Harvard Square is edging on having too many restaurants -- there are more than 70, not including the tiny cafes and pastry shops. Considering the sheer breadth here, picking the top 12 spots with the right food, drinks, ambiance, and price was no easy feat. But we did it -- for all you Cantabrigians out there. Without further ado, here's a ranking of the best restaurants in Harvard Square:
The 12 Best Restaurants in Harvard Square, Ranked
12. BonChon Chicken
BonChon is more or less a fast-food joint hidden in the basement of a not-so-well-ventilated, multi-story building. It doesn’t have the array of authentic Korean menu items as its upstairs neighbor, Kaju Tofu House, but man oh man, is its fried chicken amazing. The twice-fried technique gives the skin a thin, light, and crispy texture, and begs to be drenched in BonChon’s signature soy garlic sauce or spicy chili mix. It’s fried chicken perfection, and you can’t find that anywhere else in the Square.
11. The Maharaja
Not gonna lie: Maharaja’s main draw may be its floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Winthrop Square. It’s the perfect spot to people watch, especially during the lunch buffet, which is less than $14 and served seven days a week. On its own, the gosht lababdar, cubes of lamb simmered in creamy tomato sauce, warrants a visit.
10. The Boathouse
If classy and nautical kitsch (think ship wheels, signal flags, and rowing shells) can exist in the same pub, then The Boathouse is its embodiment. Owned by Irish brothers Lawrence and Brendan Hopkins (also owners of Daedalus), the bar-restaurant serves classic heritage pub fare, like shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, and sausage and mash in a casual, nautical setting. There's an abundance of rum drinks (go for the spiced cider) and sizeable selection of beers to wash down your hearty dinner.
Parsnip is what you'd expect from an upscale French restaurant with a head chef that's worked in notable kitchens in the UK and France. The technique and taste are spot on, from the expertly stuffed quail with au-jus to the beef filet, cooked rare to perfection. Drinks are generally traditional, with a few creative substitutions, like in the Big City Mule, where pressed apple vodka takes the place of your run-of-the-mill spirits.
8. Flat Patties
Where else can you get a gourmet, juicy, freshly ground burger for less than five bucks? Flat Patties has to be the cheapest burger joint in Harvard, but it serves up some of the best. Not only are the burgers made from top ingredients and the fries cut by hand, but many customers tout claim that the Flat Patty potato buns -- made daily on premise with mashed potatoes, and then grilled with a generous slather of butter -- are some of the best they’ve ever had.
Santouka is putting Harvard on the ramen map. The Hokkaido-style ramen here stars with a tonkotsu (pork bone) base, but adds in bits of seafood, crafting a signature northern Japanese dish. Choose from four varieties: shoyu, miso, or spicy miso. You can ask to adjust ramen ingredients, from the softness of the noodles to the strength of the broth. Definitely splurge on the aji-tama, the marinated soft-boiled egg. Santouka uses the same ingredients as they do in their six locations throughout Japan, so you know you’re getting the real stuff.
6. The Sinclair
The Sinclair is the ultimate spot for both indie music enthusiasts and foodies, the intersection manifested in weekly food specials inspired by the bands playing there each week. The rooftop patio, which has a permanent heating system (perfect for those chilly Cambridge nights), is also home to the restaurant’s herb garden. Did we mention the Sinclair does brunch? Savvy brunchers know to order the Waffle Flight (small servings of each waffle option: berries, bacon, and fluff; bananas, caramel, and pecans; and fried chicken and Sinclair butter), washed down with the mimosa flight. Now that’s how you start a weekend.
Even though it’s tucked in an alleyway between a bubble tea shop and and eyeglass store, Cantabridgians know Orinoco is the place you go to for tantalizing Venezuelan cuisine. They’re known for their arepas -- Venezuelan corn pocket sandwiches filled with seasoned meats, cheeses, and veggies. The quarters are a bit tight, but along with the vibrantly colored chairs and native decor makes, it's like you’ve been invited to a Venezuelan household for dinner. Though the Cambridge location doesn’t do cocktails, drinks do include a fair array of Latin and South American wines and beer.
If you like multi-setting, lounge dining and homey classics like meat pies, patty melts, and ranch fried chicken, then head on over to Park. There’s a hefty cocktail and spirits menu, and 15 expertly selected beers on tap. You'll be dining in one of Park’s four areas, including “The Classroom,” fitted with vintage decor like a typewriter, chalkboard, and sewing machine.
Beer aficionados should know that every Thursday at 5pm, Park taps into a fresh cask of a seasonal selection from local breweries like Peak Organic and Dogfish Head. If you’re feeling adventurous, cocktail lushes can take advantage of the Tender’s Whim, where you tell the bartender custom-makes a drink based on your liquor of choice. One more big plus: Park offers free parking with brunch or dinner four days out of the week, so check with the staff as parking in Harvard Square can be obnoxious as hell.
3. Night Market
When you're talking decor and food, no restaurant does a better job of completely transporting you out of Harvard Square and onto the streets of a new locale, Night Market's being an exotic Asian city, evidenced by the Mao-era propaganda and graffiti-painted walls. The menu was inspired by the chef’s travels through Southeast Asia, and focuses on local street food in the form of small plates. Get an order of chicken hearts glazed in scallion brown butter, or daikon fries with garlic black bean aioli and smoked tomato-ginger ketchup served on comic book paper. Drinks include floral sake cocktails, but go for the pineapple coconut sake slushie -- it’s the perfect accompaniment to spicy, sweet, or savory street food.
