Welcome Back to Harvard! Here’s What’s Happening

By Bovey Rao ‘19

As the summer draws to a close, many may be wondering what on earth has happened to Harvard Square. Many beloved restaurants perished with the remodeling of the Smith Center. Student favorites like Al’s are now gone, so our stomachs may be running a little on empty. A few other promises of summer openings were left unfulfilled, but this guide is perhaps a glimmer of hope for what has and will come to Harvard Square.

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Bao
Image from Tom’s Bao Bao

 

Tom’s Bao Bao – Chinese steamed buns, baozi, are the specialty of Tom’s Bao Bao. Various unique fillings are enveloped by airy white dough before being steamed to perfection. From the upscale lobster to the decadent chili beef, there are plenty of excellent options for a quick meal or snack. While slightly pricey, Tom’s Bao Bao is a great addition to Harvard Square for the adventurous student.

Waypoint
Image from Waypoint

Waypoint – Alden & Harlow is not only one of my favorite restaurants in Harvard Square but is one of my favorites in all of Boston. Michael Scelfo, the chef behind Alden & Harlow, recently opened a seafood restaurant, Waypoint, near Harvard Square. Following a similar small plate concept, Waypoint will hopefully become another Boston staple as it opened with excitement.

Upcoming

B. Good Google Maps
Image from Google Maps

B.Good – One of the favorite destinations for students seeking a healthier alternative to fast-food, B.Good was missed when it closed due to the Smith Center renovations. However, it is scheduled to return in a short while at the former O Sushi space. The fresh burgers, salads, and fries are things to look forward to in the near future.

en Boca
Image from En Boca Cambridge

En Boca – Mediterranean flavors are coming to Harvard Square from En Boca, a restaurant by the team from The Asgard and The Kinsale. Deviating from their other Irish pubs, Classic Restaurants Concepts is creating En Boca with Devin Broo from Bar Boulud. Originally slated to open in August 2016, the restaurant appears to be close to opening.

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Image from DavidsTea

DavidsTea – DavidsTea is a tea store that was started in Canada and has begun expanding into the United States. With other locations in Massachusetts, DavidsTea specializes in various tea related products from teas themselves to mugs and other accessories. The store is slated to finish in September 2016.

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Image from The Hourly Oyster House

The Hourly Oyster House – In the former Kennedy’s on the Square space, the Grafton Group is creating an oyster bar known as the Hourly. With well-established restaurants like Russell House Tavern, Park Restaurant, and Grafton Street, the Grafton Group continues to expand their empire with a seafood specialty restaurant in Harvard Square. It promises to provide extensive take-out options, perfect for students in a hurry. The Hourly is looking to open in early fall 2016.

Tatte
Image from Tatte Bakery and Cafe

Tatte Bakery & Café – It is obvious that I am a fan of Tatte Bakery and Café and perhaps was one of few students who was happy when Panera closed. Tatte will bring their fresh pastries and other delicacies to Harvard Square with a weekend brunch menu and cooking lessons. The space is currently under construction and hopefully will be opening in September.

sweetgreen
Image from sweetgreen

Sweetgreen – A large salad chain started by a group of Georgetown graduates is coming to Harvard Square. With the success of Sweetgreen in Back Bay, the chain planned to expand extensively in the Boston area. Highlighting local purveyors like Iggy’s Bread and Ward’s Berry Farm, Sweetgreen is bringing accessible farm to table to the square. Look for it to open in the fall.

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Image of Rialto from Forbes Travel Guide

Benedetto – With the closure of Rialto, Harvard Square lost one of its long-term residents. After providing upscale Italian cuisine to the community for over twenty years, the restaurant did not wish to continue after the departure of chef Jody Adams. Giulia chef and owner, Michael Pagliarini, plans to open Benedetto in the Rialto space, which I believe to be an exciting transition. Giulia has garnered stellar reviews, and hopefully Benedetto maintains the legacy of Rialto. The current opening date is ambiguously set in fall 2016.

Flour
Image from Flour Bakery + Cafe

Flour Bakery + Café – Harvard graduate and star baker (James Beard Awardee), Joanne Chang, is bringing her Flour Bakery + Café to Harvard Square. From the famous sticky buns to excellent sandwiches, Flour has become a Boston staple, and it was great news to hear that one is coming to Harvard Square. The Harvard Square branch is projected to open in October 2016.

Island Creek Oyster Bar Taste Savant
Image of Island Creek Oyster Bar from Taste Savant

Restaurant from Island Creek Oyster Bar/Row 34 – While the opening date remains the most distant, I simply wish to show my excitement for another restaurant by this group. Island Creek Oyster Bar is my favorite seafood restaurant in Boston after numerous memorable experiences. I look forward to what concept will be devised.

 

Featured Image from Wikimedia

Cafe Hopping Abroad

by Hayoung Chang ’18

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Over spring break, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Singapore for an HCAP conference. Obviously I was most excited about the food and especially a tradition called “cafe hopping.” Considering the fact that cafes are one of my favorite things in the world, I was eager to immerse myself in this particular foodie culture.

