There is something to be said for the theory, stated with confidence to me one snowy September day my freshman year, that there is no legitimate reason to justify ever leaving the beautiful womb that is Harvard Square. All manner of sustenance and enjoyment lie within the confines of Brattle and Bow streets. All else, naught but a quintessence of dust. Or shadows and dust. Whichever is Shakespeare.
That point, hidden though it may be, was that of my foolhardy advisor, who shall remain unnamed (he lives on the first floor of old Leverett; his fears include spiders, pollution, and women). It was also dead wrong. Indeed, his scope was entirely off. What he should have said was, there is no single reason on this green earth to leave the confines of Cambridge and its vicinity.
That being said, I have taken it upon myself to educate the young, beautiful minds around me. I take it as no light task; to expand the world for even one bored freshman is to literally shatter his universe into a thousand pieces and then rebuild it, exactly as it was, only with another small bit of knowledge added in. With this in mind, I embark upon my quest of teaching my readers (you know who you are, you humble millions) about the other Squares.
Let me offer one more valuable piece of advice before embarking on this glorious journey of the mind. Though the T is a nice way of getting around, try, at least every once in a while, taking the bus. Believe it or not, there’s a free shuttle (the M2; it picks up outside of Lamont) that service Central Square, MIT, Back Bay (and Fenway), and the Med School (Longwood campus). That shit is free with your ID. Give it a shot.
Now, with no further ado, let us depart to the magical world of Davis Square — two stops outbound from the center of the universe, or take the 96 bus.
Davis, like Harvard, is home to some kick-ass restaurants. My favorite of these is a little Tibetan restaurant on Elm Street called Martsa. Wedged between larger, glitzier stores on one of the street’s main drags, it serves awesome Tibetan cuisine — sort of a mix between Indian and Thai, though that’s probably culturally the worst thing I’ve ever said — and a pretty solid mix of yogurt-based smoothies. Go heavy on the appetizers, light on the potato-infused dishes, and, for God’s sake, skip the Tibetan tea. (Recipe: four scoops butter. Six dallops salt. One squeeze yak milk. Dripple some tea-infused water in for garnish. Serve warm.) While we’re on the subject of Indian-tasting food, Diva, Davis’s most popular Indian restaurant, offers some pretty solid chicken tikka masala and lamb Vindaloo, the basic mark of any delicious Indian restaurant. Also, their naan will literally knock your socks off.
Towards the other end of the square are a pair of more upscale restaurants, Orleans and Johnny D’s. The former offers a pretty typical dark-lit fine-food atmosphere; the latter, live music. Finally, perhaps most importantly, isRedbones, the best BBQ in the city. Fantastic hushpuppies are the best appetizer before amazing pulled pork or ribs of every variety (try to St. Louis kind, small pork ribs). You know it’s good because they bring you four or five flavors of hot sauce with every meal.
After dinner, or before lunch, there are some pretty good cafes and bars around. Diesel Café is a happening place to be, with a menu of delicious-looking veggie-inspired sandwiches (try Perkey’s Pouch: avocado, mozzarella, tomatoes, onions, cucumber, carrots, and sprouts in a spinach wrap), solid coffee, and a fun scene mixed with locals, college kids, and yuppies. Across the street is Joshua Tree, a pretentiously hip bar with twenty beers on tap and a young crowd. Please, exploit the Monday lobster special: a small lobster, clam chowder and corn on the cob for $12. A solid bid.
After after dinner is the best part, though. Mr. Crepe, right in the heart of Davis, makes fantastic crepes in a functional, laid-back space. Though they’re relatively expensive — $6 for sweet, $8-10 for savory — they’re worth it, and they’re no more expensive that the Creparie. And you can actually sit down. And they’re quick. Kickass Cupcakes is a new find for me in Davis. (Girlfriend, please don’t read this until I’ve taken you there.) It’s on Highland Ave., just a couple of blocks away from the square back towards Mass Ave., and it’s just about the best thing ever for the cupcake lover. Flavors from classic chocolate and vanilla to “Cinnamon Chai Pecan Sticky” and “Mojito”—not to mention a roster of “Flavors of the Day” — go from $1.75 for a mini cupcake to $4 for — get this — a deep fried cupcake. Is this not the coolest thing ever? It is. It is. Finally, quintessentially, there’s J.P. Licks, the Herrell’s of Davis. With an equally large selection of equally delicious, equally pricey flavors, J.P. Licks is a solid post-dinner decision.
There are a few more things that must be mentioned about this, the first stop in our grand tour of the squares. The first is my favorite: Family Dollar. Family Dollar is the home of a thousand things that will delight your twelve-year-old, or me. Squirt guns, water balloons, folding chairs, Christmas lights, fruit punch (and various other under-priced mixers), soap, hula hoops — all for absurdly cheap. Sure, it’s not the best-quality stuff ever, and your lights probably won’t all work, and your soap might give you a rash that you have to go to UHS for and then explain to your parents once they term-bill the cream for it who will then get mad at you for buying one-dollar soap so that you then get a part-time job to show them that, after all, you’re responsible and can take care of your own life, but it’s still fun shopping. The next essential Davis feature is probably my girlfriend’s favorite: there are a whole bunch of places for me to get my hair cut. It’s kind of surprising how many haircut places there are, but they all seem to do pretty well for themselves, and girlfriend is happy when I partake of their services. Finally, essentially, there is the yearly Halloween Store. Only open in fall, located right in the square at the beginning of Elm Street, it’s one-stop shopping for all of your pirate, vixen, or bumblebee needs.
Jake Segal ’09 ([email protected]) is…oh, who are we kidding? DEEP-FRIED CUPCAKES EXIST. Thank you, Jake Segal.