Count on Russell House Tavern for consistently great food and drinks. The menu, from small plates like octopus mortadella, to entrees like the signature pork belly sandwich with house-made kimchi and aioli, always hits. The bar has 14 seasonal wines, the most local of beers (including a nitro tap), and a blend of classic cocktails along with modern, handcrafted ones. Pick from one of six eating areas (upstairs tavern, sub-level lounge, wrap-around bar, supper club dining room, private dining room, and outdoor terrace), which blend retro interior design, like wood-paneled ceilings and vintage photographs, with the modern, like industrial light fixtures and black leather banquette seats.
Alden and Harlow serves up quality farm-to-table food, infusing massive amounts of flavor and creativity into its dishes. The price of several small plates can add up, but when every dish is utterly succulent and flavor-packed, such as the pickled corn pancakes topped with popcorn, buttermilk, and shishito peppers, it’s worth every penny. Experimentation doesn’t just stop at the food: find cocktail ingredients like marshmallow root, pickled pumpkin, chamomile foam, and house-made kombucha and digestif. Tip for late night foodies -- check out the #AHLateNight menu, which starts at 11pm and features Alden & Harlow favorites, like crispy head cheese fritters and the pork scrapple banh mi.
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Christina Ng is a Boston-based food and recipes editor. She's one of those annoying girls who has to take a picture of everything she eats. When she's not wreaking havoc in the kitchen or taking pictures of food, she's out visiting her favorite open-air markets. If you’re interested in following her crazy adventures or want to see what she's cooking up, check out her website EastMeetsKitchen.com.
1. Alden & Harlow40 Brattle St, Cambridge
2. Russell House Tavern14 JFK St, Cambridge
3. Night Market48 JFK St, Cambridge
4. Park Restaurant & Bar59 Jfk St, Cambridge
5. The Sinclair Kitchen52 Church St, Cambridge
6. Orinoco56 JFK St, Cambridge
7. Santouka Ramen1 Bow St, Cambridge
8. Flat Patties33 Brattle St, Cambridge
9. Parsnip91 Winthrop St, Cambridge
10. The Boathouse49 Mount Auburn, Cambridge
11. The Maharaja57 JFK St, Cambridge
12. BonChon57 JFK Street, Cambridge
Alden & Harlow, located in Harvard Square, is selling delicious and inventive American cuisine from a constantly-changing menu. The kitchen focuses on small plates including everything from chicken-fried rabbit to pickled corn pancakes topped with popcorn. The seasonal cocktail list is just as inventive and could keep you at the bar until late. This, however, is a great thing, because come 11pm the late-night menu becomes available. With options like popcorn snails and berkshire pork belly, you'll want to stick around.
Named for the 19th century Harvard furniture dealer that first occupied the building, RHT is a two-floored pub/resto in bustling Harvard Square, brought to you from the owners of Grafton Street/Temple Bar. RHT's slinging a New England-heavy menu of modern American "artisanal fare" and craft beers. Their craft cocktail is also definitely worth checking out.
If you prefer to enjoy your Asian street food below street level, this is the place for you. Carved into the defunct Tamarind Bay’s subterranean digs, Night Market keeps it simple with oh-so-satisfying bites such as Daikon Fries (with garlic/black bean aioli), Sichuan-spiced Fried Chicken Wings, and Toasts with pork belly & caramel or poached egg & coconut jam.
This place is a class act with comfy couches and killer cocktails. It's got a romantic vibe, and a late night menu.
Rocking out in Harvard Square, the music promo dudes at The Bowery overhauled the former Phatt Boys into a 500-plus capacity, industrial-aesthetic'd concert venue/ rustic bar & kitchen/ casual-cool rooftop with occasional rooftop movie nights.
Hidden down an alley in Harvard's former Small Plates/ Iruña, the third outpost from the popular South End/ Brookline Latin Kitchen's now serving up even mas Venezuelan vittles including stewed shredded beef empanadas, smoked adobo churrasco w/ a marinated tomato/ red wine-panela glaze, and grilled corn arepas like the slow-cooked pork leg Pernil with mojo, also the answer to the question, "Which Red Sox first baseman replaced Carlos Quintana, yo?".
Santouka Ramen has multiple locations in Japan and around the US and has now set up shop in Boston's Harvard Square. They use the same ingredients in their US stores as they do in Japan, so you know you're getting the real stuff.
Eager to stretch its legs in more comfy digs, this popular neighborhood burger joint's rolled outta Harvard's Garage to set up shop across the Square in a new 25-seat industrial/exposed-brick space (formerly Calliope) fixed with iron beams, stone and hardwood floors, outdoor tables, and a lofted 2nd floor seating area that overlooks the whole place, which is a shame because the place has a great personality.
This upscale French restaurant's head chef has worked in many notable kitchens throughout the UK and France, so you know you're getting the really good stuff from Parsnip.
Presumably themed to lure in the Winklevoss twins during alumni weekend, the dudes at Harvard's Trata (and next door Daedalus) have hit the reset button, rebooting the space as a nautically vibed, crew-friendly Irish pub. Expect traditional onion gravy bangers & mash and shephard's pie alongside over-easy fried egg sammies on Texas toast, and pork shoulder Cubans, plus 15 rums and pitchers of appropriately named suds like Full Sail IPA, Fisherman's Brew & Rising Tide Copper Ale.
From three longtime chums who met at a prestigious culinary school in New Delhi, The Maharaja (which means "King of Kings") plates "Royal" Indian faves in the second floor 125-seat former Bombay Club, which has been gutted and elegantly recast w/ custom h
After two years of construction fits and starts and tantrums, the much anticipated Korean fried chicken and tabletop-BBQ-grilling basement spot Bull Korean BBQ is now officially open in the Galleria at Harvard Square! Only thing is, it's now under the umbrella (and name) of NYC Korean chicken powerhouse BonChon -- so don't call it that other thing, or stuff will get awkward really fast.