Thursday, May 23, 2024

A weekly notebook about dining options during the Covid-19 shutdown, with a focus on quality and ease of pickup and delivery. Remember, the people serving up the food are part of the front line; keep it in mind when tipping.

Smoked housemade andouille sausage hash with pan-fried eggs and creole aioli at Russell House Tavern. (Photo: Tom Meek)

There aren’t a lot of brunch places firing on all cylinders right now. I’ve really been missing the loaded croissant at Colette Wine Bistro.It’s recently reopened, but is not doing brunch – not yet – so I’ve been making my own with free-range Maine eggs and spinach from the Hi-Rise larder atop the uber fresh croissants from La Saison Bakery. Sure it’s good, real good, but I never have Gruyère cheese around – and it’s also always nice to have someone serve you that plate of yumminess (which allows you to write a food column as you wait). One place that’s been grinding it out the whole way through the pandemic is the Russell House Tavern, the Irish-styled pub right across from the old Curious George Store in Harvard Square, and part of the hyper local ownership that also runs Park, Temple Bar and the Grafton Street Pub & Grill – three restaurants that have yet to reopen and we all await – among others in the area.

The glorious thing about Russell House is that it serves brunch from Thursday through Monday ’til 4 p.m. with ample outdoor or indoor seating. It’s impressive even if the two-seater setups are so tight you can feel hemmed in (I did), and that if you swung a bag the wrong way you might trigger a domino effect of tumbling plexiglass partitions. That should change soon, so a minor nit, but after being seated in such a cubby I relocated to the downstairs bar, where there’s more room and ample screens for sporting events – enough to be in the viewing conversation with Shine Square Cafe, Paddy’s Lunch, the Newtowne Grille and Olde Magoun’s Saloon. The whole downstairs atmosphere screams Bruins playoffs or fall football. 

The brunch menu has everything from cinnamon buns, a farm stand omelette, oysters, tuna tartare, crab cakes, eggs Benedict and a breakfast pizza, but on this visit I opted for the smoked housemade andouille sausage hash with pan-fried eggs and creole aioli. I think I had a similar incarnation at Temple Bar, but this was even better and really pleasing: Spicy and satiating, yet light and never overwhelmed by one flavor – the blend of onion, pepper, potato and sausage chunks was pleasingly consistent. The “eggs” was one egg, over semi-easy, and though it was really well done, if I ordered it again I would ask (and pay extra) for two or three eggs and stress the “easy” on the over; with hash, when the yolk runneth, so does your happiness. No matter, I can’t wait to get back to this skillet of hash, like the way I want that loaded croissant.

Russell House Tavern (14 JFK St., Harvard Square) 

Tom Meek is a writer living in Cambridge. His reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in the WBUR ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.