I was telling Bryan how it seems like there aren't that many restaurants in Harvard Square in the mid-priced range with really good food. Yes, you have pricier restaurants like Rialto (whose chef Jody Adams competed on Top Chef Masters) and Upstairs On the Square. You've also got some great super casual cheap eats, like Mr. Bartley's or Hi Rise Bread Company.
But what if you want something more than just a sandwich shop (Bryan hates eating sandwiches for dinner), a place that serves alcohol, yet you don't want to spend a fortune?
Well, there are no shortages of reasonably priced pubs in Harvard Square (Grafton Street Pub & Grill and Daedalus, just to name a few), but I have never been that impressed with the food at these places. Places with better food, like Rialto or Upstairs On the Square, just aren't convenient places to "stop in" if you happen to be hungry and want a good bite to eat.
I am excited about Russell House Tavern (which has been open for less than a month), because I think it strikes the perfect balance between quality food and reasonable prices. We had a great meal our first time there.
Creamy Spinach (side) $6
Buttermilk Blue Cheese
Though I was afraid these would be really blue-cheesy (which I don't like and Bryan LOVES), it was actually quite mild. I could hardly taste the blue cheese. Instead, the dish was really flavorful and full of umami (maybe chicken broth?) and I liked the contrast of the crunchy breadcrumbs on top. It tasted almost healthy and not a least bit creamy, which I thought was great!
Dirty Caesar $8
Spicy Anchovy Croutons, Parsley Leaves add chicken or chilled shrimp +6
This was quite average. Maybe I'm spoiled by all the good Italian restaurants that actually give you real anchovies. It was OK, but definitely not one of their stronger dishes.
Crispy Soft Poached Chip-In Farm Egg $7
Pecorino Aioli, Toasted Brioche, House Pancetta
We asked the waiter what the "signature dish" was, and he said that, even though they have only been open for three weeks, the crispy soft poached egg was BY FAR the most popular dish. People sometimes ordered one, and then asked for another one! Oh, here's a picture of it cut open!
Oh deliciousness! We both loved this appetizer.
Roasted Giannone Farm Chicken $18
Mashed Potatoes, Thyme Roasted Carrots, Pan Drippings
They did a great job on the roasted chicken as well. The bartender (we sat at the bar) told us that the chicken here is really tender, really juicy, and actually tastes "chicken-y." Although I'm not positive whether it's the best chicken I've ever had, it was definitely quite good - moist inside with a nice, crispy skin.
Semolina Yogurt Cake
Coffee ice cream, mint leaf
I really really liked this dessert! I wasn't expecting to love a dessert from a gastropub, but the food here seems to be quite solid. Semolina cake is denser than a normal cake, and reminds me a bit of cornbread, actually. I actually bought some semolina flour and yogurt a few days ago because I wanted to try to re-create this cake.
Overall, I think Russell House Tavern is doing a great job these first few weeks. It's like a gourmet gastropub of sorts, with menu items like "Torched Tuna," "House Charcuterie Board," and "Painted Hills Steak Tartare." Of course, they also have pub-like classics (burger, steaks, fries, etc), and they have a great drink selection as well. The bartender we had was super knowledgeable and did a great job. I really think we ended up having an even better experience because we sat at the bar. (Ahem, not to mention that the lighting was better for photographs!!)
Russell House Tavern
14 JFK St
Cambridge, MA 02138
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