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Getting to Know Your Neighborhood: Harvard Square

Everyone’s heard about it, few really know it


According to historian Charles Sullivan, an area that includes the present-day Harvard Square was founded in 1630 as the Puritan village of Newtowne, which would become Cambridge in 1638. Many of the original streets still exist, including parts of Church, Story, Eliot, Arrow, and Mount Auburn Streets. And a few early 18th-century wood-frame houses on Winthrop, Dunster, and South Streets remain as well.

The name Harvard Square did not become popular until the middle of the 19th century. Today the square (the area around the convergence of Massachusetts Avenue and Brattle, Mount Auburn, and John F. Kennedy Streets) is a commercial center for Harvard students, Cambridge residents, and tourists. It’s no surprise, given the disposable income passing through, that regional and national chains have moved in, yet the square retains many long-standing locally owned and operated businesses.

No amount of economic evolution can remove the area’s fascinating blend of characters. A sunken region next to the MBTA subway entrance (“the pit”) is a prime venue for political activists, panhandlers, skateboarders, and street performers, who also provide a festive atmosphere one block away, on Brattle Street. (Tracy Chapman and Martin Sexton both performed as Harvard Square buskers.) Nearby, on Mass Ave, chess aficionados challenge one and all for kicks and cash. The square also attracts many of the city’s homeless people.

Below are some jumping-off points for exploring the square, destinations that lead to other destinations.

Santouka Hokkaido Ramen, 1 Bow St., Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Santouka Hokkaido Ramen, One Bow St. Photo by Esther Ro (COM’15)

Santouka Hokkaido Ramen
One Bow St.

This Japanese ramen chain first opened in New England in 2015 in Harvard Square and has earned a devoted following. The signature dish is Shio ramen, a mild and creamy soup flavored with salt and topped with pickled plum. Another favorite is the robustly flavored Tokusen Toroniku ramen, with pork cheek meat. The 59-seat eatery doesn’t take reservations, so be prepared to wait for a table.

The Games People Play
1100 Massachusetts Ave.

The name says it all. Since 1974, the store has stocked a wide array of study-time distractions, such as board games—many of them from overseas—mechanical puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, and mind-benders. Check out the specialty chess sets—and themed chess pieces: from animals to cathedrals to the Battle of Waterloo. Die-hard strategists won’t be disappointed: the shop is filled with unique brain teasers.

1105 Massachusetts Ave.

There’s nothing better than a leisurely Sunday brunch at a local diner, and that’s just what you’ll find at Zoe’s, where the plates are piled high with golden pancakes, eggs, and bacon; the coffee is strong; the jukebox is active; and breakfast is served all day. After all, it’s the most important meal of the day.

Follow the Honey
1132 Massachusetts Avenue

This honeybee-centric shop, opened by beekeeper Mary Canning in 2011, brings the finest honeys from around the world to Cambridge. From New England wildflower honeys to more exotic varieties like Hawaiian hibiscus and the Middle Eastern sidr of Hadramout, you’ll find it here. The store also offers aromatherapy beeswax candles, honey-infused lotions, and soaps, and art, clothing, and jewelry inspired by the liquid gold, including honey-filled hopestone amulets. Follow the Honey partners with pesticide-free apiaries, groups that provide economic empowerment in developing countries, and bee farms that promote fair trade and human rights.

Grafton Street Pub & Grill
1230 Massachusetts Ave

This neighborhood pub/contemporary restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily and attracts a big crowd for weekend brunch. Among the popular items are the pastrami-spiced salmon with spaetzle and cabbage; roasted beet salad with frisée, strawberries, feta, hazelnuts, and verjus vinaigrette; fried calamari with lemon vinaigrette; and a key lime crème brulee. The French doors along the front are a great vantage point onto the square and there’s al fresco dining on the patio during warm weather months. On the late-night menu (11 pm to 1 am Sunday to Wednesday, 11 pm to 2 am Thursday to Saturday): sandwiches, oysters, rustic pizzas, and appetizers. The name comes from the lively shopping district in Dublin’s Temple Bar neighborhood. Complimentary parking is available for those with a confirmed reservation.

Hong Kong
1238 Massachusetts Ave.

