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Please help me find a place for 15 on Fri in Harvard Sq

t
tennisboy Dec 9, 2007 02:55 PM

20-somethings looking for GOOD FOOD (that is more important to us than the liquor) at a place that can take reservations for Friday for 15 people in Harvard Square. Called Cambridge One and they don't do reservations. I think Z Square (upstairs on the square) will be too expensive. Avg entree should be $12-$20. I don't want any of the mediocre Thai places that H Sq has to offer, nor do I want Indian.

Is there anything at all in Harvard Sq that can satisfy? I live in the West Village of Manhattan, so trying to coordinate a restaurant in a (in my opinion) pretty lackluster food area like Harvard Sq is more than a little frustrating! (don't even get me started on the lack of delivery in the Harvard area; and no, I don't like the concept or the incarnation of 'foodler' !)

Thanks for your help.

  1. g
    GrillNextDoor Dec 9, 2007 04:10 PM

    Does it HAVE to be Harvard Square? If you could venture out, I'd say East Coast Grill or Helmand would meet your needs. Harvard Square is, by far, the worst Cambridge neighborhiid to be eating in...

    1. steinpilz Dec 9, 2007 04:41 PM

      I like Casablanca for most any occasion, there's also Wagamama with mostly Japanese style noodles in that price range -- but it's got a modern (cold, not private) atmosphere. Daedalus isn't bad, but wouldn't be as "memorable" IMO, Charlie's Kitchen would be memorable but appropriate for only some groups, John Harvards is only good for beer drinking.

      2 Replies
      1. re: steinpilz
        finlero Dec 9, 2007 05:03 PM

        The food at Casablanca is actually pretty tasty, but their prices have risen out of the $12 - $20 range; nearly every entree is now priced north of $25. The small plates menu is still a reasonably good deal, but I don't think it would work well in this case.

        You might want to check out Temple Bar, a few blocks north of Harvard Square on Mass Ave. The mildly upscale American menu has come a long way in the past few years; not life-altering, but certainly serviceable. And I've definitely been to several 15ish-person functions there. Their two fundues (Guinness appetizer, chocolate dessert) can work especially well for larger groups.

        1. re: finlero
          steinpilz Dec 9, 2007 06:08 PM

          The apps at Casablanca are all good and inexpensive, the burger is great and $12.

          http://www.casablanca-restaurant.com/...

          The entrees are all over $20, oh well.

      2. y
        youngho Dec 9, 2007 06:46 PM

        Is there some sort of relationship between Z Square and Upstairs on the Square? I'm pretty sure East Coast Grill and Helmand would cost too much, plus a party of 15 is difficult to accomodate. I don't think Wagamama or Charlie's Kitchen would take reservations for 15 on a Friday night.

        And just out of curiosity, where in the West Village would you consider that takes reservations for 15 (!) people on a Friday night and offers GOOD FOOD for $12-20 per entree? I know it's not a Boston-specific topic, but I'm pretty sure that your search criteria are mutually exclusive, and GOOD FOOD is a value judgment, so it would help to give some context for what you consider to be GOOD FOOD offered for $12-20 in the West Village at a place that can take reservations for 15 on a Friday night.

        In the absence of this information, I've never eaten at the Red House (www.theredhouse.com), but they may be able to accomodate your large party with less than a week's notice. Perhaps you can have a friend scope it out tomorrow at lunch. If you're flexible about the time on Friday night, perhaps you can speak to the staff at Daedalus or at Small Plates, although a party of 15 is really pushing it for Harvard Square. I tend to think of these places as decent, rather than GOOD FOOD, but again reservations, for 15 on a Friday night? If you weren't so against Indian, I would strongly consider takeout from Tamarind Bay. Hmmm...there's always Henrietta's Table in the Charles Hotel. I've always liked the food there, even though I don't know that I think of it in the GOOD FOOD category (but maybe in the GOOD FOOD for $12-20 entree range in Harvard Square at a place that may be able to take reservations for 15 on a Friday night category), which usually runs more than $12-20 or needs a trip out of Harvard Square or both. They're big enough to accomodate your party as a reservation (there's even a large semi-private room in the back), the prices of entrees are in your range, and the food's pretty good, especially for Harvard Square.

