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quick but adventurous lunch cuisine near Harvard??

Coming to town to do a week of research at the Schlesinger library (Radcliffe/Harvard). I will need to minimize my time out of the archive but I'd still love something more than a sandwich. My taste goes to spicy Asian (I like the Pho place, for example, that is upstairs near the Starbucks near Harvard Square) or adventurous tacos (tongue, tripe, cabeza). Indian would be good, Japanese noodle soups would be good. But I would like to minimize the walk-to time and the ordering time.



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  1. My #1 recommendation: eat at the bar at Upstairs on the Square. Food comes out quickly, you'll be back at work before you know it.

    Lots of options at Porter Exchange for Asian, but not so exciting.

    There's always Pinocchio's for a sicilian slice, decent house made soups and sandwiches at Shay's.

    Skip lunch and call Chez Henri for a cuban sandwich to go for dinner. Mmmmm.

    1. My favorite is probably Bombay Club's lunch buffet. I love the chaat table there. Moreover, all the Indian lunch buffets in Harvard Square are pretty good (Tamarind Bay, Tanjore, and Cafe of India). Rendang (Malaysian) is pretty good, as is Le's (upstairs from Starbucks).

      1. This links to a recent, more general discussion on lunch in Harvard Square.


        A few places mentioned that may fit the spec are Rendang (Malaysian), Tamarind Bay (Indian), Spice (Thai), Le's (Pho), Shilla (Korean), and Sabra (Middle Eastern).

        Much, much better Japanese to be found a half mile north in Porter Square. The only "adventurous" tacos to be had in the area are also in Porter, at Tacos Lupita.

        1. Good luck with the research!

          In Harvard Square, there are tons of Indian restaurants. I've been hearing good things about Tamarind Bay, but there are plenty of choices in the square. One that is closer to Radcliffe is Cafe of India on Brattle St. All the Indian restaurants have lunch buffets, so they can be especially quick.

          The Thai places in Harvard Square are your typical Americanized fare, but they usually have some good lunch deals. I used to go to Spice when I was in college.

          Pho pasteur, which is now called Le's, in the Garage is always good for a quick bowl of pho.

          I haven't been to Rendang, but there has been some chat on this board about it. I'm sure if you type the restaurant's name in the search bar you'll get a few opinions.

          Takemura is on Eliot St, which is getting further into the square from Radcliffe. It's not the world's best sushi, but I have found it to be consistently fresh. They also have some interesting spicy rolls that might be right up your alley.

          I know you said you weren't that interested in sandwiches, but there are some good ones in the square. One of my favorite quick bites to eat is the duck confit sandwich at Cardullo's. It's a gourmet shop with take out only, so you can grab the sandwich and take it back near where you're working. Pinocchio's has great Sicilian pizza and subs, especially the steak and cheese. Darwin's is a fairly well-known gourmet sandwich shop which gets mixed reviews for service, but I have always found their sandwiches to be tasty. It's on Mt. Auburn St, so fairly close to Radcliffe.

          1. Oh, I forgot about Shilla. I think they have some nice lunch bento boxes. It's located in the same complex as Bombay Club and the Staples, but it's in the basement.

            1. For something a little on the expensive side you could try Om. I've panned the lunch there, not because it's not good (it is, mostly) but it pales in comparison to Om's dinner, which, when it's on, is incredible. A lot of the sandwiches are Asiany and the truly stunning upstairs (and the cocktails) can be a nice break from studying. A menu sample: Broiled Unagi, Shallot Biscuit, Preserved Plum, Petite Salad Of Daikon, Kaiware Sprouts, Chili-Lime Vinaigrette, for $16. Tell them you're in a rush though.

              Otherwise, I'd second Takemura and Tamrarind Bay. The cafeteria at the Law School can also be pretty good sometimes.

              4 Replies
              1. re: sailormouth

                I'm going to reply to my own post, which I imagine is a major faux-pas, anyhoo. . .

                I went to Om for lunch today (I'd been good all week on my food budget and needed to repent). I got beef momos with a mint/jalepeno sauce, excellent. Followed by their new duck confit salad, which is ducked cooked in duck fat and then pan seared, served with a (tiny) arugala salad in a nice little dressing thing (sorry, why I'm not a food writer) with some pecan brittle as well as a slice of Spanish blue with pear mostarda. It was all very good, assembled nicely and complimented each other very well. As it was lunch, I would have appreciated some starch somewhere to make it more filling, given me a slightly larger slice of cheese, a little more arugala and I wish they had served the duck confit with the meaty part towards me. Total food bill was $24.00. Add in an $18 Bordeaux, was nice but would have been more appealing at $15 or with a heavier pour. Total food bill before tip but after tax was $44.10.

