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Dec 31, 2013 12:20 PM

January 2014 Openings and Closings

Per Chowhound eatinginboston, Pastoral (wood-fired, Neapolitan pizza in Fort Point), Alden & Harlow (Michael Scelfo's first place of his own, in the old Casablanca space), and The Merchant (an "American brasserie" in the Fi-Di with a Craigie alum heading the kitchen) are all slated to open in January.

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  1. As reported in the December thread and else where, burgers should be flipping off the grill at the Harvard square Shake Shack tomorrow at 11 am.

    13 Replies
    1. re: lc02139

      I was in the square over the weekend and checked out the new Shake Shack. It was on par with the Chestnut Hill location, which is to say it isn't very good and not up to par with some of the Manhattan originals (which are pretty good, but can be inconsistent to begin with).

      The standard Shack burger tasted of little but salt. I know a lot of folks like it, but I'm not a fan of the Martin's Potato rolls. If they are under-toasted (as mine was), the roll can be very squishy. The vaunted new handcut fries were soggy and cold. They seemed not ready for prime time, as a soda tasted very watered down. Either it had been poured in advance or the fountain was off. The coffee shake was about the only thing that was good.

      There wasn't a line at 11:45a, and we were able to get a table upstairs. There was a short line when we left.

      I was curious to try Shake Shack, but it won't replace Tasty Burger for me when the area. Tasty Burger is across the board better in quality and taste, and overall less expensive when considering portion size. When walking past Tasty Burger afterward, I was pleased to see it was packed and business has not been affected so far. For my preferences, Harvard Square fast food type burgers would rank (Tasty Burger, Bartleys, Flat Patties, Shake Shack).

      1. re: black_lab

        Interesting. And I would unquestionably put Tasty Burger last in a ranking of those 4 places.

        Also interesting to hear that they are trying out the new fries at the Harvard Square location. When I was at Chestnut Hill about a week ago they were still using the frozen crinkle cut fries and I did not see any option of ordering the new hand cut ones.

        I will also say that I too have experienced the same exact issue with a soda from Shake Shack (Chestnut Hill). I do think they pour them in advance in anticipation of a rush and I find that to be unacceptable.

        1. re: black_lab

          Stopped in to the Shake Shack in HS - enjoyed the standard cheeseburger - I thought it had good flavor. At today's burger prices, thought the $5 for a single patty was fair enough.

          Had the Chicago dog - the toppings obliterated the bun, making it a mess to eat. Although thought the dog itself was too firm and hard to chew through, especially against all the squishy toppings. Did not have much flavor to me, dog-wise.

          The fries at $3 were a total disappointment. Hand-cut but a soggy mess.

          The strawberry shake was very good and the house tap beer was decent.

          Not sure I understand all the fuss, but I will go back and try the 'shroom burger.

          1. re: Bob Dobalina

            I think the "fuss" is in regards to the burgers and shakes. Not the fries and certainly not a hot dog. To me, the Shake Shack regular burger with cheese is easily tops in the fast casual category in the $5 range. Better than Five Guys, UBurger, Smashburger (tried the new one in Natick recently) Tasty Burger etc. Quality beef for the price. Nothing more, nothing less. Certainly nothing worth waiting more than 5-10 minutes in line for. By the way, I usually skip the fries and get 2 burgers (not on the same bun).

            1. re: Bob Dobalina

              I'm so sad about those stupid hand cut fries. I LOVE crinkles. So I'm actually kind of glad they're awful. Bring back the crinkle cut!

              1. re: maillard

                I'm with Maillard! The crinkle cut worked so well with the cheese sauce!!!! Cheese fries were amazing, and I hope they still have them at Chestnut Hill!!!!!

                1. re: devilham

                  They sure do. Just devoured some on Tuesday.

              2. re: Bob Dobalina

                I went to the Harvard Sq. Shake Shack for lunch today. The service was really good, but the food was not great. I got both a hamburger and a hot dog since I wasn't interested in the non-crinkle fries. I ended up getting some fries for free, though, since they had some trouble with my order (it wasn't even a big deal to me, but nice of them to do that). The added fries made for a pretty huge lunch, so it was a good thing I'd just come from the gym! The hamburger was cooked nicely, but crazy salty in one spot. The hotdog was also cooked pretty well, but what kind of hot dog are they using? It was kind of strange tasting. Not in an off way, just different tasting than most hotdogs I've had.

