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Your perfect day in Harvard Square --where would you have lunch?

Off from work today and we were thinking of catching a movie in Harvard Square....would try for lunch around 12:30ish and would like to try somewhere new or just somewhere I haven't been before,. Which isn't tough because I don't get to Cambridge very often..

Any recs on a good spot to have lunch? Food-atmosphere-wise i'm thinking somewhere in btwn au bon pain and upstairs on the square.....which i know opens up lots of possibilities, so bring 'em on,

How about Flat Patties? Haven't been there yet. Where is that located, in the Garage?
Maybe Bartley's?? But certainly doesn't have to be a burger joint, those are just two places that popped in my head....


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  1. I suggested this in the other harvard thread but its called Grendels Den they an extremely inexpensive lunch menu and good for a nice beer and place has great atmosphere and its right around the corner from the theatre 5 minute walk

    heres a link to the express lunch menu
    good luck!

    1 Reply
    1. re: vegathechosen

      If it's a drinking lunch, it's hard to top Grendel's. The Den is legendary -- it was even party to a famous zoning law suit -- for its fun, unique and convivial atm. However, if you're primarily focusing on the food, I'd go elsewhere. THere's nice variety, but unfortunately, it's badly executed for the most part.

    2. Id have to go with Bartleys- I was there on Saturday and had a wonderfully delicious burger that Im still dreaming about...and wouldnt mind heading over there for lunch myself today for another!

      5 Replies
      1. re: fmcoxe6188

        Second Bartley's. It will be nice and quite with fewer students and at lunch you don't lament the lack of alcohol (as much).

        1. re: Gabatta

          i know this question may be bordering on sacrelige but does bartley's have a veggie burger? my dc is on a major health kick so not sure if i can convince her to chow down any red meat...
          i seem to recall they might...

          1. re: twentyoystahs

            Yes they do have a veggie burger, The Al Franken I believe. They also have turkey burgers and plenty of salads.

            Though any time I have had a DC order one of those, they always stare longingly at my cow burger.

            FWIW, my standard order is exactly the same as Blumie's.

            1. re: twentyoystahs

              99.99% sure that they do- though I love a good hamburger I actually had a turkey burger on Saturday- just as tasty. And I recall seeing at the top of the menu a note saying that all burgers can be made with a turkey or veggie burger- I believe. I suppose a call to them couldnt hurt- unless someone else can confirm?

            2. re: Gabatta

              Bartley's. I'm not into lots of toppings, and don't like to have to choose between fries and o'rings, so my order has not changed in 25 years: cheddar burger deluxe, which is simply a cheddar burger served with fries and o'rings.

          2. Grendel's is good for cheapness and beer -- food, not so much.

            For a special lunch I'd hit Casablanca.

            Bartley's is great IF you're in the mood for a burger joint.

            I also enjoy Henrietta's Table for a restrained New England feel, but find it a little pricey, or Cafe Algiers for a laid-back lunch -- the roast lamb sandwich is so good it's hard for me to order anything else. My personal favorite lunch is to grab a sandwich and Arnold Palmer from Hi-Rise and eat it outside.

            1. I vote for Casablanca, but have to admit if the weather was better I would be tempted to try the new patio at OM.

              1. I'd pick Casablanca over Bartley's, better atmosphere and a very good burger. Daedalus has some good sandwiches and a nice atmosphere, I like their Cubano. Shay's and Charlie's Kitchen are other good choices.

                1. my current fave is Cambridge One on church street. they have a clean modern-ish atmosphere, a great window overlooking an old graveyard, and wonderful flat bread pizzas and salads. i've eaten there many times, never disappointed. it's run by the same folks who own miracle of science in central square (another fave of mine).

                  1. A sandwich either at Darwin's or Hi Rise--if you want a sandwich, they are really excellent. Both have seating that is v. casual but comfortable. Or go to Veggie Planet--there are some GREAT dishes there, and the ingredients are very good quality.

                    Or if you do this in a couple of weeks, you could go to Garden at the Cellar.

                    Flat Patties is great, but the atmosphere is lame. It's in the garage and has a sort of "open" plan, which means the tables and bar area are basically in the flow of the mall. It's probably below Au Bon Pain, which at least has a nice patio.

                    Grendel's is cheap in both senses. I wouldn't recommend it unless cheap or eating outside (without beer-you can't take it outside) were priorities for you.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: dulce de leche

                      Actually, they now serve beer outside as well.

                    2. I would suggest going to Flat Patties to try their shredded pork sandwich (or a burger). No atmosphere at all, but it's cheap, the food is good, and it's quick (and there is good people-watching from the little dining area).

                      1. Harvest in their patio, weather permitting.

                        1 Reply
                        1. For a slightly upscale but not expensive alternative, I'm partial to Sandrines. It is well executed Alsatian food and the atmosphere is very nice. RE: Grendels, it was the first place I ever ate at in Cambridge while looking at grad schools in the late 70s. It's atmosphere and food helped convince me to come to Boston. Pachelbel's Canon playing in the background, quiche of the day and even chocolate fondue for dessert. It was so serenely 70s then and unfortunately, also now.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: gourmaniac

                            I would vote for Sandrine's and have a big bowl of mussels, a nice glass of something alsatian, a little salad and maybe a bite of a fruit tart, OR Casablanca which feels like being in an underwater bubble--both places feel very special, which is what I want when I'm taking a day off work! You can talk, you can linger a little---otherwise I would get the chicken cashew curry sandwich at HiRise and a lemon cake and find a spot near the fish pond in the Radcliffe gardens...another special place.

