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Red House
Photograph: Courtesy The Red House Restaurant

The best restaurants near Harvard Square

After wandering around Harvard Yard and getting a taste of Ivy League life, grab a great brunch or dinner at one of these recommended spots

Written by
Tanya Edwards
Written by
Eric Grossman
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A visit to the Boston area isn’t complete without a stroll around Harvard Square in Cambridge. And while locals love to talk about the old days when the area was a lexus of bohemia and wild times, it has changed and cleaned up a bit. The restaurant scene has also evolved with the times, giving residents and visitors alike good reason to return regularly to both longstanding mainstays and exciting newcomers. Read on to find the best Harvard Square restaurants, so you can discover this delicious slice of Cambridge. Make a night of it by pairing dinner with one of the best free things to do in Boston, or check out our guide to the best live music in Boston.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Boston

Best Harvard Square restaurants

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Harvard Sq
  • price 4 of 4

For more than 40 years, this refined Harvard Square restaurant has led the farm-to-table charge, celebrating regional ingredients with an elegant, seasonal menu. This is New England cuisine at its finest: lobster and homemade pastas are meticulously and creatively prepared; even a simple starter, like watermelon salad, gets the four-star treatment. Come summer, a seat on the garden terrace is one of the most coveted in the city (same for a spot near the fireplace, come fall). Don’t skip dessert at Harvest because executive pastry chef (and sometimes Food Network star) Joshua Livsey serves some of the most exciting sweet bites in town.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Harvard Sq
  • price 3 of 4

Duck into this subterranean hideaway to discover a bustling dining and drinking destination that boasts a rustic, laid-back vibe with an industrial edge. The reclaimed wood, exposed brick walls and honey-colored glass lanterns hanging over the bar all add warmth to the sprawling space. There’s a small atrium, high-top tables in the bar area and a main dining room, where guests can glimpse the open kitchen through metal shelving stacked with cookbooks. The menu reflects the space’s harmonious juxtaposition, with the kitchen serving up dishes that balance comfort and creativity, such as pickled corn pancakes with buttermilk, maple and shisito.

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Harvard Sq
  • price 3 of 4

When you’re in the mood for the culinary bounty of New England, Henrietta’s Table is the place to go, especially for a killer weekend brunch and a sunny courtyard patio (when the weather allows). The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, brunch and supper, and menus for each service are filled with local, seasonal ingredients—even when it comes to flavorful, garden-themed cocktails. Expect a mix of locals, out-of-town business folks and eclectic guests of The Charles Hotel, and don’t miss the Maine crab and corn chowder.

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Harvard Sq
  • price 3 of 4

The same team behind Alden & Harlow also brings us Waypoint, located on the other side of Harvard Square. The menu applies a modern approach to coastal fare, resulting in an expansive array of inviting seafood-forward dishes. Starters run the gamut from classic raw bar delicacies to caviar service revamped with innovative touches, like plankton and white corn blini. Fish is woven through an assortment of pizzas, pastas and composed plates, such as wood grilled octopus. The cocktail list is crammed with craft ingredients and spirits, and the beer and wine lists are populated with harder-to-find options.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Harvard Sq
  • price 2 of 4

Smart diners know to go where the chefs go. Since 1984, Cafe Sushi has attracted many of the area’s best cooks looking to kick back and relax with some affordable plates of perfectly prepared maki and nigiri. All the standards are here—from salmon skin rolls to hamachi sashimi—as well as excellently balanced bento boxes. For more interesting choices, visit the restaurant for their daily fresh specials.

  • Restaurants
  • American creative
  • Harvard Sq
  • price 3 of 4

With patio seating, a stylish tavern upstairs and a cozy subterranean dining space below, Russell House offers an ideal eating setting for everyone. In summer months, sip a cocktail from the bar’s list of creative classics while enjoying the prime people-watching either on its patio or through the breezy open windows of its ground-level dining area. In chillier months, slip downstairs to warm up over some slow-cooked chicken or a burger. Russell House is also a popular brunch destination, serving up favorites like eggs benedict and stuffed brioche french toast, as well as more inventive options like a slow-roasted pork loin with hoisin-ginger sauce and an “extra dirty” caesar salad made with black kale and anchovy croutons.

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  • Restaurants
  • Harvard Sq

After 20 years, this long-standing favorite was recently passed from the original owner to his daughter. The lobster roll-heavy menu (they have four versions!) has undergone some recent updates and has become more seafood focused, now including a full-service raw bar. The refreshed spot, which is tucked around the corner from Harvard Square, is also offering botanical-forward cocktails at the restaurant’s new Conservatory Bar. Every season, they plan to revamp the outdoor patio space to give dinners a unique, seasonal experience, like last winter’s “ski chalet” and this summer’s garden experience.

  • Restaurants
  • Harvard Sq

Technically the Longfellow is a bar, but in-the-know locals frequent this space for elevated bar food that’s meant to be shared. Grab a date or a couple of friends, hit this cozy space above the more formal restaurant Alden & Harlow and treat yourself to bites like crab rangoon “nachos” and Thai sausage pigs in a blanket, all designed to be eaten with your hands. Wash them all down with craft cocktails, and a nice little beer and wine list.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Harvard Sq
  • price 2 of 4

The Harvard Square location of this Japanese chain is a prime spot for students and tourists to get a fast, nourishing bowl of ramen. The signature tonkatsu is made by simmering pork bones for 20 hours, resulting in a deeply flavorful broth. Santouka also offers toroniku ramen made with tender pork cheek meat. The vegetarian option—featuring menma kikurage mushrooms, soy marinated wheat gluten and umeboshi—is also a worthy choice.

  • Restaurants
  • Hamburgers
  • Harvard Sq
  • price 2 of 4

There’s barely room to move amid the memorabilia that clutters this Harvard Square institution (est. 1960), never mind the crush of diners scoffing thick, juicy burgers and even thicker frappes (that’s New England–speak for a milkshake with ice cream). But don’t let that stop you; the tight squeeze is all part of the fun at a joint that features more than 20 burgers named after local and national politicos and celebs (Bernie Sanders and Tom Brady make an appearance on the menu), all accompanied with kitschy comments.

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  • Restaurants
  • Harvard Sq
  • price 2 of 4

Dine amidst ornate Indian decor and place settings while taking in the view of Harvard Square through The Maharaja’s floor-to-ceiling, second-story windows. Traditional hospitality means you’ll be well taken care of as you enjoy authentic cuisine at this favored eatery. The menu features North Indian dishes like murgh malai kebab (chicken marinated in herbs and cream) and bhindi do pyaza (sauteed okra). Check out the daily lunch buffet, packed with delicious options including vegetarian and vegan dishes.

  • Restaurants
  • Latin American
  • Harvard Sq
  • price 2 of 4

This cute, colorful Harvard Square haven isn’t fancy, but its setting—in a 19th-century bow-front building—is charming and its menu of Venezualan fare exudes authenticity and passion. Dig into a trio of savory empanadas and arepas at wooden tables in the low-lit dining room, which still has its original tin walls. In the summertime, you can also settle into the secluded back patio for an intimate al fresco evening out. In any case, this place is the perfect prelude to a romantic movie date at the Brattle Theatre.

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Harvard Sq
  • price 3 of 4

​​This cheery, clubby Harvard Square restaurant aims to deliver all of your most desired seafood dishes, prepared impeccably. Start with selections from a deep raw bar menu—think eight types of oysters, littlenecks, tuna crudo and scallop ceviche—and dive into classics like fish and chips, seared scallops and whole roasted branzino. In the warmer months, request a patio table in the charming hidden alley a couple of doors down.

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