Cookbooks and heirloom gourds; vertical planters and pickled-bean-filled mason jars; sunlight poking through a glass ceiling; the cutest little illustrations of veggie-adorned cutting boards. You’d think you were descending into a dank, dark Harvard Square basement, but instead you glimpse a kitchen of nostalgic daydreams—Alden & Harlow, a warm and verdant place with food that’s as tasty as it is nourishing.
You needn’t be savvy to chef Michael Scelfo’s reputation to know right away that he’s into vegetables: Even with its simple black lettering on white paper, the range of plant-centric plates on this menu seems to transform the page into a colorful rainbow. Suspicions are confirmed when your server brings over pickled green beans instead of bread, thus commencing a train of small plates that, one by one, reveal new layers of the vegetable world’s many wonders.
But don’t be mistaken—this is not some kind of vegan restaurant. Fresh vegetables often balance out a petite-yet-rich morsel of meat: Chunks of celery and apple can’t steal the show from the crunchy outside and melt-in-your-mouth inside of the chicken-fried rabbit they share a plate with, nor can a pickled root vegetable caponata overshadow an insanely crispy-edged cube of Berkshire pork belly. Need more convincing? Just look at the line of carnivores that forms outside around 5 p.m. in anticipation of one of the most famous burgers this side of the Charles—a ground concoction of brisket and short ribs, with a cheese “tuille” wafer wedged in to remind us of Scelfo’s commitment to making ingredients gleam with color, no matter the dish.
Make it a date; the best movie theater in the world—the Brattle Theatre—is in the same building as this restaurant.
While food gets all the hype, this is actually the best place in Harvard Square to get wine and cocktails (besides Waypoint, of course, another Scelfo restaurant nearby with a beverage program run by the same team).
On Saturdays and Sundays this is also the best brunch spot in the neighborhood, with plenty of panzanella, pain perdu, and dressed-up avo toast to fuel subsequent Harvard Square strolling.
Who are Alden and Harlow? They built the rambling, beautiful Brattle Hall building—which has since been home to numerous Harvard Square institutions—in 1889.
Tastes of Alden & Harlow
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