Trekking out into the bluster of the Boston area's wintry months can be physically and emotionally taxing. But according to Boston Globe writer Sheryl Julian, the trip is worth it when Falafel Corner is the destination. "The food will warm you and so will the immensely friendly owners, Ahmed Naguib and Dany Abo-El-khair," Julian wrote of the Harvard Square eatery, which remains open until 3 a.m. on weekends to accommodate late-night bar-hoppers, sleepwalkers, and sleep-hoppers.
Falafel Corner's cooks prepare a menu that is 100% halal. They shave slices of spit-roasted lamb into pita bread with pickles and tahini sauce, grill kebabs of chicken or marinated salmon, and chop parsley, onions, cucumber, and mint for cairo salads sprinkled with feta cheese. For dessert, Falafel Corner prepares sweets such as cashew fingers, which combine paper-thin phyllo, wheat-flour dough, crushed cashews, pistachios, and honey.
High-backed booths, flickering candles, and minimalist red and black accents lend a sleek style to Osushi's intimate setting tucked inside the Westin Hotel. Chefs slice fresh fish to rest atop or inside sushi rice waiting to be plucked up by chopsticks. Their specialty makimono rolls draw from world cuisines with spicy aioli to add a dash of heat or prosciutto to lend an aria from the chef's favorite opera. Diners wash down bites of sashimi or tempura with selections from an extensive sake list, which includes specialty drinks made with seasonal fruit.
Before diners even glance at OM’s menu, their eyes feast upon a banquet of Asian art. Colorful Thangka paintings and Buddhist statues handcrafted by more than 50 Nepalese, Tibetan, and Thai artists color the space, and intricate Newar carvings frame the walls and doorways. Upon sitting at one of the bare, rectangular tables, patrons exchange pleasantries with their chairs and read through a menu reflective of the art that surrounds them. For instance, small plates of spicy edamame and veggie spring rolls join full entrees of shrimp pad thai or salmon wrapped in tempura nori. An intricate drink list includes the mandarin kaze (orange vodka spiked with sichuan peppercorn) and the Bangkok julep (a blend of bourbon, elderflower, and mint).
Beneath the dining room, a downstairs lounge hosts a diverse lineup of events. Salsa lessons make use of the dance floor, and vinyl parties enable attendees to trade, sell, or just play their records. DJs take over the turntables on Saturday nights, and a cover band re-creates classic R & B tunes every Tuesday.
When Harvard and M.I.T. students need a study break, the glowing neon signs of Charlie’s Kitchen guide them to salvation. Usually, that salvation lies in the double cheeseburger—a Charlie’s staple—served with a choice of classic, beer-battered, waffle, or sweet potato fries, or fried green beans. The towering stack of meat is but one favorite from the '50s-style diner's menu. Burgers come in 11 other forms, including the ever-popular double lobster roll, while an entire section devoted to meat-free dishes sates vegetarians. Diners can even pick a live lobster from the tank for an opulent seafood feast. Whether hungry or not, guests can always grab a beer and head upstairs to the lounge, where a jukebox, weekly live music, karaoke, and trivia keeps crowds entertained. They can also savor 18 draft brews in the beer garden, which, like an exhibitionist oyster, stays open year-round.
Charlie’s Kitchen not only invites guests to enjoy nature all year, but also does its part to protect it. Three of its cars run on veggie oil, its dishwasher is solar powered, and it recycles or composts much of its trash.
The sushi chefs at Takemura Japanese Restaurant craft an impressive 48 different maki rolls for their large menu. But there's more to their craft than just rolls. Their minimalistic plates often showcase a range of nigiri—slices of raw fish on a perfect mound of rice—or fresh sashimi that needs no rice in its life to feel worthy of being eaten. Traditional ingredients of spicy tuna and eel abound here, though the chefs also bend more unique sushi ingredients to their will, such as deep-fried pumpkin. When it comes to hot dishes, the dinner menu also tiptoes into other culinary traditions with with Korean barbecue and noodles topped with fried eggs. While the chefs get to work, the waitstaff brings diners wines from around the world, cold beers, and special unfiltered sake.
The Maharaja's chefs rely on recipes from an era when art and cooking received the royal patronage of great Mughal emperors. Compiled over three generations of research, the menu of traditional Indian cuisine has been modernized to pair with a lavish dining space, that, according to the The Boston Foodie, "is an elegant room floating above Harvard Square with all of the amenities of a perfect dining experience." Ornately detailed wooden chairs surround The Maharaja's sturdy tables, and a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooks the weekly hopscotch tournaments in Harvard Square. Furthermore, a collection of statues—which took three attempts to import from India—watch over the restaurant's guests.
Garlic naan emanates nostril-piquing aromas of fresh garlic and coriander as chefs roast cubes of lamb and bone-in chicken in a tandoor oven that burns hotter than a feverish dragon. Sidestepping meats entirely, the house-made paneer, eggplant, and chickpeas bump elbows with green peas, raisins, and sautéed cashews. Servings of kulfi faluda can sate sweet teeth with scoops of pistachio-flavored ice cream and sweet noodles.