What first resembles a run-of-the-mill Japanese spot—after all, its name is Cafe Sushi and it does reside in a strip mall—is hiding one of the city’s finest omakase experiences. Take the plunge and you’ll enjoy eight courses of stunning seafood with tweezer-applied toppings and detailed introductions from the chef. A great sake selection and affordable sushi combos make for excellent casual lunch and dinner experiences, too.
Wander this bustling crossroads on the other side of the river and you’ll find there’s something for everyone—upscale plates for the classy, grab-and-go patisserie for the hurried, or nourishing bowls for hungry minds.
Dim lighting, hanging plant life, and a perpetually mellow hip-hop soundtrack contribute to subterranean Alden & Harlow’s laid-back vibe. But all that affable energy helps to conceal the serious thought and energy that goes into an ever-changing menu of seasonal and locally focused small plates. While chef Michael Scelfo obviously loves veggies, he’s also crafted one of the most sought-after burgers in town, released in limited numbers at 5 and 11 p.m. each night.
Santouka is a ramen chain hailing from Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, which—lucky for us—has brought its signature silky shio (salt) broth to Harvard Square. Other variants, like the soy sauce-laden shoyu or porky tonkotsu are also on offer, benefiting from add-ons like dunkable soft-boiled eggs. Noodles may be king, but combos encourage snacking on side dishes like gyoza or extra helpings of tender pork cheeks.
Budding local chain Tatte Bakery & Cafe now serves its East-meets-West treats in six Boston neighborhoods, but Harvard Square hosts its largest, two-story location. Stumptown coffee and hearty sandwiches on homemade bread provide everyday nourishment, but a more decadent menu with Greek pancakes and a famous Shakshuka turn the white, airy rooms into a bustling brunch spot on weekends. Pastry lovers flock here for delights like Monkey Bread and Pistachio Croissants, and if you’re a fan of matcha lattes, know that Tatte’s is the one to beat.
Michael Scelfo is doing to seafood at Waypoint what he did to vegetables at Alden & Harlow in this airy, above-ground dining room with an awe-inspiring raw bar. The menu is a choose-your-own-adventure book of seafaring delights: Pizzas, pastas, sharing plates, and roasts-for-two provide endless combinations. An absinthe-focused bar program, meanwhile, mixes cocktails that are every bit as inventive as they are potent.