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Aug 30, 2007 07:17 AM

Grafton Street in Harvard Sq.

I hadn't been in there in awhile, but recently gave it a whirl...really great experience overall-food surpassed pub grub in a big way (i had the cod, which was excellend, and my friend had the steak frites, which, according to her, was the best she's had in awhile), nice wine list, the place itself was so comfortable I felt as though I could sit there long after I was finished with my meal (we sat on the patio-you can't beat the people-watching)...I've read some mixed reviews about it on this board, so just wanted to share...

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  1. The food at Grafton Street isn't half bad. Definitely far better than average pub grub. And they have the incomparable Paul Barry behind the bar.

    1. I've only been there once. I had the spinach ravioli with vodka cream sauce, which was delicious. The pasta was unexpectedly homemade (or at least tasted and felt it). The molten chocolate cake I had for dessert was great, too, and far better than the ones I've had at much finer restaurants. (I've found that, in general, the more expensive the restaurant, the worse the dessert, while that doesn't apply to the other courses. Strange.) The three others I was with didn't have anything that looked so good, and they were jealous of my ravioli. Plus, the liquored-up coffe drinks we had with dessert were disappointing. So, overall, a mixed review, but I'd go back for the ravioli and cake.

      1. In fairness, I have not eaten at Grafton Street or its sister restaurants Redline and Temple Bar in over a year. But they all strike me as serving very generic food, what I'd call Upscale Faux-Irish American Pub fare; in my mind, TB is the fanciest, GS the middle one, RL the plainest. But foodwise, they all feel like a bare step or two above a Bennigan's or other national casual-dining chain outlet to me. I know they're popular places to drink, so the atmosphere can be lively, but I have found the food utterly forgettable; I can't remember a single dish from the dozen meals I've had from this group.

        5 Replies
        1. I will always have a soft spot for Temple Bar b/c I had my first date with my now wife there (only b/c the bar at Chez Henri was too crowded for a first date). However, I find the food there pretty boring. I'd much rather go to West Side Lounge there. Grafton Street is fine. As it's right around the corner from me I go there often for lunch. It's perfectly respectable. However for that price range in Harvard Square i'd much rather go to Z-squared or even the half size pastas at Red House.

          1. re: MC Slim JB

            Temple Bar's not doing faux-Irish. Since Tom Berry moved there from Bambara a couple years ago, it's mostly New American with touches of Asian, likely from his Blue Ginger days. It thought the food was fine, but not something I'd make a special effort for.

            1. re: limster

              I just looked at Temple Bar's menu, and it is basically unrecognizable from the last time I was there, far more eclectic and unboring, with Asian fingerprints all over it. That leads me to guess that I haven't dined at Temple Bar since Berry took over. I may have to give it another shot sometime.

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                I'd agree with limster that Temple Bar is still by no means a destination, but it has certainly moved onto my list of chow compromises for dining with the unadventurous when in the area.

                The Guinness fondue is tasty and fun, and I've also been reasonably satisfied with several of their grilled fish dishes. As you'd expect, their various upscale bar food items (burgers, etc.) are serviceable as well.

                Adequate mid-grade wine list and beer selection; cocktails are a little underwhelming considering the scene.

              2. re: limster

                So that's what happened! My (nearly) decade-old first impression of the place was much as MCSJB described, but more recently I've been turned around. Still not a food-specific destination, but a perfectly good choice. Basically, what finlero said.

                (Is Bambara still good?)

            2. For bar food in Cambridge/Somerville, I personally prefer River Gods, Miracle of Science, or O'Sullivan's. Have also been hearing good things about the Cantab Lounge's burgers and will venture there soon enough.

              2 Replies
                1. re: CityPork

                  Stuck my head in the other day and asked... did not seem like they were jumping up and down to open it again :(

              1. Yes, the fish and chips is nice, although the clam chowder with the bacon--touch of genius. For me, the real draw is boston's best--Paul--serving up lunchtime drinks and eats.

                1 Reply
                1. re: joedim

                  I entirely agree with Joedim. The time to go to Grafton is weekday afternoons or Sunday brunch, when Paul Barry--Harvard Square's potentate of potent potables--provides great service and colorful commentary from the bar. This guy knows more about fluid dynamics than any Harvard or MIT physicist, if you catch my drift. After a long day of teaching and research, there was nothing better than a cold pint and some banter with Paul. Now that I've graduated and left the area, I miss those afternoon interludes as much as any other aspect of life in Cambridge. Drop in and pay him a visit. You won't be disappointed.