Harvard Square: nice & casual dinner?
My brother in law is giving a reading in Harvard Square. About 8 people want to get together for a nice enough, casual, but not expensive dinner, afterward, right in the Square. Has anyone eaten at the new Grendel's Den? or John Harvard Brew House or Pho Pasteur? Or are there any other suggestions? I think Casablanca is too expensive, although I may be wrong. I am estimating $20 per person tops, and one person is allergic to Indian food. Bertucci's is lacking some interesting atmosphere for this simple, but happy, celebration.
Thanks so much as always for ideas and guidance.
This may or may not be what you're looking for, but a few weeks ago a friend and I were having dinner at Mr. & Mrs. Bartley's Burger Cottage just before a Doc Watson concert, and lo and behold, there was Doc and his entourage of about 6 at a corner table, eating and relaxing beforehand. Depending on what kind of food you're looking for, I would going there. I don't think they have a liquor license, but the onion rings make up for it :-)
Although I have not tried the one in Harvard Square, I have eaten at John Harvard's in Framingham, MA and Manchester, CT a number of times and have always found the food to be quite good. Prices are reasonable (especially if you stick to the sandwiches or lower priced entrees), the menu selection is broad enough to satisfy just about everyone, and their micro brews are outstanding (and after all, what's a celebration without beer?). If you don't get carried away with appetizers and desserts (plenty of good ice cream in the square), you should be able to eat and enjoy a brewski or two for your $20. However, you might want to check out the menu first - Harvard Square is a high rent district and the prices there may be higher than at the locations I've visited.
I just went to Redline on Tues. and that would maybe fit the bill. It was decent but the place itself seems pretty fun and the Irish waitresses were nice. I got a cheeseburger/fries for $8.95, which could have also come w/ mushrooms, bacon and onions so not too bad a deal. They had a few sandwiches, lots of salads in the $7-10 range (grilled steak w/ greens, etc.) and entrees in the $13-20 range. John Harvard may be your best bet.
How about Penang?
It's in the Galleria on JFK St. You say Indian is out, but Vietnamese is a possibility, so I don't know whether Malaysian is OK.
Regarding your ideas: Pho Pasteur is a good bet. Seating there is cramped, but the food's good and cheap. John Harvard's has good food and beer, but it can be really loud. And if people have 2 beers and food, it will be over $20 a head.
re: Peter McCarthy
I'd strongly second the Penang recommendation (assuming that the Indian allergy doesn't cross over to Malaysian food). I did a birthday dinner there for a friend about a month ago, and it was great -- tons of food for under $20/person. We were a big group -- around 14-15, so we reserved in advance; I don't know if that would be an issue for 8 people. The staff was very helpful too. I don't think they have a liquor license, though, if that matters.
John Harvard's is very reliable, too, and they handle big groups with ease. (Though it is loud, as mentioned, expecially closer to the bar.) The food is less spectacular than Penang, but it's quite good, and they have a big menu -- something for everyone. And booze, of course.
Someone suggested Daedelus, and I wanted to dissent just slightly. I had dinner there a few months ago and I was kind of underwhelmed with the food. Two of us shared some sort of portabello mushroom napoleon, which was pretty decent, but kinda leaden. I had an entree of grilled vegetables which was pretty bad (stringy, tasteless), though my friends' pasta with chicken looked fine. My main complaint was that the prices seemed quite high for the quality. BUT, I have heard that they have a new chef, and that was just one experience, so I defer to those who have eaten there more.
A little spot that I am very fond off and is a block outside of Harvard Square is Daedalus. It's on Mt. Auburn street and has a great room upstairs that accomodates bigger parties. The upstairs is all enclosed in glass like an atrium....so very cool when it was nice out last week. Contempo-American bistro fare. Had a pizza that knocked my socks off....Parmiaggiano, sauteed leeks, procuitto and truffle oil. Soooooo good. Very approachable prices as well. I'm somewhat apprehensive about divulging information such as this :)