From modest beginnings in 1954, this Chinese restaurant is a Harvard Square fixture and has expanded to three floors, with a restaurant, a lounge, and the area’s largest dance floor. The menu is nothing remarkable, but you’ll find the biggest scorpion bowl in town: nine alcohols (mostly rums) and pineapple and orange juices. With exotic drinks like that,  trivia nights, and some stand-up (the third floor hosts the Comedy Studio six nights a week), who needs food?


Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage, 1246 Massachusetts Ave.

Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage
1246 Massachusetts Ave.

Americans love two things: burgers and snark. At Mr. Bartley’s Gourmet Burgers, a Harvard Square institution since 1960, diners can have both: every seven-ounce burger comes with a free side of sarcasm. The restaurant has been featured in the New York Times and the Food Network, among many others. Burgers are named for Massachusetts luminaries, like the Tom Brady “Triumphant” and the Liz Warren, and national figures: the Melania Trump and the Caitlyn Jenner “You Go Girl.” You get the idea. For an authentic Bartley’s experience, add an extra-thick frappe or malt—but only if you wear your stretch pants.

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave.

In 1932, Mark S. Kramer borrowed $300 from his parents to open a small store for used and remainder books. Today, the store is still independent (Mark’s son Frank sold it in 2008 to longtime customers Jeff Mayersohn and Linda Seamonson), who have expanded it to 100,000 new and used titles. The award-winning Author Event Series presents readings, signings, and lectures by established and emerging authors. The store has a print-on-demand machine, an affordable option for authors interested in self-publishing.

Inside Cabot’s Candy and Saltwater Taffy

Cabot’s Candy and Saltwater Taffy, 1300 Massachusetts Ave. Photo by Chynna Benson (CGS’18)

Cabot’s Candy and Saltwater Taffy
1300 Massachusetts Ave.

Long an institution in Provincetown, Mass., Cabot’s has another store here, and life couldn’t be sweeter. Choose from fudge (dozens of flavors), peanut brittle (made with beer, not water, the way most places make it), flavored popcorn, or its famous saltwater taffy, with more than 50 flavors, like peanut butter and molasses, beach plum, rum butter, and root beer. Also offered: baked goods, bulk candies, and classic confectionaries (Squirrel Nut Zippers, anyone?).

1326 Massachusetts Avenue

Local vegetarian chain Clover Food Lab aims to convert carnivores, and with such items as Japanese sweet potato sandwich, with twice-cooked sweet potatoes, shoyu mayo, red cabbage salad, shiso peppers, scallions, daikon, and tempura sesame seeds; and a chickpea fritter sandwich, a take on falafel, in a fresh pita with homemade hummus, cucumber tomato salad, pickled veggies, and tahini, you may find yourself converted. New standouts include “The Impossible Meatball Sandwich”—made possible by a recent partnership with Impossible Foods, a Silicon Valley start-up that develops plant-based meat and dairy alternatives like Impossible Meat (wheat and potato protein, coconut oil, and heme), are available only at the Harvard Square spot. Clover is constantly experimenting with new food technologies and introducing new flavor-packed vegetarian dishes.

Clover, 1326 Massachusetts Ave. Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA.

Clover, 1326 Massachusetts Ave. Photo by Cydney Scott

Harvard Coop
1400 Massachusetts Ave.

Founded in 1882 by a group of Harvard students, the Harvard Coop (pronounced like coupe, not co-op) is one of the country’s largest bookstores. Now run in partnership with Barnes & Noble College, the multi-level, multi-building retailer sells textbooks, school supplies, and dorm necessities, as well as Harvard merchandise. Membership fees are only $1, just as they were back in 1882, but membership is selective: only students, faculty, alumni, and employees of Harvard and MIT can join. Members receive an instant 10 percent discount on all purchases.

Grolier Poetry Bookshop
6 Plympton St.

Tucked into a sliver of Plympton Street and resembling a small hallway closet is Grolier, the oldest continuously operated poetry bookshop in America. Established in 1927, this nook of a bookstore now stocks over 15,000 volumes of trade, small press, and university publications devoted to poetry, prosody, and poetry markets as well as spoken-word CDs. It also offers regular author readings and book signings. T. S. Eliot, Allen Ginsberg, Marianne Moore, and e.e. cummings are among the many legendary writers who visited Grolier, and their black-and-white portraits gaze down from above the shop’s many shelves.

