Saturday, May 25, 2024

A weekly notebook about food during the Covid-19 shutdown. Remember, if you’re dining out, doing takeout or getting delivery, the people serving up the food are part of the front line; keep it in mind when tipping.

One thing as we move into colder fall temps and Gov. Charlie Baker’s new 9:30 p.m. curfew advisory period, with the (resulting) trend of restaurants going into hibernation: Where, when and how to eat and get eats becomes increasingly hard to discern. This week I went to order from one of my favorite local Greek eateries; I had done takeout at their Harvard Square location. At 11:30 a.m. the menu came online, but with no “Add to Cart,” so I biked down to order in person – only to find the storefront empty. Back home after getting food elsewhere, curious if I missed something, I clicked on the Central Square location, where you could order for pickup. So why have a pickup button active for Harvard? Remove it or gray it out. Another favorite place (great veggie burger, if not the best), that seemed open from their website had in fact gone into hibernation for the season. In these confusing times, your website is your face and calling card to customers. Make your message clear and clean: “We’re open for business Wednesday to Saturday for dinner hours only. Here’s how to order pickup. Here’s how to order delivery. Here’s how to book a table on our heated patio.” And so on.


And if you’re heading to the Science Center Plaza at Harvard for a food truck on the Harvard Common Spaces schedule, be aware there is a hit-and miss-rate on vendors being there. The plaza page used to have a helpful webcam; now if you head there, be prepared to go with a plan B or C.

That said, I’ve been doing more grab-and-go these days and (re)discovered some good, slightly sinful sides that work well as a lunch main.whitespace

Bon Me’s lemongrass fried chicken thighs


Bon Me’s fried chicken thighs with rice. (Photo: Bon Me via Facebook)

The first is the lemongrass fried chicken thighs from Bon Me, fried golden brown in a light, tempura-like batter with spices so good it doesn’t require any of the spicy aioli that comes with. The portion is generous; add a deviled tea egg or steamed Chinese broccoli and you’ve got a meal. I’ve always been pleased with Bon Me’s classic sandos such as the Namesake, the French-Vietnamese classic with pate, sour pickled daikon and carrot, crisp cilantro and spicy chilis with your choice of paprika-marinated tofu, braised pork or lemongrass chicken on a baguette. Bon Me also makes Korean fried rice and soba, udon and ramen bowls with many of the same proteins, and a Thai basil lemonade that’s alway the perfect means to wash it all down. My recent favorite Bon Me location is the one at Fresh Pond, which has astute contactless pickup and plenty of space for social distancing.

Bon Me (201 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge Highlands near Fresh Pond)


Harvard House of Pizza’s garlic bread with cheese


Harvard House of Pizza’s garlic bread with cheese. (Photo: Marc Levy)

My other glorious sin is the garlic bread with cheese from Harvard House of Pizza, where the toasted Italian bread is loaded generously with gooey mozzarella, a healthy slathering of butter and clarified garlic, and a dash of Italian herbs and spices. Eat it while it’s warm and you’ll probably want two. (You can double down and add extra cheese, too.) It’s a great alternative to a slice or two of pizza because of the full-on happiness it induces in your mouth. Harvard House also has some of the friendliest, hardest-working staff and has been on Massachusetts Avenue between Harvard and Porter squares longer than most.

arvard House of Pizza (1706 Massachusetts Ave., Neighborhood 9)