        I'm not trying to be obnoxious, I just feel like you're asking for mutually exclusive things, like "Super cool clothes that fit me perfectly for <$30 that I can buy near Copley but which no one else will be wearing." Hope this helps,

        Young-Ho

        6 Replies
        1. re: youngho
          t
          tennisboy Dec 9, 2007 07:08 PM

          I don't think I am asking for too much, but maybe for Harvard Square I am. Westville is steller at less than $10 for their best items -- though small, it could do 15 on a Friday, as would a place like Jane or Agave. I really could go on about this neighborhood. Sigh.

          Henrietta's menu on menupages seemed good, if not cheap, for that area. I will call them. I greatly dislike Wagamama's, but I'd be willing to give Casablanca a chance? What about that restaurant that adjoins the french bakery (I can't remember the name)?

          Other choices? Keep em' coming. Thanks.

          I must say that I like Grafton, but I wanted to try something new. That might work though?

          1. re: tennisboy
            c
            cambridgeMike Dec 9, 2007 07:35 PM

            you're really limiting yourself if you want good food in the 12-20 dollar range in harvard square and not wanting ethnic food. Harvard Square is still primarily dominated by undergrads so the dining is catered to either undergrads looking for cheap take-out or really nice places for when their parents come into town. For that range you can do Grafton as you said (though i'm surprised you like it, it's fine but nothing special), Daedalus (ditto), Z-square (not upstairs on the square), but has had some negative reviews lately. i like z-squared for what it is but i've definitely had hit or miss. I love the Red House and the prices can work. Charlies Kitchen is great and divey, not sure if that's what you want. I don't like Temple Bar much, prefer West Side Lounge but Temple Bar could fit a group of 15 much easier. Other than that Harvard Square's gems are the take out places like 'Nochs, Felipes, and Flatt Patties, or higher-end places like Harvest, Upstairs on the Square, Craigie St., etc. But that's really the nature of the neighborhood. I agree with the other posters that for what you want you may want to go to Inman Square or Central Square which caters to a more graduate student, young professional crowd. Harvard Square just doesn't really deal with that crowd as much as other neighborhoods in Cambridge. Either way, 15 people on a friday night with only 5 days notice. start calling now. and watch out for the "manhatten is so much better than boston attitude" doesn't fly so well around here.

            1. re: cambridgeMike
              t
              tennisboy Dec 9, 2007 09:42 PM

              Thanks for the advice. Hey, I understand about the "manhattan" attitude--it bugs me often too, and I don't want to be one of "those people." But when it comes to food, of course there is no comparison -- it's an unfair match-up (new york v boston) from the start anyway. It's just hard to eat anywhere else when you get accustomed to places in NYC like Westville and The Little Owl, Perry St. and Clinton St. Baking.

              I like Grafton, not love it, since it surprised me as being pretty good one night I just strolled in. I walked out of Daedalus once when they had not one sweet thing on their brunch menu other than french toast---I have no desire to go back there anytime soon. (We ended up going to, yes, IHOP, for breakfast and it was alright)

              Limiting myself to $20 and H-Sq is not up to me -- it's the crowd I'm trying to cater for. I have a feeling that when I eventually move up to Cambridge (next year?) I'll be driving around finding gems all over. It's just that now I'm stuck with H-Square.

              Never heard of red-house,but I see its a required set menu for 14 or more. That may work depending on what the cost would be.

              Isn't Z-Squared just that cafeteria area, or is there more to it? I'm confused about that versus Upstairs...

              What about Henrietta's, as someone else posted? I've heard from others that it isn't good and pretty overpriced.