Club Passim
47 Palmer St.

Before she became a poster child for the antiwar movement in the 1960s, Joan Baez gave her first concert at a small Cambridge music venue called Club 47. Now, more than half a century later, Club 47—now Club Passim—remains a cornerstone of local and legendary folk music. Noted performers, among them Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, Tom Rush, Judy Collins, Shawn Colvin, and Joni Mitchell, made some of their first public appearances here. Among recent performers are Janet Feld and Bernice Lewis, Mark Lipman, Windborne, and the Goodbye Girls. The club’s intimate setting (102 seats) invites audience and artist interaction.

Border Cafe, 32 Church St. Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA.

Border Cafe, 32 Church St. Photo by Cydney Scott

Border Café
32 Church Street

A Harvard Square mainstay since its opening in 1987, Border Café serves a unique blend of Cajun and Tex-Mex. Highlights: Gulf Coast seafood enchiladas—shrimp, crawfish, and melted poblano jack cheese, topped with a Cajun-spiced three-cheese and lump crabmeat sauce; crawfish etouffee; tacos; empanadas; and chimichurri steak. Try not to fill up on the complimentary basket of hot, salty tortilla chips constantly replenished by waitstaff. A great late-night haunt, it’s open until 2 am Fridays and Saturdays, until midnight on Sunday, and 1 am the rest of the week.

The Sinclair
52 Church St.

This live music venue–restaurant, opened in 2012, has helped revive Harvard Square’s nightlife scene. Such bands as Mission of Burma, Man Overboard, and Jeff the Brotherhood have appeared. The space can hold 500, but it has an intimate feel. Best of all, there isn’t a bad view of the stage from anywhere (the balconies have the best vantage point). The second floor’s stylish dining area and open kitchen offer gastropub fare such as chorizo disco fries, fish tacos, and gouda mac n’ cheese. On the brunch menu are such hard-to-resist items as eggs Benedict, with a choice of veggie, duck, or crab, and a waffle served with bananas, caramel, and pecans.

Boston University BU, Boston nightlife, concert music band venue, Cambridge

The Sinclair, 52 Church St. Photo by Katie Spence (COM’13)

Cambridge Artists Cooperative
59A Church St.

Established in 1988, the Cambridge Artists Cooperative is the area’s only year-round artist-owned and -managed crafts cooperative. With work from more than 200 artists from across the country, this 2,000-square-foot gallery has contemporary crafts, paintings, pottery, photography, jewelry, clothing, and sculptures. New work is displayed every month.

63 Church Street

This Swedish-based retailer specializes in outdoor gear and is particularly popular for its backpacks, which can be seen all over the BU campus. The backpacks, along with the company’s jackets, pants, and other outdoor equipment are made with its signature “G-1000” hard-wearing and versatile fabric, engineered to be durable and breathable, good for both mountain climbing and a stroll down Comm Ave.

Zero Brattle St.

Sweet’s cupcakes are made with a heavy helping of TLC. Baked fresh each morning, all frostings, fillings, and batters are made from scratch. The whimsical flavors (20 available at any given time) change with the seasons—pink lemonade and piña colada in the summer, caramel apple and pumpkin pie in the fall, hot cocoa and snickerdoodle in the winter, and lemon raspberry and chocolate coconut in the spring. These are just some of the flavors that make Sweet worth visiting again, and again, and…

Zero Brattle St.

There’s a good chance you’ve walked past Tealuxe and never noticed it nestled between Sweet Bakery and Urban Outfitters. The sign proclaims “tea for all” and the aroma of nearly 200 different varieties hits when you walk into the high-ceilinged café. Customers can enjoy exotic as well as more common varieties and can purchase loose tea to take home. The shop sells all manner of teapots, kettles, honeypots, and other accessories.

Black Ink
5 Brattle St.

Black Ink’s description as a “one-stop design shop” fits well. It specializes in stationery, cards, wrapping paper, and playful home décor. Floor-to-ceiling shelves are lined with knickknacks you never knew you needed, like toaster-shaped coasters, avocado soap, and bowls in the shape of human heads. There is also a wide array of The Adventures of Tintin memorabilia, like books, posters, toys, and mugs. Check out the original store on Beacon Hill.

