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Lunch in Harvard Sq. Want Yummy Food, Reas. Price. Ideas?

I'm meeting up with one of my girlfriends for lunch tomorrow in Harvard Sq. Meeting there due to ease of public transportation.

She is Taiwanese who prefers Italian, I'm a foodie, but with not much money. Is there something that will tickle our tastebuds in the Square (or north of that we could walk to?

Ethnic OK. It's been so long since I actually ate a real meal in the Square that I can't think of where to go.

Casablanca? Snooze
Algiers? More snooze
Chili's? Don't even ask.

Oh for the days of the Blue Parrot...


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  1. Wagamama is a nice option.

    1. Darwin's and Crema Cafe both have excellent soups and sandwiches (although seating can sometimes be hard to get around lunchtime).

      Tamarind Bay for pretty good Indian. Has a reasonably priced lunch buffer (I think around $8-$9).

      1. Give Tory Row a look: moderate, simple, tasty, very new. I always found Shilla a respectable option for Korean/Japanese in that neighborhood. Garden at the Cellar is a short walk away, a gastro-pub kind of place with spectacular food of its kind.


        1 Reply
        1. re: MC Slim JB

          Just had a burger and their tremendous rosemary truffle fries there for lunch today. SOOOOO good, and very reasonable. Also, good, prompt service, which isn't always the case at lunch there for some reason.

        2. cambridge 1 is pretty good for thin crust/fancy topping pizza, though not always consistent. probably not as crowded as crema or darwin's, seating-wise. if it's nice out, hi-rise sells sandwiches and has outdoor seating. north a bit, forest cafe might be good for mexican, though it's been years since i've been so i can't say for sure what the scene is now. petsi's pies on putnam also does sandwiches, quiches and the like. and i agree with delhiwala, if you want noodles, go to wagamama. the other psuedo-thai places in the square are terrible.

          1 Reply
            1. I'm not a huge Sandrine's fan but had a very nice lunch there yesterday. What made it special is that the whole front of the restaurant opens up ... and we were seated right next to the open windows. I suspect they'll do the same tomorrow, since the forecast looks decent. Something to consider if you're planning to meet right at noon and could snag a prime table. Most entrees are in the $10-13 range ... not unreasonable for Harvard Square. They also had a three-course prix fixe for $20.

              I had a good Cobb salad ($13) today at Grafton Street. I know it gets mixed reviews here, but I dine there with some frequency and would say it is definitely above-average.

              I heartily second Crema Cafe, but it's becoming a bit of a victim of its own success ... generally an absolute mob scene at lunchtime.

              Grafton Street Pub and Grill
              1230 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

              Crema Cafe
              27 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138

              8 Holyoke St., Cambridge, MA 02138

              1. Co-workers like the buffet at Bombay Club. I have not been.

                1. Cambridge 1 would be my main suggestion --- it's "modern" pizza may not quite be Italian, but it's close, is foodie-friendly (to say the least!) and won't break the bank. Veggie Planet is a more down-market option in a similar vein.

                  Bartley's is always fun.

                  I still maintain that Cambridge 1 and Bartley's are the two best restaurants in Harvard Square. Harvest would be my next choice, although that's in the $13+ burger range.

                  Cafe Pamplona is known more of its excellent coffee (and other beverages) and unique atmosphere than for food, but the food isn't bad either.

                  Arrow Street Crepes might be another option, just a block away from the square.

                  If you're really on a budget, the Montrose Spa has some nice deli sandwiches. Hi-Rise Bread Company, Darwin's and the Oxford Spa all offer great gourmet sandwiches.

                  Chili's has long been gone, and that apparently cursed space is not currently occupied.'

                  In my humble opinion, I would stay far away from Wagamama, Crema, Shilla or the Bombay Club. (The Bombay Club has an excellent weekend brunch though). Of the Asian restaurants in the square, I'd recommend Le's. I happened to have lunch at Spice yesterday, and while it's nothing special, I was reminded that they have excellent Curry Puffs! I also will say that I do like Cafe Algiers.

                  1. The Blue Parrot? When did that close? 1982?

                    1. Addis Red Sea, Ethiopian up Mass Ave toward Porter (about a 10-minute walk)?

                      Or how about sandwiches outside on the patio at Hi-Rise, followed by yogurt from Pinkberry.

                      (Of course, you've probably decided by now.)

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Pia

                        By Pinkberry, I assume you mean Berryline?

                        1. re: lipoff

                          Oops. Yes, Berryline.
                          (tangent: whenever I read "Reas. Price" my brain rearranges it to read "Peas. Rice.")

                      2. If ethnic is o.k (and if Japanese is still considered ethnic), you might try Cafe Sushi (1105 Mass. Ave.), which is just a few blocks from the Square. It's got a bad rap on Chowhound but I like it--it certainly beats Wagamama and Shilla in my book.

                        1. Just got back from Tory Row. I really liked it. Excellent croque monsieur, very good med-rare burger (unfortunate ciabatta roll which made burger a tad hard to handle), littlenecks in wine and garlic to start. Tumblers of albarino, which seemed right in this setting, like the tumblers at Miracle of Science. Mostly loved the light airy vibe of the place, the huge windows overlooking the square, the industrial fittings. Nice one. I'll be back.

                          1. Hi-Rise has changed their sandwiches completely--the last time I was there, about a month or two ago, instead of a subset of the Concord St. store, they have a few regular sandwiches and a special or two. I was psyched that the prices were lower, but then aghast that the sandwich was the size of my palm. Like half the size they were when they were a couple of dollars more. I was really disappointed, because their sandwiches are great, but I wouldn't recommend it now unless they've changed back.
                            If you want a sandwich, I'd go to Darwin's or for shawarma at Sabra Grill.

                            For cheap: go for interesting and fresh pizzas/curry/macaroni & cheese at Veggie Planet or crepes at Arrow St. Crepes.

                            The best rec in my opinon is Garden at the Cellar. I haven't been to Small Plates myself, but you could search the reviews here. Or you could walk up to Beacon St. if you have the time (though I guess it defeats the purpose of easy public transportation) and go to Zoe's or Pho & Rice.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: dulce de leche

                              Really? What happened to their "brunch" menu? They used to serve this brunch only on weekends, but then they started serving it every day. There are a couple of the hot sandwiches from that menu that I will kill for.

                              1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                A few months ago (when they were in the midst of changing over their menu to the smaller, less good version) I asked someone behind the counter if they were still going to be serving their brunch menu, and he said that he thought they were going to when the weather warmed up. I was there about a month ago around lunchtime on a weekday and saw no evidence of the brunch menu, but I haven't been over there recently or on a weekend. It would be too bad if they have stopped serving their brunch menu, those hot breakfast sandwiches were amazing.

                                1. re: tsackton

                                  Yes, that would definitely be a bad thing. I wonder if the Concord Street location also changed its approach, and only serves brunch on weekend?

                                  1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                    We go to the Concord St. location frequently and haven't noticed any changes.

                                    1. re: nonaggie

                                      Good to hear, I guess I will just have to take a longer walk. And I don't like the seating too much at the Concord store. The HS location has that nice terrace when the weather is nice.