The Harvard Crimson

Latin American Restaurant Painted Burro Gallops Into Harvard Square

Painted Burro, which opened on Nov. 20, stands at the former location of the longstanding Border Cafe. By Nyla Nasir

Painted Burro, a Latin American restaurant and tequila bar, opened its third location in Harvard Square last Monday.

Located on 32 Church St., the new establishment stands in the former location of the Border Cafe and features a fuschia building facade.

Since opening in 2012 in Davis Square, the Painted Burro chain has since expanded to Waltham and now Harvard Square. There are also two Burro Bars — “smaller versions of Painted Burro” as described by chain owner and chef Joe Cassinelli — in the Boston area.

With its selection of grilled meats, fish, and moles, Painted Burro aims to highlight the diverse cuisines of Latin America. The restaurant also boasts an extensive alcohol menu, with margaritas, local beers, and a collection of more than 100 craft tequilas.

Painted Burro’s menu features classic Latin American appetizers, salads, and a wide variety of tacos ranging from cilantro grilled chicken to buffalo cauliflower. The restaurant also serves more sizable entrees, including swordfish, chimichangas, and more. On weekends, Painted Burro offers a bottomless brunch special — all-you-can-eat fare for $25.

To celebrate its grand opening, the restaurant is “throwing it back” to 2012 by featuring original dishes on the menu and 2012 prices, according to Cassinelli.

“You can expect some pretty attractive pricing,” Cassinelli added.

The opportunity to establish a Painted Burro location in Harvard Square arose when the space became available following the announcement of Border Cafe’s permanent closing in 2021.

“It was one of the easiest openings we’ve ever done,” Cassinelli said.

Customers can expect “great, upscale Mexican food” and a “lively environment,” according to Cassinelli. The 7,199-square-foot space is completely renovated and features two full bars, with a downstairs bar-lounge area open to private events.

The newly opened location has received positive feedback from diners.

“It’s not that expensive,” Jim Brown, a Cambridge resident, said. “The food is generous, and it’s good quality.”

Brown said his grits were “delicious” and spoke about how friendly the waitstaff were at the Painted Burro.

“I know three names, and I don’t remember names,” Brown said.

Painted Burro opens at 11 a.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends and closes around midnight. Brown added that their hours are a “big positive” for those who like to stay up late.

Charlotte Wagner, a local resident, said she had a “great experience” and mentioned how well decorated the space was, but thought that Painted Burro has to find its “mojo.”

“It has a really amazing bar, and I can imagine it with students and more people — and it’ll have its own vibe,” Wagner said.

Boston Restaurant Talk

The Painted Burro Opens in Harvard Square

Early last year, it was reported that a small group of Mexican restaurants was planning to expand to a new location in the heart of Cambridge, and now we have learned that it has finally opened.

The Boston Globe mentions that The Painted Burro is now open in Harvard Square, with the website for the business saying that its grand opening took place on November 20. As stated in an earlier article here, the new outlet has moved into the former Border Cafe space on Church Street, and it joins other locations in Somerville’s Davis Square and Waltham, while another outlet in Bedford shut down last spring.

The Painted Burro is part of The Alpine Restaurant Group, which also includes Posto in Somerville and Burro Bar in Brookline and Boston.

The address for the new location of The Painted Burro in Harvard Square is 32 Church Street, Cambridge, MA, 02138. The website for all locations is at


Harvard Square Gets Fired Up as The Painted Burro Delivers Sizzling Latin Flavors in the Former Border Cafe Location

Harvard Square just got a little more colorful and a lot more flavorful. The Painted Burro, a vibrant spot serving up modern interpretations of Latin American cuisine, has eagerly thrown open its doors in the bustling heart of Cambridge. As of Monday, diners have been flocking to the newcomer that has settled snugly into the old Border Cafe space on Church Street according to a report from The Boston Globe.

Bringing with it a reputation for a seasonal menu that tantalizes taste buds with diverse flavors from Latin America, The Painted Burro has been a culinary staple in Somerville’s Davis Square since 2012. Despite the closure of an outlet in Bedford last spring, the Harvard Square addition is said to be just the beginning for the growing brand. As reported by the restaurant’s official website, boasting over 100 craft tequilas, the goal at The Painted Burro is to “impart our local chef-driven styles into modern interpretations of Latin American cuisine with a strong respect for tradition.”

Owned by The Alpine Restaurant Group, which is also behind Somerville’s Posto and the Burro Bars in Brookline and Boston’s South End, The Painted Burro’s expansion into Harvard Square signifies the group’s confidence in their unique culinary offerings. The former Border Cafe space, having once been known for its own Tex-Mex flair, is now reimagined with the Burro’s signature styled moles and grilled meats and fish that the public has been devouring eagerly at other locations. The space on 32 Church Street breathes new life into the square’s dining scene a statement obtained by The Boston Globe confirms.

The addition of The Painted Burro to Harvard Square is not just about expanding its geographical footprint; it’s about sharing a philosophy of high-quality, creatively curated cuisine with new audiences. Patrons can sip on imaginative margaritas, sample local beers, or delve into select wines, all chosen to complement the rich flavors served. This latest outpost at 32 Church Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, ensures that no matter where locals and visitors find themselves in the greater Boston area, a unique dining experience awaits, just as the restaurant’s founders intended as it charmed into Somerville’s Davis Square in 2012 as per the insights from the restaurant’s official website.