Beat Brew Hall
13 Brattle St.

Beat Brew Hall is a European-style beer hall that offers a wide range of craft beers and communal tables designed for beer drinkers to mingle with friends and strangers alike. Until its fall 2018 renovation, it was known as Beat Brasserie, one of Harvard Square’s staple jazz venues. Despite its new look, it will continue to showcase live music. Diners can choose from traditional bar food, ribs, flatbreads, or even charred Brussels sprouts. Open until 2 am on the weekends, the beer hall is sure to be a popular spot with late-night revelers.

Crema Café
27 Brattle St.

You’ll find a welcoming environment here, highlighted by smiling staff, communal tables, and the scent of fresh-baked pastries, which tempts customers as they wait in line to order. Who could resist a delectable French macaroon (flavors change daily) or a mudslide cookie? The savory options are just as tantalizing. Try the house-roasted turkey and jicama slaw sandwich, with avocado, bacon, mayo, and ancho chili vinaigrette on toasted homemade boule, or the sweet potato, with avocado, green apples, sprouts, hummus, and sherry vinaigrette on toasted homemade wheat bread. With gleaming hardwood floors, an exposed brick wall, and local artwork, Crema is an attractive neighborhood spot.

Bob Slate Stationers
30 Brattle St.

This store is a must for anyone who appreciates quality stationery, fine pens, office products, and a wonderful selection of gift and holiday cards and wrapping paper. The knowledgeable staff has been serving Boston-area residents since 1930 and can help with info from the latest pen and ink technologies to finding the right kind of personalized stationery.

Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle St. Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA.

Brattle Theatre, and Alden and Harlow, 40 Brattle St. Photo by Cydney Scott

Brattle Theatre
40 Brattle St.

Fans of the silver screen have been catching flicks at the Brattle since 1953, when Bryant Haliday and Cyrus Harvey Jr. premiered the German film Der Hauptmann von Köpenick. Showing classic, independent, foreign, and art-house films, this not-for-profit theater—one of a vanishing breed—is best known for its eclectic and repertory format. Housed in a barnlike meeting hall, it is one of the few remaining movie theaters to use rear projection—the projector is behind the screen rather than behind the audience.

Alden and Harlow
40 Brattle St.

When chef Michael Scelfo opened Alden and Harlow in 2014, he wanted to serve “honest American food, bold and flavor forward in taste.” And he does, with dishes like chicken-fried local rabbit topped with chili oil, celery, apple, and blue cheese, and eggplant a la plancha, with carrot Romesco, fried peppers, and hazelnut gremolata. During the summer, special four-course “whole garden” dinner events are held in the restaurant’s greenhouse. There’s a late-night menu for grub after hours, and a weekend brunch with such yummy items as pickled corn pancakes with whipped sweet ricotta, granola, blueberries, and rhubarb, soft scrambled eggs with chèvre, and croissant pain perdu, with apple butter, smoked pecans, and maple. Scelfo has opened another eatery, Waypoint, across the square at 1030 Mass Ave., offering coastally inspired fare.

Goorin Bros. Hat Shop
43 Brattle Street

Founded in Pittsburgh in 1895, Goorin Bros. Hat Shop is the oldest family-owned hat shop chain in the country. At the Harvard Square store (there’s also one on Boston’s Newbury Street), both men and women can choose from hundreds of hats of every shape and style: fedoras, Panamas, bowlers, flat caps, top hats, and more. In a nod to nearby Harvard and MIT, the store promises to provide “unique headwear to comfort the churning mind.”

A chocolate dessert at Burdick's

Burdick’s, 52D Brattle St. Photo by Chynna Benson (CGS’18)

52D Brattle St.

When the Aztecs drank chocolate thousands of years ago, this “drink of the gods” was so rare and sacred that only the richest could afford it. At L.A. Burdick, “richest” is a culinary reference: a mug of hot chocolate here beats that watery instant stuff any day. The secret? It’s made from chocolate and chocolate alone, hand-shaved and warmed in milk. If that’s not rich enough for you, try the Harvard Square, a dense chocolate and walnut cake topped with velvety ganache. Burdick’s also sells a wide selection of chocolate confectionery. Of special note are its whimsical chocolate mice, beloved by Burdick’s patrons for more than 25 years.