To explain a little bit, cafe hopping is when you take a whole morning or afternoon to visit as many cafes as possible and sample each cafe’s best dishes. So think of bar hopping, but replace the booze with brunch essentials and scrumptious desserts. I was in foodie heaven. Thrilled, I embarked on my first gustatory odyssey.

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Our first stop was a brunch cafe. I ordered a classic: the salmon eggs benedict. The combination of salmon, roe, avocado, asparagus and hollandaise sauce was genius, to say the least. My taste buds were inundated by the creamy richness of the avocado and salmon, the tart explosions of the roe and the crunchy softness of the toast. Cafe hopping stop 1: 10/10.

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The next stop was: you guessed it, another brunch cafe. With two brunches in one day, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. This time, I ordered poached eggs over a potato puree and hash browns with a side of roasted cherry tomatoes, asparagus and caramelized onions. As you can see from the photo, the egg was cooked to the ideal consistency for drizzly perfection. Washing it all down with a sip of coffee, I was in a stellar mood. Another jackpot brunch. Cafe hopping stop 2: 10/10.

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Feeling pleasantly and smugly full, we headed to our last stop: a dessert cafe. Feeling ambitious, we ordered a cheesecake, brownie and an iced latte. The coffee was an ice cold relief to all the walking in the hot Singapore weather. The cheesecake and brownie were average. The consistency of both desserts were slightly too dense for me, but still a superb combination with the latte. Perhaps the bar had been raised after the two stellar brunches. But the hip atmosphere of the cafe made up for it. The murals added a lazy artistic vibe. The perfect spot for some light reading on a Sunday afternoon.

Overall, cafe hopping was a huge success. I would highly recommend to any foodie that is planning on traveling to Singapore!

With Panera Closing, Tatte Bakery Steps In

by Bovey Rao ‘19

Oh, Panera, you never really meant that much to me… While for some students Panera is a staple, I’ve never been the biggest fan of ‘commercialized’ foods. My friends can attest to the fact that I frequently voice my distaste for chains like Chipotle, Panera, and Au Bon Pain. Ok, you might think this is all a bunch of food snobbery, but for me, the problem is not the flavor of the food, but the principle of it.

While these businesses advertise non-GMO, pesticide and antibiotic free food, what does that really mean? Are we not falling for the same trap of the previous generation that was promised fast, convenient, and cheap food? We are becoming numb to what is out there in the world of food, and falling into the trap of buzzwords and catchphrases. I’ll be honest: when Panera closed, I smiled. When I found out what replaced it, my smile only widened.

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Tatte Bakery and Café is a homegrown Boston bakery and café with numerous branches throughout the city from Kendall Square to Brookline. They serve a wide range of Middle Eastern dishes and pastries as well as the more traditional café fare. From a small stand at Boston farmer’s markets to five established and beloved bakeries, Tatte has proven to be a Boston success story. And it all started with one person, owner Tzurit Or.

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Tzurit Or, from Tatte’s website

 

Tzurit grew up in Israel and learned traditional baking techniques from her mother. After years of working as a film producer, she realized her true calling in life was baking. She picked up her belongings and moved to Boston, where she started baking from her kitchen. Starting at local farmer’s markets, her carefully crafted pastries received rave reviews. The rest is history.

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Delicious various pastries (buttery croissants, fluffy popovers, rich morning buns)

As you probably guessed, a new Tatte Bakery and Café location will be opening in the space previously occupied by Panera Bread. I could barely contain my excitement when I heard this news. A locally-operated business replacing a national chain? It was music to my ears. However, I do humbly applaud Panera for their business model and their care for the customer.

In early February, Panera Bread purchased a majority stake in Tatte Bakery and Café, but will allow them to run independently. This funding allowed Tatte Bakery to fill the Panera space and reach a new audience of (I hope at least) excited and hungry Harvard students. While construction may take some time (it opens in summer according to a manager at the Main Street Tatte Bakery and Café), it is an addition that is sorely needed. As I sip my café au lait and enjoy my pistachio-filled, baklava-esque croissant, I cannot help but think:

Goodbye Panera; Welcome home Tatte.

A selection of tasteful shots from Tatte Bakery and Café on Main Street and all the ‘yum’ that is to come:

*Note: The straight croissant is a sign that means it was made with butter. Curved croissants usually have margarine or an alternative form of fat.

Update: Eater provided exciting information with an email from Tzurit Or.

 

Sofra Bakery and Cafe: Cambridge Bakery Brings Middle Eastern Spices to the Masses

by Bovey Rao ’19

In 2001, Ana Sortun opened her landmark restaurant, Oleana, in Somerville. After an incredible tour of Turkey, Sortun returned to Boston to introduce the city to exotic Eastern Mediterranean flavors. The restaurant exploded in popularity, and in 2005, Sortun was awarded the James Beard Award for Best Chef Northeast. As Oleana was filled consistently, Sortun began looking into a new project, Sofra.