              1. re: tennisboy
                y
                youngho Dec 10, 2007 02:39 AM

                I'd be surprised if you could get reservations at Little Owl for 15 people on a Friday night with less than one week's notice, and I believe the entrees there would be out of your price range, but I don't think you meant it as an example. Oh, the problems associated with having less than one tenth the population of New York City! Perhaps you can revise your expectations to the following set of priorities in order:

                1. Need a restaurant in Harvard Square
                2. Where entrees cost an ave of $12-20
                3. That can take reservations for a group of 15 people in only four days
                4. And the food isn't bad or is at least okay

                #4 came first in your original post, but I think #1-3 are actually more important.

                Make some phone calls today, since I think you've gotten a reasonable number of suggestions already, either go yourself or have a few friends at Harvard actually go there today to see whether the food meets your or your friends' standards, and let us know how things turn out.

                p.s. www.z-square.com and www.upstairsonthesquare.com reveal two entirely separate restaurants with no apparent relationship besides the word "Square" in the name.

                1. re: tennisboy
                  Dr.Jimbob Dec 10, 2007 03:09 AM

                  Pace cambridgemike, i'm not convinced that there are that many places that would impress the parents in Harvard Square, if they're actual foodies.

                  Z-Square is more than the cafeteria upstairs, there's a full service restaurant downstairs. http://www.z-square.com/ has a menu, which you can see if it's to your liking. This place has not come in for universal raves on this group; a search on this board will show a few peoples' opinions (I find the place acceptable when I'm in Harvard Square and need something to eat after a concert or a rehearsal, not everybody is so generous).

                  People were recently talking about a joint called Small Plates, which is where Iruna used to be. The menu looked interesting there, I don't know if they take reservations for 15 though. Cambridge Common is the other place that my group often goes to after rehearsals, but I think that's principally for the beer list and the kitchen being open late at night.

                  1. re: Dr.Jimbob
                    c
                    cambridgeMike Dec 10, 2007 03:51 AM

                    really? i think craigie street bistrot and harvest are two of boston's best restaurants. great/interesting food at both places.

          2. sailormouth Dec 10, 2007 03:21 AM

            In Harvard Square just about the only place that can meet your criteria is Charlie's, and I'm not sure they would take a reservation. While Z-Square could meet the test to the letter, the food is pretty gross and the service is worse.

            Going slightly further afield into Central Sq or Porter your options open up. Green St. Grill in Central would come in near but under the $20 mark and is, for lack of a better word, Yankee food. Addis Red Sea is decent Ethiopian near Porter. Central is a 10 minute walk towards Boston on Mass Ave and Porter is about a 15 minute walk going the other way, only one T-stop.

            So, you're the out of towner, why are they asking you to find a spot for 15 people on a Friday with a tiny budget?

            1 Reply
            1. re: sailormouth
              s
              shraquel Dec 10, 2007 06:21 AM

              Addis Red Sea has decent food, but DON'T go there with 15 people on a friday night. I assure you that you will be there at least 4 hours. Even with the small groups of 4-5 that I have taken there on a weekday the wait (for both a table and the food) has been very long.

            2. Pia Dec 10, 2007 05:31 AM

              Z Square (which is totally separate from Upstairs and not related at all) fits both your group size and your price range. I have had pretty good meals there but nothing special.

              This may not be quite what you asked for, but how about John Harvard's? They have good solid comfort food, a good beer selection, and lots of people love their butterscotch bread pudding (I haven't tried it). If you want a place where you can all hang out and talk and be comfortable and not spend too much money, I think it would be a good option in Harvard Square even though it's nowhere near gourmet.

              Cafe Algiers could work too. I like the food there (yum, lamb roll-up), it's not very expensive, and they should be able to accommodate your group. As compared to John Harvard's, I'd say it's better food and not as cozy an atmosphere.

              1. t
                tennisboy Dec 10, 2007 06:25 AM

                Why am I the one coordinating?! Good question.