                          2. On the rougher-and-readier side, there's Darwin's on Mount Auburn and Arrow Street Crepes. One place I keep hearing about and have not had a chance to schlep out to is Small Plates, which from the web site apparently does serve lunch from Tuesdays through Saturdays.

                            And of course, every time I walk past Bartley's, the siren song of seared grilled meat calls out to me ...

                            148 Mt Auburn St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                            Small Plates
                            56 Jfk St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: Dr.Jimbob

                              Thanks all for some great suggestions. It seemed like Bartley's was clearly in the majority, which was just fine with me as I'm always looking for a good reason to head there....and, after suggesting it, realized my DC had never been there!!! That had to be rectified! Unfortunately.....when we got there at just before 1, there was a HUGE line out the door. Major bummer, because we were already time-crunched to begin with, trying to make a 1:45 movie.
                              It was a Monday afternoon, so I have no clue why they were so busy. The hostess was also clearly confused about it. Maybe something going on at Harvard? Summer session? I have no clue. But.....we ended up having to hit Flat Patties instead. It's true, no atmosphere, but a pretty tasty & juicy burger and excellent hand cut fries, so all in all, not a bad choice. Compares favorably to Uburger though I think I'd still give Uburger the edge.
                              We'll have to try for Bartley's some other day, I guess :(

                              1. re: twentyoystahs

                                For future reference, although you certainly would not have made your movie, the line moves fairly fast. They have a fairly efficient system whereby someone (often Mr. Bartley himself) will sit outside and take your order while you're still standing in line. As soon as you're seated, the order is submitted to the kitchen, and the food is turned out fairly quickly.

                                1. re: Blumie

                                  I always wondered how much Mr. and Mrs. B clear from that place. They've been running it for 40+ years, it does a bangup business, and all we see is good ol' Mr. and Mrs. B sitting outside managing the line, taking orders, and coaxing people to stay in it, since it moves fast. No credit cards, high turnover, must be a killer business. Besides the yearly "Bartley's is closed because Mr. and Mrs. B are off skiing for the week", it doesn't seem like they've been spending much money, so they're probably well and loaded.

                                2. re: twentyoystahs

                                  Unfortunately, that sounds like a pretty typical afternoon at Bartley's. For what it's worth, I think you got the better burger out of the deal.

                                  If I were to get a sandwich at Darwin's, what would folks recommend? I like the idea of a slow weekday afternoon with a sandwich on one of the benches by the river or in JFK Park.

                                  1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                    I almost always get the Mt. Auburn (it's called Crawford at the Cambridge St. location) on rye. I also like the Gerry and the Story (you can order Short Story, which doesn't have the prosciutto if you don't eat pork/meat).
                                    But their specials are often really special. When the previous chef was there (I can't remember his name; he was Mexican I think), he would do an amazing capicolla/mortadella/salami/giardinere/provolone/etc. sandwich. I haven't seen that in a long time, but they often have really nice options.

                                    Then I would get a coconut macaroon or a mint chocolate macaron for dessert. I don't think the coffee is great, at least at the Mt. Auburn location, but they have other interesting drinks in the cooler.

                                    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                      If you go on a Wednesday you can get the fish sandwich special, which is a thing of beauty. Fried fish filet, coleslaw and arugula on a soft roll. It's big though and doesn't do well as a "save half for the next day" sandwich, so either be really hungry or have a friend to split the sandwich with.

                                      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                        Really? Is that line typical?
                                        That's good to know, because when I asked the hostess she seemed sorta surprised that it was so busy on a Monday afternoon as well. I figured if there was one day during the week that it wouldn't be that busy, it'd be Monday, but apparently I was wrong.

                                        As for the burger, it's been a while since I've had a Bartley's burger so it's tough for me to compare to Flat Patties, but I will say my memory does seem to recall that it would be up a notch or two (and a bit more comparable to Costellos or Zons.) Alas, I'll have to wait till next time for my final verdict.

                                        1. re: twentyoystahs

                                          During the summer, when there are a lot of tourists and daytrippers in the Square, Bartley's tends to get slammed at lunchtime.

                                        2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                          I love the Hubbard Park -- veggies, sprouts, avocado, hummus, green apple slices on multigrain. Get it with cheddar. (I'm not a big meat-eater though.)

                                    2. I don't think anyone has recommended Crema Cafe yet (unless I missed it). It's a very pleasant place to sit. I can recommend the curried chicken salad sandwich (very mild, but delicious), the ginger lemonade, the roast beef sandwich with homemade "Boursin" and roasted peppers, and the homemade sweet potato fries that you can get with your sandwiches.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: butterfat

                                        The grilled cheese is also fantastic. A great blend of cheeses made better with the addition of tomato and bacon.

                                      2. Greek Corner then Berryline!