojo. However, please note: the restaurant does not offer reservations. So come early to avoid the dinner rush. If your travels take you elsewhere, head to the South End and Brookline Village outposts as well.
56 John F. Kennedy Street, Cambridge, 617-354-6900, orinocokitchen.com.
It’s hard to say which is more welcoming in this intimate place: the brick walls and warm wood, or the soul-boosting bowls of minestrone soup? Answer these and other existential questions with an avalanche of antipasti, especially the beef carpaccio sprinkled with capers and slices of Parmesan cheese, and the charred calamari served with a mustard sauce. The rest of the menu roams Tuscany, featuring pizza, homemade pasta (with the rigatoni topped with twice-smoked bacon) and cheese flights accented with truffle honey. Plus, with four different riffs on the risotto, you’ll definitely be booking a return trip.
52 Brattle Street, Cambridge, 617-354-5250, toscanoboston.com.
The true source of Source’s delicious wood-fired pizza, besides the decades of expertise contributed by owner Daniel Paul Roughan and executive chef/partner Brian Kevorkian, is all thanks to an original batch of sourdough starter. This sourdough starter, named “Mother”, is so pampered that she is currently enjoying some rest and relaxation at an off-site facility, while her offspring, nicknamed “Sister”, serves as a new starter for the dough. prepared daily. This family lineage results in a lighter-than-air crust that’s a soft, chewy landing for a multitude of toppings, from crisp-edged pepperoni to a load of veggies. Then there’s the Eddie Special, an assortment of smoked ricotta, bacon, Buffalo chicken, red onion and ranch. Pie perfection, accompanied by a handful of pasta and small plates, is served in the trendy industrial space, which opened in November 2020. As tempting as it might be to start your day with leftovers from cold pizza, head to weekend brunch for pizza dough beignets mixed with cinnamon sugar, and “wait, this is a pizzeria?” – levels of delight elicited by stacks of puffed pancakes.
27 Church St., Cambridge, 857-856-6800, sourcerestaurants.com.