American Repertory Theater
64 Brattle St.

Founded in 1980, the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) has garnered many of the nation’s most distinguished awards: a Tony Award for best regional theater, a Jujamcyn Theaters Award, and the National Theatre Conference’s Outstanding Achievement Award. Housed in the Loeb Drama Center, the A.R.T. has seen a number of its productions transfer to Broadway, among them All the Way, the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, Pippin, The Glass Menagerie, and Waitress. Its theatrical club space OBERON, called a “second stage for the 21st century,” is an incubator for local artists. The company has staged dozens of American and world premieres.

Longfellow House, 105 Brattle St. Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA.

Longfellow House, 105 Brattle St. Photo by Cydney Scott

Longfellow House—Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site
105 Brattle St.

Rich in history, this landmark building was the home of one of America’s most renowned 19th-century poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Prior to that, the house was George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War Siege of Boston (July 1775 to April 1776). Today, the museum is administered by the National Park Service and houses a collection of 19th-century documentary material and papers belonging to the Longfellow family, as well as clothing, fine arts, tools, and toys. The house, which sits on just under two acres, has a carriage barn and a pergola and is surrounded by lush lawns and formal gardens. Join the likes of Charles Dickens and Ralph Waldo Emerson as one of many visitors to the house.

5 Craigie Circle

Looking for a restaurant that uses local and seasonal ingredients? You’ll find it at Forage, which offers classic fare with an inventive twist. On the dinner menu are such mouthwatering entrées as black pepper maltagliati, either meatballs or mushrooms cooked with macerated tomatoes, parsley, parmesan, and verano. There’s also red wine–marinated hanger steak with lacto fries, broccoli, fermented onions, herb mayo, and jus. Entrées are a bit pricey, but the inventive appetizers are more affordable. Try the vegan mushroom sausage with golden plum mostarda, shaved zucchini and merkén. The bar has distinctive cocktails with a focus on seasonal and locally produced ingredients. The menu changes daily, so be on the lookout for new dishes. There’s also a four-course tasting menu (both omnivore and vegetarian).

The World’s Only Curious George Store
One John F. Kennedy St.

Everyone’s favorite inquisitive monkey has taken up residence in the heart of Harvard Square—at least for now. It’s truly one of a kind, featuring books, toys, puzzles, and apparel—all dedicated to the beloved friend of the Man with the Yellow Hat. It also carries other Boston children’s classics, including When a Lobster Buys a House/i> and Journey around Boston from A to Z, and a small selection of various toys. The shop plans to relocate in summer 2019 but will be staying in the Harvard Square area.

The Garage
36 John F. Kennedy St.

Follow the smell of pizza, incense, and Vietnamese food, and you’ll end up at the Garage, definitely one of Harvard Square’s oddities. This multistory mini shopping mall is in fact a converted parking garage—even the original car ramp has been preserved. It houses an eclectic variety of eateries and shops, notably Newbury Comics, with one of the region’s largest collections of new-wave and alternative music. There’s a tattoo parlor for ink enthusiasts, a hemp store for hippies, a Starbucks for those in need of caffeine, and more.


50 John F. Kennedy St.

This Parisian-based gelato maker opened a location in Harvard Square in summer 2018, its second Boston-based location. They specialize in shaping different flavors of gelato into a multicolored rose, usually complemented by a macaroon placed in the center. We dare you to find a more presentable dessert anywhere in the Boston area. Flavors range from hazelnut to passion fruit. They also serve milkshakes, granita, and sorbet drinks.

Park Restaurant & Bar
59 John F. Kennedy St.

Blending modern and vintage aesthetics, Park offers four distinct seating areas: the dining room, the classroom, the den, and the back room, each with its own unique design. Leather couches and book-lined shelves make you feel like you’re eating in someone’s home. Start your meal with an appetizer like lobster and crab dip, move on to a patty melt or the double-cut pork chop, pick a side order of maple carrots or green bean casserole, and end with apple brandy bread pudding or the chocolate mousse. Weekend brunch and a late-night menu are available. There’s outdoor dining on the patio late spring, summer, and fall.