                Service was excellent, knowledgeable. Overheard gossip of new sous-chefs being hired.

                1. re: sailormouth

                  You said you wanted quick. How quick was it, Johnny?

                  I really liked the sound of this until the part about the $18 glass of wine. Too rich for my blood at lunch. I know that isn't logical but it is what it is.

                  The duck confit salad sounds great, tho.

                  1. re: sailormouth

                    Woops. You didn't say quick, the OP did. My apologies. Still curious... is it a relatively quick lunch a la Tamarind Bay or more along the lines of Upstairs, which I've never found to be particularly speedy, except if eating at the bar.

                    1. re: yumyum

                      All together lunch was about 45 minutes or so(I was solo), perhaps a tad longer, but I didn't tell him to hurry it up. I wouldn't go if I HAD to be back in less than one hour, but hour-fifteen would be plenty, and two would be very nice indeed. The menu is quite small though so you might run out of food (the cocktail menu is long).

                      I was pretty happy with it, the momos in particular on this trip, and you know if I'm complaining about the position of the confit on the plate then I'm really grasping. They had some $10 and $12 wines, the bottles looked like reasonable deals, but of course the Bourdeaux, the most expensive glass they had, called my name like a siren.

                      Tamarind Bay is great for a fast lunch but there can be a line, in which case I go to Bombay Club if I'm committed to Indian.

                2. If you'll be here for a week, and you've gone to all the good places suggested above, I'd add Casablana and Daedalus at Harvard Square, Plough and Stars down Mass Ave, Miracle of Science further down Mass Ave toward MIT, the Burren heading away from Harvard Square on the Red Line at Davis Square, and both Bukowski's and East Coast Grill at Inman Square.

                  1. I was one of the Rendang-recommenders on the previous thread, and I'd second Le's for a quick pho.

                    Darwin's service is often foul, but the sandwiches are great, they have Lakota Bakery cookies, and there is usually room to sit down at a table (I think).

                    What about the Mexican (Tex-Mex?) places on Mass. Ave.? Boca Grande and Forest Cafe? Sorry if I'm not remembering previous posts -- I haven't been to either of them in eons and don't remember much except for cheap and filling.

                    Although it's not a lunch place, save room for a mid-afternoon Burdick's break for hot chocolate and/or pastry.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Dizzied

                      What's with Darwin's service? (I've only eaten there once, a couple years ago. The roast beef was good, but nothing to e-mail home about).

                      1. re: Prav

                        The counter staff is usually more into their own hipness then into customer service. The ordering and payment systems are chaotic and depend on whose eye you catch first...or who you flag down more vigorously when you're the only person standing there and they're too busy discussing their music or love lives to bother with a customer.

                        That said, I end up there more often than I should since it's right next to my office and I love the vegetarian sandwiches, especially the Hubbard Park, which has about six different kinds of veggies, apples, and hummus on it. Plus there's the aforementioned Lakota cookies...

                    2. http://theforestcafe.com/menus/lunch_...

                      Forest Cafe is a bit of a hike from the Radcliffe Yard, but they do make good Mexican. At dinner they have evenmore specials, which change frequently.

                      If you need a sugar-hit after lunch, go to Burdick's, near Café of India, for hot chocolate, or anything chocolate you desire.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: peregrine

                        Not such a fan of the Forest Cafe personally. But if you're in a Mexican mood, I strongly recommend a burrito at either Boca Grande (Mass Ave) or Anna's (Porter Square). Not too many adventurous fillings, but the burritos are easily the best I've had on the east coast...far better than Tacos Lupita IMO.

                        1. re: a_and_w

                          I'd agree that Boca Grande and Anna's are the best places for burritos, but if your mexican craving leans towards tacos or tortas, I think Tacos Lupita is much better. I think Tacos Lupita (and most of the other mexican/salvadoran places in the area, as opposed to cal-mex places) just have burritos on the menu because people ask for them, but they don't put a lot of soul into them.

                          1. re: MichaelB

                            That may be right re tacos and tortas, and I concede the fillings at Lupita are more varied and interesting. I think at the time I went there I was a bit fed up (literally and figuratively) with Salvadoran-influenced Mexican. Something about the niblets in the rice really turned me off...