                The fries were okay. They weren't very hot, but they weren't cold or anything and were an okay mix of crunchy and softer. They were no crinkles, though...

                I thought the staff was really fantastic. Very friendly and helpful and all clearly working their butts off. So I'll give this place another shot just based on that (and nothing I ate was bad, just all could've been a little better).

              3. re: black_lab

                I'm so glad some one else feels this way. I have been to the Shake Shack in Chestnut Hill and in Washington DC. It's fine. It's not the type of food I'm going to go out of my way for. I think Tasty Burger is much better plus (and maybe this is just me) I would rather support a local "chain" than a NYC and now national chain.

                I'm concerned that Harvard Square is getting over-saturated with burgers. I realize they are the current fad, but they won't be forever and there is no way that all of these places can stay in business in such a high rent district. My guess is that Flat Patties closes first. It's too bad.


                1. re: hungrytommy

                  I guess we will have to agree to disagree but I don't see burgers as a "fad." Definitely nothing remotely close to similar food fads. I'm looking at you cupcakes, frozen yogurt etc. Maybe Harvard Square loses one or two burger places over the years but burgers will always be in demand especially in areas flush with students/those on a budget.

                  1. re: Gordough

                    I'm not saying that burgers will go but there is certainly a very different burger atmosphere than there was even a few years ago. I point to the recent fast expansion of burger only/mostly restaurants (Five Guys, Tasty Burger, Shake Shack, SmashBurger…) Perhaps it is just more people shunning McDonalds et al. Still, I think there is a burger bubble at the moment. There is a big difference between a dessert fad and a meal fad. Dessert fads are almost always short lived, must be something about our desire for sweets, but meal fads, think wraps ten or so years ago, don't go away they just slow down. I think the burger craze is at a high right now. When it softens (unless you are right and it stays as it is) something has to suffer.

                    1. re: hungrytommy

                      People said the burger craze was at a high a few years ago when Five Guys started rapidly expanding in the area. Speaking of Five Guys, they are actually the one burger place that I can see closing locations in a few years. Just too many locations. For example, there is one in Natick and another less than 2 miles away in Framingham. But I truly believe that places like Harvard Square can support 4-5 burger places for the long term.

                      1. re: Gordough

                        I get it and believe me I am wrong a lot. But I think Five Guys was the start and when one rapid expansion turns into many then you really have a fad. Harvard Square is an area where things restaurants come and go (certainly there are some that have stayed around for a long time). The rent is high and if you aren't making a good profit you can't keep up. I don't imagine four burger places with lines out the doors for years to come, but I could be wrong. Time will tell.


            2. Walked past the former Sushi Island in Wakefield today and the new restaurant that replaced it is now open. There's a bar right upfront near the windows. Didn't see a menu & can't remember the name of the new restaurant.

              Also, while walking down Main St., noticed Italian Kitchen of Wakefield coming soon sign--just across the street from Farmland. They have a website going. Unfortunately, I don't think Wakefield needs another Italian joint; seems like the town is over-saturated, but maybe they'll offer another takeout pizza option, so I'll keep my fingers crossed.

              Can someone open a decent coffee place with tasty breakfast pastries in this area? I just moved to Wakefield and I'm still holding out for that.

              1 Reply
              1. re: hardi

                The new place that replaced Sushi Island is called Sakura Organic.

              2. Not sure of the timing (it looked pretty far along) but Falafel King is opening a 3rd Downtown Crossing location. The new one is on Summer Street in the old Qdoba space on the corner of Otis/Kingston.

                1. Reports that Leo's Place in Harvard Square is no more.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                    That sucks, that place wasn't awesome, but it was an old school greasy spoon of the finest order. I loved the griddled pastrami and cheese, so not good for you. And super cheap.

                    1. re: devilham

                      confirmed - windows are covered in brown paper

                  2. Sel de la Terre in Natick mall is closed. Sel de la Terre is no more. (What was the story with that?)

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: hsquare2southend

                      I'm not that surprised given that it had the worst location in the mall. I know that the current focus is on La Brasa, but I don't have high hopes. I think that since McClelland decided it was more important to be a farmer than a chef things have been gong downhill for his restaurants.


                      1. re: hungrytommy

                        I live in East Somerville, so I hope you are wrong about La Brasa. But I suspect you are right on...with a certain temperament, once you get into the field with the growing things, all the bright lights can get diminishing. McClelland might have found his true calling and be forsaking the rest of it. I did love Sel de la Terre, and hope he will somehow merge his callings.