Tom’s Bao Bao
84 Winthrop St

As you can guess from its name, this restaurant’s signature dish is bao, steamed buns made from leavened dough. The dish began as Chinese street food more than 1,200 years ago. Tom’s buns are filled with pork, curried beef, chicken, or vegetables (bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, and smoked tofu). You can even choose lobster for a decidedly New England touch. Curious to learn more about how bao is made? You’re in luck. At Tom’s each bao is handmade and prepared right in front of customers.

Grendel’s Den
89 Winthrop St.

The sign outside this enduring dyed-in-the-wool Harvard Square watering hole announces that it was established in 1271. It’s a typo, and should have read 1971. But the owners kept the sign because Grendel’s Den is named after the antagonist from Beowulf, and the medieval date evokes the epic poem’s period. The bar circumvents the state’s no-happy-hour mandate by offering half-price food between 5 and 7:30 pm daily. The justice system okayed such defiance: Grendel’s famously fought a legal battle over its liquor license all the way to the US Supreme Court and won—separation of church and state was at the heart of it, believe it or not. That’s worth celebrating with a sandwich and microbrew—or two.

Grendel’s Den sign

Grendel’s Den, 89 Winthrop St. Photo by Chynna Benson (CGS’18)

Shake Shack
92 Winthrop St.

This popular chain is known for its burgers, dogs, and frozen custard confections. Founded in New York City in 2004, Shake Shack has a wide following and 100-plus restaurants across the country. The place seats more than 100 and offers a small wine and beer selection, but the hand-cut fries and the concretes (dense frozen custard blended at high speed with various mix-ins) are what will bring you back. The burgers and dogs are pretty good, too.

Out of Town News
Zero Harvard Square

Anyone looking for news from near and far will find it at this iconic newsstand in the heart of Harvard Square. It’s housed in a 500-square-foot kiosk originally built in 1928 as an entrance to the Harvard Square T stop and was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Here Julia Child searched for obscure Italian and German cooking magazines, and rumor has it that Robert Frost (Hon.’61) stopped by for directions to a reading on a snowy winter’s eve. The newsstand nearly folded in 2008 (why fly in yesterday’s Le Monde when it can be read online?), but was saved by Mike Patel, who owns the newsstand operator Muckey’s Corp. and in 2009 signed a five-year lease with the city of Cambridge. However its future is once again in question: the city’s $4.6 million redesign and renovation of the brick plaza does not call for retaining the newsstand, which may be forced to either close or relocate.

Charlie’s Kitchen
10 Eliot St.

This family-friendly, multilevel bar-restaurant has been a mainstay of Harvard Square for more than four decades, and its late hours (until 1 am Sunday to Wednesday, 2 am Thursday to Saturday) make it a popular draw for college students. The wide-ranging menu includes fried chicken, chicken supermelt and lobster salad melt sandwiches, barbecue chicken breast sandwiches, and veggie items like the homemade black bean and veggie cheeseburger, with salsa, guacamole, and chips. The ground floor is reminiscent of a 1950s-style diner, with several HD TVs turned to local news and sports channels. There’s also a sidewalk patio, an upstairs lounge boasting “the best jukebox in Cambridge,” and a year-round (weather permitting) beer garden with 18 draught beers. Charlie’s hosts trivia quizzes on Sunday and Wednesday nights, live music on Mondays, and karaoke on Tuesdays.

18 Eliot St.

Fans of Indian cuisine will love Tanjore. You’ll find tandoori chicken, pani poori, traditional masala, and more on the extensive menu, as well as cold appetizers and chaats, kebabs, and dosas (stuffed rice and lentil crepes). The lunch buffet (weekdays, 11:30 am to 3 pm, weekends, noon to 4 pm) is especially popular. Among the desserts are traditional Indian sweets like gulab jamun (evaporated milk dumplings dipped in rose syrup), ras malai (homemade cottage cheese patties in a flavorful milk sauce), and mango kulfi (Indian-style homemade ice cream).

