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Harvard Square for dinner

Will be visiting Boston for a few days with our 15 yr old daughter. We are planning to go by Harvard Square, walk around and grab some dinner while there.

I was wondering if anyone can recommend somewhere to go for a good meal, nothing to fancy, nor a pizza palor? Should note that burgers are not her thing.

Anything you can suggest is apprecaited.

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  1. Casablanca, the Monday Club at Upstairs on the Square...

      1. re: cambridgeMike

        I always want to recommend Red House, but generally can't muster up the courage to do so. Great vibe, nice atmosphere, and periodically worthwhile food but consistency just always seems a problem. Similarly, avoid Grafton Street. Henrietta's Table in the Charles Hotel might appeal to a 15 year old-- it's got well prepared comfort food. You might consider wandering down Mass Ave towards Porter Square to West Side Lounge. or all sorts of other options like Chang Sho.

        1. re: newhound

          Another dis-recommendation for Red House -- I love the atmosphere and the menu but the actual food is always disappointing.

          On the very casual side, I was thinking Cambridge One (which is pizza, but really nice pizza). And don't forget to leave room for Burdick's hot chocolate for dessert.

      2. My first thought was the Monday Club at Upstairs on the Square - the decor would definitely appeal to a 15 year old (think pink, plaid and zebra) and the menu should have some good options for her as well as for you.

        1 Reply
        1. re: heathermb

          I concur with the Monday Club; always a hit with our teenagers. Over-the-top funky decor, good food, reasonable cost.

        2. Adding on - Cambridge One for yuppy pizzas and salads. It's not a pizza parlor, it's quite chic inside.

          1. My vote goes to Casablanca, especially if you like grilled shrimp!

            1. Love Casablanca...would hate it if I was 15 yrs old. The Sq. is less what it once was and it does depend on what type of place you usually visit. For a family, I would have to suggest the old House of Blues, now called Tommy Doyles. Critics may scoff, but it is still a cool building with tasty comfort food that includes more than burgers. As well, if it doesn't work for you, the Red House is next door and Upstairs at the Sq. is across the street. John Harvard's Brew House is also better than people will admit. The atmosphere can be crowded and college-y, so I avoid it, but the food is far better than you may expect. Meatloaf is killer and some of the chicken dishes are great.

              For the best sadnwhichs, however, walk a few blocks to Darwins on Brattle. it isn't a sit in, but the food is the best.

              There are also the standard chains..Bertucci's and Uno's, but why go as they are everywhere. Great Indian and Asian nearby, too. If she likes Mexican, The Border Cafe on Church is not only good (not the best Mexican around, but still good) but it is also a fun atmosphere and a famous spot for Harvard Sq goers. Starbucks across the street from that as well as the legendary Club Passim which houses Veggie Planet, an organic food...it is pizza, but not like you have had before.

              Finally, down at 1001 Mass Ave (between Harvard and Central) is a TRATTORIA IL PANINO...it will look like a sub shop, which it is, but the stuff is just so much better and creative than most sub places.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Be Better

                I will "admit" this about John Harvard’s: the food is bad. Worse than the Border. As a matter of fact, the meatloaf and chicken are the two messed up things I thought of as I was reading your post—totally flavorless!

                Snark edit. :o)

                1. re: Alcachofa

                  I have to admit a sneaking fondness for the shredded beef at Border Cafe, though not until after two margaritas. I hate the rest of the food, but have to admit that the mix of shredded bbq'd beef and melted cheese doesn't suck.

                  Pinocchio's for either outstanding Sicilian slices, especially tomato basil, or a great steak and cheese sandwich. Yeah, it's a pizza parlor. But it's the best slice you can get on that slide of the river IMHO, and it's a Square legend. Eat there before they turn it into a bank, a sunglass hut, or a lousy restaurant like Z Square (shudders, pours out a sip of beer in memory of the Tastee and cries a little)

                  1. re: wilbanks

                    YES! The Border's shredded beef tacos are a major guilty pleasure of mine! It's the only thing I ever eat there (other than free chips and salsa). I'm a bit biased, though, as I grew up eating at the one on Route 1.

                    1. re: Lorcasaur

                      Ditto! I love the beef burros, but don't tell anyone.

              2. I would also suggest Border Cafe- for a 15 yr old, it would be a fun outing. And of course- Burdick's for dessert! Maybe even downstairs at Z Square for some killer mac and cheese?

                4 Replies
                1. re: voodoocheese

                  The only problem with eating dinner at the Border Cafe is eating. The food is just meh.

                  Strongly second the rec for Burdick's chocolate after dinner!

                  1. re: heathermb

                    Aw, harsh! I have fond memories of going out after work and enjoying the Border's "cajun popcorn" app. (fried shrimp with sweet mustardy dipping sauce) with their large but weak margaritas. Having said that, I haven't had the urge to go there in years - I do agree that their food is nothing special. In general I recall that their ersatz cajun/creole food was a lot better than their ersatz Mexican food. It is kind of a fun, bustling place, though, (insist on sitting upstairs), and I would have loved it as a 15 year old.

                    I'd also strongly agree with the Cambridge One recs.

                    If you were looking for lunch I'd suggest Hi-Rise - I prefer their overpriced sandwiches over Darwin's slightly-less-overpriced sandwiches, though both are excellent. They have a nice patio on Brattle street which is much preferable to their rather cramped and weird indoor seating. But this is only a lunch rec as they close sometime in the late afternoon.

                    I third (or fourth) the Burdick's hot chocolate rec - essential! Their pastries are excellent as well - some of the best in the Boston area.

                    1. re: MichaelB

                      Harsh but apt. Fun atmosphere, adequate cheap margaritas, mediocre to lousy food. Even as crap Tex-Mex goes, it's not a particularly shining example of the form.

                      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                        A friend of mine in college worked there, and while it's not the most authentic of dining experiences, I can share with you all what someone who has worked in their kitchen deemed safe to eat:

                        fried things. all of the fried things. Evidently the fryolator was safe.
                        Fish tacos, surprisingly

                2. Does she like Indian? If so, why not try Tamarind Bay (outstanding food) or Cafe of India (not quite so excellent, but still satisfying, and housed in a nice old-fashioned Cambridge building)? Then you could walk over to Burdick's for a chocolatey dessert. Z square might also work. Or Legal Seafood in the Charles Hotel for some clam chowder and fish and chips?

                  1. Wagamama would be my suggestion (in addition to a vote for Cambridge, 1). The food at Wagamama leaves something to be desired, based on our one visit to the Harvard Sq. location (we have eaten at several UK outlets, which were just ok, too), but I think it's passable and I think would be fun for your daughter. The adults can get at least a glass of wine or beer.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: digga

                      Please say no to Wagamama - it's just watered down noodle soup. The regular broth is incredibly bland, the spicy broth has one note, and the beef is low-quality. The only enjoyable part of the meal is using the bamboo spoon (which I scored for $4 a pop - yay).

                    2. tamarind bay for excellent indian, henrietta's table in the Charles for very good american, casablanca for generally good food, monday club at upstairs on the square, bar at the rialto in the charles for great fish soup