Read other installments:
From A Foodie: Tasting Japan & Its Shokunin Spirit 🍙
From A Foodie: Tasting Taipei — worn, but lovely 🍹
From A Foodie: California Dreamin’ 🌴
From A Foodie: Singapore Chinatown Hawker Adventure!!! 🥟
After four years on campus and numerous foodie adventures, here’s a very honest list of my absolute favorite haunts. Brought to you by blood, sweat, tears — or, in other words, freshman fifteen, waistline woes, and a depleting bank account.
Around the Square
Tatte’s pistachio cherry tart or blueberry cheesecake cup with London Fog tea (plus a box of butter Nutella cookies to go). Nice afternoon pick-me-ups on a boring or stressful day — if you buy a box of cookies, you gotta watch your waistline because those are INSANELY addictive. 🍰
L.A. Burdick’s passion fruit mousse cake (if it weren’t so far out, I would get this every other day) and hot chocolate (YUM). 🍫
Flour Bakery’s sticky bun: my favorite pastry after Tatte began phasing out their monkeybread. 🍯
Berryline froyo or Amorino gelato (pistachio flavor!!) on frosty days and sweltering days 🍧
Le’s beef pho on cold rainy days and their CARAMELIZED FISH (catfish or salmon).
The pan-seared salmon at both Daedalus and the new Grafton Street Pub. In terms of food, the best Classroom to Table offering is the new Grafton > Russell House Tavern > Hourly Oyster House. 🐟
Best salad: Bluestone Lane Cafe’s warm chicken and ancient grains bowl, plus scrambled eggs. 🥗
Alden & Harlow’s sweet corn pancakes (comes with popcorn!!! tastes better than it sounds, trust me) and small plates for dinner (fried brussel sprouts, patatas bravas, crispy pork belly) 🌽
Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ: To end the meal on a high note, get the taiyaki with matcha ice cream for dessert. One Thanksgiving, two of us went to Guy-Kaku and ate at least ten plates of meat — pure carnivore heaven. 🥩
Japanese offerings around Harvard Square are so-so; if you really crave some, go to Porter Square for Sapporo Ramen or Ittoku (they have okonomiyaki!!!). 🍜
Best Chinese (deserves a category of its own hehe)
Around the Square
Shanghai Fresh, probably the best Chinese restaurant within walking distance. I love their lunch bentos (fish fillet in wine sauce); beef cubes with asparagus; and on weekends only, warm soy milk with fried dough (youtiao)!!! 🥛
Dumpling House’s scrambled eggs and tomatoes with shrimp!!! 🍅 The best test of a kitchen/chef is how well they can make the simplest of dishes, i.e. 西红柿炒蛋.
Sumiao is probably the other contender for the best Chinese restaurant. The vibes are pretty nice but everything is soooo overpriced. Order their meat dishes: yellow river beef, sizzling lamb on iron plate, and the spare ribs! 🍗
Ultimate comfort food: The Kong’s sliced fish with mixed vegetables. Who would’ve thought that a place famed for its scorpion bowls also serves healthy tasty stir-fry? I must’ve eaten this at least thirty times, no kidding. Basically my go-to on late afternoons when I skipped lunch for class/couldn’t wake up in time for dining hall hours. 👑
Winsor Dim Sum Cafe, a magical place that serves liushabao with actual molten yolk 🍳 I also LOVE their stir-fried white turnip cake with XO Sauce, steamed chicken feet in black bean sauce, and fishball and beef congee (which I ate for five days in a row when I had Covid lol).
Dumpling Kitchen’s leek and pork dumplings!!!
Clay Pot Cafe’s pig trotters with lotus root (😍), beef chow fun (really has wok hei!!!), their iconic clay pot rice (I like the yellow eel best), and their ginseng with black chicken herbal soup (in one word: healing).
Liuyishou Hot Pot: be sure to order their side dishes (apart from just the hotpot), including the deep-fried pork slices and brown sugar sticky rice cakes. 🥘
Best Lobster Roll
Saltie Girl’s warm lobster roll!!! More flavorful than the usual combination of cold mayo or warm butter. Get it with a side of fried clams.
Runner-up: Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar — swanky Mexican; beautiful bar; lots of good small plates; amazing guacamole. But the lobster roll is THE BEST and definitely not your usual New England fare. Go for this if you’re feeling quite adventurous.
PS Neptune Oyster (infamous long lines) and Union Oyster House (lobster meat is too bland but very nice historical decor) are overrated tourist traps. Atlantic Fish Company is alright but overpriced.
Related: Cafe Luna’s lobster eggs benedict — pretty yummy and a nice change from the usual eggs benedict at Russell House etc.
Best Italian: Go to North End!!!
The Daily Catch North End is walk-in and cash only, so be prepared to stand in line. The seafood is so fresh, from the crispy calamari to the squid ink pasta to the Lobster Fra Diavolo (1-person portion is big enough for two). Below is my mom’s favorite lobster dish out of all that she tried on her trip to see my commencement.
Giacomo’s Ristorante: also walk-in and cash only. They have a large seafood pasta plate that can rival the Daily Catch’s. I like their fried calamari more!!!
Runner-up: Carmelina’s for pasta! Get the Crazy Alfredo, spicy with generous chunks of chicken and sausage.
Toro’s seafood paella and roasted bone marrow!!! The kind of delicious that makes you scrape your plate and lick your fork.
La Voile: eat the bread with warm escargot or chilled foie gras, and get the duck confit or salmon.
Best Atmosphere (and for bookworms hehe)
Afternoon tea at the Map Room Tea Lounge, tucked inside the Boston Public Library. I personally prefer the decor of the Map Room (dark, ancient vibes) over Courtyard Room (bright wedding vibes), though the menus are the same. Just sit back and sip. 🍵
Yvonne’s: Plates are pretty small-portioned, but more than makes up for it with the setting (the books are worn, not like Gatsby’s shelves of uncut pages haha; caricatures of JFK, Jackie and Marilyn adorn the walls). 📚
Taste of Home ❤️
Ever wonder where Harvard SIAMA (the Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia Association) on campus gets its catered authentic Singaporean fare? The chef that whips it up is Mama Saadiah, who also runs a home kitchen in Boston where you can order ahead from an Instagram menu populated by mouth-watering dishes (basically everything a Singaporean abroad would crave in bouts of homesickness): chicken rice, laksa, nasi lemak… My favorites are the mee goreng and beef rendang. And I always, always get a box of pineapple cookies to take back to the dorm. Check out Mama’s menu on Instagram @selera_bunda. 🇸🇬