71 Mt. Auburn St.

As you enter Zambrero, you’re confronted with a giant green neon sign proclaiming ‘“Let’s beat world hunger.” It is a Mexican restaurant with a humanitarian twist. Working with the international hunger relief organization Rise Against Hunger, the restaurant contributes a meal to someone in need each time you buy a meal there. Zambrero’s goal is to donate one billion meals by 2025. The figure, proudly displayed on an electronic board on the wall of the restaurant, currently stands at just under 26 million. They specialize in burritos and bowls, the contents of which you are able to customize. Help save the world, one burrito at a time.

Blue Bottle Coffee
40 Bow St.

Harvard Square’s Blue Bottle Coffee is the first of three Blue Bottle Coffee shops to open in Boston in 2018. The company originated in Oakland, Calif., in the early 2000s with just a six-pound batch roaster and has enjoyed rapid growth: the chain now includes dozens of shops in California, New York, Washington, D.C., Miami, Boston, and Japan and has received hefty investment from food giant Nestle. Blue Bottle’s initial mission was to give customers an alternative to the overroasted coffee found at large coffee franchises, serving only coffee that has been roasted in the last 48 hours. Today, the company’s cafes serve coffee at “peak” times, that moment when a coffee hits its peak flavor after roasting. Blue Bottle serves up a great array of single origin, blend, and espresso coffees.

Harvard Yard

Harvard Yard. Photo by Chynna Benson (CGS’18)

Harvard Yard

The “Yahd” defines one side of the square. Lined by Harvard’s freshman dorms, it’s the epitome of a New England college campus—red brick buildings under a canopy of hardwood trees, ablaze each fall. Presiding over the Yard is a statue of 17th-century English clergyman John Harvard, the college’s first benefactor. The sculpture is often called the “statue of three lies”: the inscription reads “John Harvard, Founder, 1638,” but in fact, Harvard was founded in 1636, Harvard was not the university’s founder (although his library and fortune helped to sustain the school through its early years), and no one knows what the actual John Harvard looked like. Sculptor Daniel Chester French (best known for the Lincoln Memorial) had a student model for the statue in 1884. When you look at the statue, note how bright one shoe is. Tour guides say that it’s good luck to rub Harvard’s left foot. Nearby is Harvard’s main library, the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library, with 57 miles of bookshelves and more than three million volumes, including one of the world’s few existing copies of the Gutenberg Bible.

Harvard Museum of Natural History
26 Oxford St.

A trip to the Harvard Museum of Natural History is an evolutionary experience. Visit prehistoric creatures such as fossil invertebrates, reptiles, and the world’s only mounted Kronosaurus. Wander through a garden of more than 3,000 handcrafted glass flowers or admire a 1,600-pound amethyst geode.

Harvard Art Museums
32 Quincy St.

Among the things Harvard University is renowned for are its three art museums—the Fogg (Western art from the Middle Ages to the present), the Busch-Reisinger (works from northern and central Europe, with an emphasis on German-speaking countries), and the Sackler (Asian, ancient Mediterranean and Byzantine, Islamic, and Indian art). In a project that took six years to complete at a reported cost of $250 million, all three were united under one roof for the first time in 2014 as the Harvard Art Museums. The facility, designed by noted architect Renzo Piano, is an expansion of the original 1927 Fogg Museum building. The museums house more than 250,000 works of art and are home to four separate research centers. The renovation incorporated galleries to feature special exhibitions. Find hours and admission prices here.

Getting there: By subway: take the Green Line inbound to Park Street, then the Red Line outbound toward Alewife, and get off at Harvard Square. By foot: walk across the BU Bridge into Cambridge, go left on the pedestrian walkways along Memorial Drive to John F. Kennedy Street, go right, and you’ll tumble into the Square. The one-way two-mile trip is an easy bike ride.

Click on the points in the map above for more information on the places listed in our guide to the Harvard Square area.

Explore other neighborhoods around Boston here.

This story originally ran September 11, 2009; it has been updated to include new locations and current information.


2 Comments on Getting to Know Your Neighborhood: Harvard Square

  • Aria Armstrong on 10.17.2015 at 2:09 pm

    My best friend and I are making a list of 100 things to do in Boston together! I’ going to share this article with her

  • PJ on 10.19.2018 at 6:39 am

    Wow!! Can’t believe that Lizzy’s Ice Cream on Church Street was not mentioned!! Great ice cream!! Only draw back is that the store is so small and with very little seating.

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