                Again, we want to stay in H-Sq and not venture to Porter for a few reasons (again not up to me). I'll check out Charlies; I've been to Algiers once (not for food) and it seemed nice also. I'll call Grafton as well. Z-Square seems to be getting poor reviews, and I'm not too into John Harvards. I'll look into Small Plates, too (I hope it isn't tapas).

                Thanks...

                2 Replies
                1. re: tennisboy
                  t
                  Taralli Dec 10, 2007 06:37 AM

                  Small Plates, according to owner, Jerome, serves an int'l array of tapas, amongst other things. http://www.smallplatesrestaurant.com/ Look over their menu.

                  1. re: Taralli
                    f
                    figg Dec 10, 2007 12:42 PM

                    I went to Small Plates with a big group and really enjoyed it. The place is cozy and intimate. You get great service, partly because it is slow at the moment. They still did not have a liquor license when I was there, not sure if that has changed yet. The food was very good (it is tapas) and I think you can do it on the high end of your price range.

                2. gini Dec 10, 2007 08:48 AM

                  I agree that Harvard Square is my least favorite part of Cambridge to eat in, but I'm sure you can find something.

                  Charlie's will probably not take reservations for 15 on a Friday night and I'm also not sure how they'd rearrange the tables upstairs to fit 15. That being said, it's divey & fun and doesn't take itself too seriously.

                  If you can handle something ethnic, Penang is my favorite option for your price range. They do not have a liquor license. They do have both americanized dishes and more interesting ones and all of them are well executed.

                  Algiers has an eclectic menu and a fabulous pot of mint tea.

                  I was just at Casablanca on Saturday night for some small plates and wine and was suitably impressed. Their entrees are definitely out of your price range, but I think you could keep the cost down if your friends were interested in sharing. We had a fig & blue cheese tart: insides were fabulous, tart crust was uninspired; grilled squid with rocket, stewed tomatoes, beans and bacon: wonderful; grilled escarole: perfectly charred; and fried polenta: fried corn, nuff said. To round it out we split a warmed spice cake with tamarind apple confit and vanilla bean ice cream.

                  Grafton Street should be your safety - no it's not interesting, but they have the space for you, take reservations, and are in your price range. I'm less excited by Daedalus.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: gini
                    t
                    teezeetoo Dec 10, 2007 11:56 AM

                    i like henrietta's table and what about tamarind bay? sandrine's is probably a bit too expensive

                    1. re: gini
                      digga Dec 10, 2007 12:04 PM

                      Penang has re-positioned itself as Rendang and is more lounge-y and trendy than the former incarnation (I have not eaten there, but stepped in just to take a look). From the looks of the bar, there is a full liquor license in place. I also thought it could work for this group. In any case, the price is right.

                      1. re: nm424
                        d
                        drewames03 Dec 10, 2007 02:04 PM

                        Not sure if Garden at the Cellar can accommodate 15, but it has good food in the price range your looking for.

                    2. t
                      tennisboy Dec 10, 2007 03:47 PM

                      Thanks for all the suggestions. Chowhounders came through once again.

                      I ended up making two reservations: Grafton Street and Small Plates. I took almost every other suggestion into serious consideration, but there was an issue with those so I'm left with these two.

                      I think Grafton would be acceptable, but I'm inclined to want to try a new place (run by a seemingly nice duo; I spoke to Stephanie on the phone) in Small Plates. I'm going to ask a fellow diner her opinion and then go from there, though.

                      Thanks again -- and if anyone wants Manhattan suggestions, I always love to offer up my favorites

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: tennisboy
                        steinpilz Dec 10, 2007 05:05 PM

                        Eh, Casablanca was the right choice. :-)

                      2. t
                        tennisboy Dec 15, 2007 12:03 PM

                        So, for those that are interested, we ended up at Small Plates and had a wonderful time. The review can be found here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/469750

                        Oh, and this morning we went to Grafton for brunch. Again, it was "just alright." It sort of reminds me of solid hotel food (didn't the chef used to work at the Hyatt? That explains a lot). Glad we chose Small Plates for dinner last night.

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