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ZSquare - Why?

Had a dinner rendezvous in Harvard Sq last night and on an impulse decided to try Z Square. It was incredibly busy around 8pm and I can tell it's already pretty popular. But I'm at a loss to figure out what the concept is here and whether it's trying to be a "serious" restaurant or just a casual quick lunch/dinner place like so many others around the Square. The decor makes it look like it's shooting for somewhat more upscale but the clientele (lots of college kids in sweats, families with kids running around, etc.) makes it feel more like eating at a downscale cafe.

The food was mediocre, at best - my swordfish kebabs were badly in need of some flavor, with greasy onion rings scattered on top. DC's skirt steak was a pretty straightforward dish but not very exciting, served on a bed of plain rice. For a $20 entree I would have expected a bit more. In fact the food here is no better (and possibly worse than) places like John Harvard's where entrees are half the price. Grafton Street (as much as I loathe the place) has far better food in about the same price range. On the plus side the cocktails are somewhat interesting, though the martinis we tried were awfully sweet.

Hard to tell what this place is aiming for and whether they are going to last with weak food that's just on the high end of a student budget. Though it is Harvard Sq we're talking about - quality of the food is hardly the most important thing there.

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  1. I haven't heard a single good thing about the food at Z-Square, though apparently the space is very nice.

    1. I've been twice now, once upstairs for lunch, once downstairs for a mid-afternoon lunch. I actually liked it -- the vibe I got was sort of reminiscent of the Bread Line, a lovely home-made bread, sandwich, salad and soup shop in Washington DC with some nice twists to the food. The lunch I had included a Moroccan bean soup that was very tasty, the late-afternoon lunch downstairs included an evil mochacchino type thing and a stuffed crepe that actually tasted like a genuine Parisian crepe. Was very satisfied both times I was there, and will be going there regularly at least for lunch. Can't speak to the dinner menu, though.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Dr.Jimbob

        Actually, I should have pointed out that ZSquare strikes me as more of a 'lunch' place and it would not be too bad for that at all.

        1. re: Dr.Jimbob

          the Bread Line - the place with all the freshly roasted turkeys every morning? If you are thinking of the same place as me then you are being incredibly generous to Z-Square in your comparison as I found the BL to be wonderful and ZS to be just awful.

        2. It might be overpriced, but I really like the atmosphere -- I sat in the downstairs room for dinner, and it was cozy and quiet, perfect for dinner with a small group of friends. I had a salad and a stuffed crepe, so I wasn't bothered by entree prices.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Pia

            I believe they raised their prices in the last month. I ate there a couple times after they first opened and really liked how it was a mid-priced decent place, but they seem to be upscaling the prices without compensating by improving the menu. I dig their bread.

          2. You also have to think about it in terms of alternatives. Students like to eat out in groups and like to eat close to home. There are not a lot of places on the square that are good for groups, and those that do take them are just as busy. They have a wide menu, something for everyone, again great for crowds.

            I do think it is a great lunch spot. A great place to go for slightly more elegant than asian or fast food.

            I think it is a great addition to HS!

            1. just to clarify, are you guys talking about the upstairs or downstairs part. is there a major difference in quality? i would characterize the food i've had upstairs as garbage, well below, e.g., finagle a bagel.

              1. the opening chef just recently left, apparently partly due to conceptual differences with the owners. so one wonders if this will improve what was erratic or get worse. it got a pretty bad review recently in the globe, if i recall.

                1 Reply
                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  Arnett's review echoed my experience at least in terms of the crepe I tried. "More like an american pancake than a crepe" is exactly right. Too sweet and thick and kind of gummy. But the menu that suits everyone and the hours will probably keep them going in H. Square. Soooo many other places to go in the Square, which is a nice turnaround after years of pretty middling mid-priced dining.

                2. The menu is sort of all over the place. I've been afraid to try it because places like that make me nervous that they are trying to cover too much ground, usually with middling results. It needs focus.

                  1. My lunch there was on January 27. The crepe at that point was superb (and yes, I do know what a good crepe tastes like, having been to Paris a few times and despising the Paris Creperie for serving up thick doughy American pancakes). The Bread Line place that I was thinking of is on Pennsylvania Avenue in DC, around the corner from the White House, and I stick by my opinion of being impressed the two times that I was there in January.

                    OTOH, if the principal chef just left, that might explain a downward slide in food quality. Will have to try again and report back.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Dr.Jimbob

                      Where did you hear that the chef left?

                    2. I hated it the first couple of times that I went but was coerced back yesterday for a lunch date upstairs and was... reluctantly... forced to change my mind. I can certainly believe that the original chef has been replaced. Now there seems to be more of an emphasis on ingredients... I had a terrific salad, very clean, fresh greens, good quality grilled chicken, big walnuts, excellent dressing: nothing complicated at all, but absolutely on the mark. This was very different from the sorry handful of iceberg lettuce leaves coated in flavorless oil that I was served on my first visit. Plan to go back for a sandwich today. They also have very good tea and George Howell's coffee (which they brew quite weakly).