Yesterday, after finishing two of my five exams, I joined a big group of friends in search of a long lunch somewhere across the bridge. After being cooped up in my room for 4.5 hours with a laptop and a timer ticking away, I was happy to go anywhere, but was even happier to check out Russell House Tavern, the new restaurant in Harvard Square. Located on a busy section of JFK Street, its easy to miss this place, especially if you’re used to ignoring the Finagle-a-Bagel that formerly occupied this building. The restaurant is actually rather large and when you step inside you’re greeted with a modern but tasteful ambience and a casual, quick fix feel. Bar stools and high tables dominate the floor, with lower, more intimate-looking tables set against the walls. If you venture to the back, a large staircase leads down into a cave-like expanse of richer-looking tables, a more old-world ambience and a hostess ready to seat you. This is clearly the real restaurant. The upstairs lunch area reminds me a little of Pizza Express, Ping Pong and other higher-end chains in England, while the downstairs is more brasserie-meets-gastropub.
We ordered burgers, crab cakes and an assortment of lunch time sandwiches. The grilled cheese was melt-in-the-mouth delicious and the fries were satisfyingly crunchy. The Tavern Buttermilk salad however, turned out to be a huge letdown, with an egregious ratio of romaine and almonds to grapes and fennel and a painful lack of Benton ham. Our waiter was friendly, prompt and helpful with recommendations and the food itself was quick to appear.
I’ll post pictures when I have some, but till then, there’s a delicious-looking selection on Russell House’s own blog (bonus points for hosting on WordPress!)
The Damage: Between $15-$20 including tax and tip
The Verdict: Expecting it to clean up the competition…..Great choice for lunch, large enough to accommodate big groups, can’t wait to check it out for dinner and try the famous Chip-in Farm Egg!
…Especially when you’ve braved a torrential downpour to get to them. Class ended at 11.40am today and despite the fact that I had a team assignment to work on, an interview call at 2pm, a two hour Spanish class to attend, three cases to read and a date with the gym pending, I decided to follow my two favourite girls across the bridge in search of crepes. It had been raining buckets all night and the wind was howling louder than ever, but nothing could shake our steely will (and resolute stomachs). We snubbed the dining hall suggestions of our well-intentioned class mates and, raising our (two) umbrellas high, stepped outside.
By the time we got to the Creperie, we were soaked to the skin and absolutely freezing. But oh what a feeling it was to walk into that charming, old-fashioned cafe and be greeted by the warm smell of sizzling butter and sweet sweet sugar. The Arrow Street Creperie is tiny and adorable with a few small tables and wrought iron chairs. We found a larger spot with a bench and stepped up to the counter to order. On the advice of my friends, I decided to try the St Martin Justin’s Delight – a savory crepe on the daily specials menu stuffed with walnut pesto, pungent gruyere, sauteed mushrooms and other goodies. Absolutely divine. The crepe itself was thin and crisp, the filling gooey and flavorful. The combination worked well, with the ingredients retaining their integrity in a complementary but un-confusing way. The friendly crepe man behind the counter laughed knowingly when I asked for tabasco and instead poured a smidgen of home-made hot sauce into a ramekin and handed it to me. My friends at the table were enthusiastically tucking into the Standard (smoked ham, baby spinach, two eggs, mozzarella) and the Biarritz (fresh asparagus, smoked ham, swiss and roquefort) but the menu near the counter listed a number of more traditional crepes as well.
In fact, the Creperie offers a good mix of fun, creative fillings, traditional sweet crepes as well as hot drinks and smoothies. Definitely a great option for breakfast through dessert. At $8.99, my crepe was probably expensive for what it was, but I personally thought it was the perfect lunch. We inhaled our food in sync and, at 12.45pm, picked ourselves up, donned our rain gear and stepped back out into the storm.
So its been a week (a great week actually) since school re-started and, as much I love the convenience of being able to run home to take naps / collect forgotten notes / make phone calls, I am strongly considering moving off campus. Several of my closest friends live across the “Pond” (Charles River) in Cambridge, in cute neighbourhoods adjoining Harvard Square and the appeal of a sub $1000 rent, a large kitchen and perhaps most importantly, a connection to the real food world, is starting to chip away at my moving inertia.
This Thursday after class, I was led across the bridge by two hardened off-campusers. After much debate about Indian buffet and Greek salad, we decided to head to Crema Cafe, an adorable little place on Brattle street, dearly-loved for its fresh sandwiches and mouthwatering deserts. As I tucked into my perfectly grilled crema chicken, I realized how happy I was. I leaned back in my chair, momentarily zoning out in order to soak up the happy sounds of clattering dishes, lazy conversation and Regina Spektor singing about a statue. Moving to a smaller table, we decided to stick around and get started on the next day’s homework. I downed a cappuccino and breezed through the first case. Working off-campus was easy! Moving off-campus should be easy too…hmm.
Recognizing that my productivity is significantly boosted by mildly frenetic environments, I decided, on Saturday, to head to another fantastic cafe, Dado Tea for lunch and some more work. I ordered the Cran Apple Salad and a chai latte and sat down with my friend, to wait. The food arrived within ten minutes and was absolutely delicious. The salad was huge and succeeded in balancing the (often tricky) ratio of feta, cranberries, apple and grilled chicken. The latte was foamy and unsweetened, the temperature was perfect. Dado Tea is busy on Saturday afternoons and tends to be dominated by laptop toting grad students who’ve perfected the fine art of pacing their bubble tea sippage with wifi consumption. The place still gets its fair share of tourists and townies though, seduced no doubt by the tempting array of Dado’s desserts and hot drinks.
Does any of this help my cause? Not really. Despite the universe’s impressive attempts to sell me on the across-the-pond lifestyle, I am still torn between that and staying in my uber convenient, roll-out-of-bed-fall-into-class situation. Will I find mi casa off campus? We shall see…