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Sofra Bakery and Café was inspired by Turkish bazaars, which offer food, drinks, spices, and other ingredients in a small area. The store has two separate sections with a café in one section, then a market space that sells condiments, wines, and spices. Upon entering, you encounter the vibrant aromas of the Mediterranean like cardamom, cinnamon, and coriander. A quick glance at the counter reveals an extensive menu with a wide assortment of baked goods. Sofra followed the meze style of dining, so there are many small vegetarian dishes as well as some larger dishes with meats. With staples like falafel, shawarma, and hummus, the menu might seem generic at first; however, upon closer inspection, the subtle complexities shown through. Sortun’s goal is to make Mediterranean flavors and spices approachable to the American palette, so many local ingredients are incorporated into the complex “foreign” dishes.

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As my exhausted group of friends and I collapsed into Sofra after a run, we glanced over the counter at the menu. After we caught our breath, we placed our orders and cooled down from our run. A short while later, my spinach falafel wrap, pumpkin turnover, and grape sharbat arrived with my friend’s orders of chicken shawarma and a red-dragon iced tea.

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The spinach falafel wrap was served with a little tahini, beet tzatziki, pickles, and fresh greens. Falafel is a traditional Middle Eastern dish, prepared by grinding fava beans or chickpeas and then frying it. While the dish may be simple, there is a complexity to the dish, with a unique mix of spices and textural differences giving it almost meaty impression. Sofra’s rendition was mixed with spinach and accompanied by rich, creamy tahini and acidic pickles. Unfortunately, the exterior of the falafel lacked the distinctive crispness I expected. Thus, I was slightly underwhelmed as the wrap had a uniform texture, but the refreshing bitterness of the greens and crunch of the pickles improved dish immensely.

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While ordering, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices for the baked goods. With cookies, tarts, breads, and a plethora of other seasonal baked goods, Sofra prepares a number of traditional Mediterranean pastries as well other European baked items with Mediterranean influences. Fortunately, the cashier provided a quick recommendation of the pumpkin turnover. While the recommendation seemed plain, I was pleasantly surprised by the flavorful sweet and savory pastry. With the traditional pumpkin spices of cinnamon and nutmeg, the flavor was incredible with the flaky buttery turnover. The fresh sweet pumpkin inside was a nostalgic reminder of autumn.

Normally, I do not comment on the drinks that are served in my restaurant reviews, but the seasonal sharbat was sensational. With a strong grape cardamom concentrate mixed with sparkling water, the drink left a powerful sweet flavor.

A mere two miles away, Sofra serves as a cheaper destination for those seeking the Mediterranean experience. The more accessible sister of Oleana, Sofra delivers similar flavors in a cozier and more comfortable environment. While the food may not have been as elevated as at Oleana, the identity of the restaurant as an approachable café was apparent. If I ever desire a falafel wrap or a savory, spiced pastry, I will run in the direction of Sofra.

Sofra Bakery and Cafe

Location: 1 Belmont Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Reservation: N/A

Stand out dishes: Pumpkin Turnover (Seasonal), Grape Sharbat (Seasonal)

Overall Rating: 4/5

Food: 3.5/5

Service: 5/5

Ambience: 4.5/5


 

 

The Proof Is In The Pie

by Landy Erlick ’19

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Petsi Pies is a hidden Cambridge oasis tucked behind a residential street. With four locations in Massachusetts, the establishment clearly knows what it’s doing since opening in 2003. From eponymous pies and baked goods to spicy soups and flavorful sandwiches, Petsi is much more than a café.

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There’s a decent amount of coffee choices, and most customers sip a cup while typing away on their laptops thanks to free wifi. I ventured in around 2pm, and every table was filled, explaining why the display case was looking a little desolate compared to the cornucopia of pies and treats it usually contains before lunchtime. Learn from my mistake – get there early, get a seat, get pie!

If you have a favorite filling or are looking to take a whole pie to go, you’re better off placing an order over the phone.  Daily selections vary, but everything is freshly baked. Possible choices include a classic apple, cherry crumb, chocolate cream, blueberry, Mississippi mud, brown butter pecan, pumpkin, and more.

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I selected the delectably messy mixed berry with a crumb topping. And here’s another tip: have them heat a slice up for you. Now that it’s getting colder, there’s nothing better than a warm, gooey treat, and this slice of berry pie did not disappoint. The texture was chunky enough to know it was made with fresh fruit, but soft enough to let it melt in your mouth. Plus, the crumb has a nice cinnamon kick to complement the hint of sour from the blackberry and sweet from the blueberry.

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Needless to say, I understand the crowds, and I am all for keeping Petsi a secret spot. The more pie for us, the better!  Be careful how often you frequent the café, though. It may be tasty, but my slice was $5.

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It was worth it as a special treat, but maybe not as an everyday dessert.

If you’re looking for a change of pace from dining hall cookies, grab a cup of warm coffee, a plateful of pie, and relax in the bustling ambiance of Petsi’s.

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