Harvard Square, Cambridge guide
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 narrow and cobblestone 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. In fact, Harvard Square was always a hot bed of culture, and it exploded in popularity in the 1960’s, which has only grown stronger especially as transportation strengthened. In fact, on February 20, 1950, the Cambridge City Council approved a recommendation to extend the Boston subway to Alewife which then forever changed the Square when it came to fruition in the 1980’s.
The sunken area next to the MBTA subway entrance was called “The Pit” and became a prime area for artsy, marginalized populations such as political activists, beggars, skateboarders, and street performers. Historic Brattle Street has also always been festive, where people like Tracy Chapman performed as a busker. In fact, the music scene of Harvard Square has always been strong, with Joan Baez being discovered at Club Passim and Bob Dylan playing there as well.
The food scene has changed quite rapidly with the skyrocketing rents which drove out such favorites as The Tasty, Mug N Muffin, The Greenhouse, Patisserie Francoise, Finale, and even the famous Au Bon Pain. However, if you search hard enough you’ll find some unique concepts and items that still exist, some independent cafes and restaurants, and lots of things that are very “Hahvahd.”
Crema Cafe (27 Brattle Street, Harvard Square)Crema Cafe, one of the few independent cafes left in the Square, is always buzzing! It was started by two recent University of Michigan college grads, Liza and Marley, in 2005. They came up with the idea while exploring European cafes on their semester abroad. Marley’s dad Tom is their third business partner who also owns Flat Pattie’s and Felipe’s Taqueria next door.
What to orderTheir triple chocolate cookie and rooibos latte are to die for, among other delicious treats and quality beverages.
Flour (114 Mt. Auburn Street, Harvard Square)Renowned chef Joanne Chang started Flour Bakery in 2000 after graduating from Harvard. Back then, she was an unusual addition to the rough-and-tumble restaurant scene but has now earned global and local acclaim with a series of restaurants, this one opening in 2016. She is also a winner of the James Beard award for Outstanding Baker (2016.)
What to orderWe love their sticky buns and delicious tuna sandwiches, but basically anything here is likely to please including their cookies and yummy paninis.
Club Passim (47 Palmer Street, Harvard Square)This famous music venue is where Joan Baez was discovered. Started by two young Brandeis women grads, Club Passim has been a fixture in the Cambridge music scene since 1958. Besides a stellar line-up of music acts of all genres, Club Passim also offers a delicious and fun music brunch on Sundays from 10am – 2pm.
What to orderWe love their Bangkok Street Bread, brunch items, and their selection of local brews.
Black Sheep Bagel Cafe (56 JFK Street, Harvard Square)This multi-use space was started by an area couple who has a penchant for local and a dog-friendly patio.
What to orderTheir bagels are delicious, but we love their brownies – a family recipe of owner Shoshannah.
Central Square, Cambridge
Abide (317 Mass. Ave., Central Square)This incredible brother-sister duo creates the most inventive and colorful drinks this side of the river. This pop up is here to stay inside the ‘sex Lounge (okay Middlesex Lounge but still), and we are excited to stop here and try all the bubble teas, hot and cold!
What to order
Any beverage and stay for a while.
Kendall Square, Cambridge
Mamalehs (1 Broadway, Kendall Square)Finally a proper Jewish deli in Boston! From the front lobby that’s full of delicacies and swag to the occasional Bubbe’s Basement comedy nights, this place is charming and delicious.
What to orderWe love their babka, matza ball soup, and corned beef.
Cambridge: Affiliate Discounts With Food Tour Purchase
Cabot’s Candy (1300 Mass. Ave., Cambridge):Show your food tour ticket confirmation email to receive 10% off any order the day of the tour.
Tom’s Bao Bao (84 Winthrop Street., Harvard Square, Cambridge)Show your food tour ticket confirmation email to receive 10% off any order within 7 days of the tour. Not valid on combos.
Neighbors Offer Discounts Too:
Taza Chocolate Tours (561 Windsor Street, Somerville)Invites you to their “Intro to Stone Ground Chocolate” tour with $3 off the tour ticket using the code “BEATPATH” at check-out so ticket prices will now be $5 each. Enjoy!
Gracie’s Ice Cream (22 Union Square, Somerville)Mention food tour for a free upgrade to Fluff cone with the purchase of ice cream.
Q’s Nuts (349 Highland Ave., Somerville):Show food tour tickets confirmation email to receive 10% off any purchase within six months of the food tour date; valid at Somerville store only.
Opa Greek Yeeros (378 Highland Ave., Somerville): Show same-day food tour tickets confirmation email to receive 20% off any purchase that day.
Bloc Cafe (11 Bow Street, Somerville): Mention food tour to receive a free coffee with the purchase of a bag of Intelligentsia coffee.
Red Apple Farm at the Boston Public Market (100 Hanover Street, Boston): Mention Off The Beaten Path Food Tours to receive 10% off any item including their famous apple cider donuts.