The Boston Globe

The Painted Burro replaces the Border Cafe in Harvard Square

Plus, a Hanukkah pop-up and fan-favorite flatbread

OpeningsThe Painted Burro is open in Harvard Square (32 Church St.), replacing the much-missed Border Cafe. The Border suffered a major fire in 2019 and announced its permanent closure in 2021.

“We brought back some classics, and the menu prices are much lower,” says Burro owner Joe Cassinelli, who runs other locations in Somerville and Waltham.

Most dishes are under $20: Get spicy shrimp and squash tacos, chipotle meatballs, nachos, chorizo empanadas, and spicy meatloaf from 11 a.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends. On Friday and Saturday nights, guzzle margaritas until 1 a.m.

The Crimson

Blank Street Coffee Brews Up a Stir in Harvard Square

Blank Street Coffee, a chain known for its efficiency and lower priced coffee, celebrated its grand opening on Thursday with $2 drinks and lines spilling out into the Square.

Situated on 1380 Massachusetts Ave., the Harvard Square location is Blank Street’s fourth storefront in the Greater Boston area. During a soft opening Tuesday, Blank Street boasted completely free drinks.

The chain was founded in 2020 and has since expanded to operate more than 70 stores in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., and London. According to Blank Street co-founder Vinay Menda, Harvard Square is the chain’s first location on a college campus.

“We were drawn to Cambridge — with a mix of students, faculty and local residents, we feel Harvard Square is a natural fit for our next storefront,” Menda wrote in an emailed statement.

Blank Street Chief of Staff Evan S. Mateen ’20 wrote in an email that he believes the store’s space — adjacent to Harvard Yard and the Smith Campus Center — is the “perfect location” for students to grab a coffee between classes.

“As a Harvard alum, it’s always been a goal of mine to bring Blank Street to campus. Harvard Square is one of the key nodes in Cambridge, so I’m honored for Blank Street to have a presence there,” Mateen wrote.

“When I was at Harvard, I wished there were more high quality, convenient options around campus, so I’m excited that we’re able to offer exactly what I was looking for during my time there,” he added. “As a brand, we believe in enriching daily rituals and we know coffee is an important one, especially with college students.”

In recent years, several new coffee shops have opened up in the Square, including Faro Café and a Starbucks just footsteps away.

Blank Street’s locations “prioritize convenience,” according to Menda. Customers can order ahead on the mobile app and participate in a subscription program called “Regulars,” a subscription service that costs a fixed rate for up to 14 drinks per week.

The Crimson

Renovations to the Garage Mall in Harvard Square Stalled Until ‘Major, Quality Tenant’ Identified

Since unveiling plans to completely transform the Garage in 2021, the developer’s president said the company is “choosing not to proceed” with the building’s redevelopment until it finds a “major, quality tenant.”

The Garage is a shopping center at 36 JFK St. that houses a number of Harvard Square businesses and restaurants, including Lê’s Vietnamese Restaurant, Subway, and Newbury Comics. The developer — Trinity Property Management — planned to renovate the structure into a six-story building.

John P. DiGiovanni, president of Trinity Property Management, said the “vast majority” of the new building will be office space. Without a tenant to rent this space, the project will be “way too expensive,” DiGiovanni said, even though the project has received nearly all city permits.

DiGiovanni said plans to redevelop the Garage began around five years ago when Trinity began studying the problems faced by its tenants and found that the Garage’s “physical conditions” do not “meet the demands” of the current generation.

“I could see that our tenants, particularly on the second floor and even interior food — their sales were dropping,” DiGiovanni said, adding that these businesses “couldn’t compete” with those on the street level.

In addition, the building is energy inefficient, and the Mt. Auburn Street and JFK Street entrances are inaccessible, he said.

“We were trying to find a way to just preserve it and just make some tweaks and make it more accessible or interesting,” DiGiovanni said.

“That was really not viable — and in some cases, you hate to say this in a construction way, almost physically impossible,” he added.

The proposed building includes approximately 89,000 square feet of space and would be six stories tall, with the upper floors being mostly office space and the lower ones dedicated to retail.

It will also be LEED gold-certified — the second-highest energy efficiency rating — and “engage with the district, the street in a way that it ought to in the 21st century,” according to DiGiovanni.

Since announcing the renovation plans in 2021, DiGiovanni said the project has received “across-the-board support” from approval bodies, but it must find a tenant with good credit so the project can be “financeable.”

DiGiovanni said it was “unfortunate” that the Covid-19 pandemic hit during the planning process, adding that both “the lack of demand for office space” and higher costs have affected Trinity’s ability to move forward with the development.

Once the project kicks off, DiGiovanni said the entire process — from demolition to putting up a new structure — would take “around 30 to 36 months.”

Since the announcement of the redevelopment plans, some of the Garage’s tenants have departed because they “want certainty,” according to DiGiovanni, who said these exits have been a “loss” for Trinity.

In March, longtime tenant Lê’s said it planned to relocate to Boston’s Chinatown once renovations began, disappointing some Cambridge residents and Harvard affiliates.

“We’re going to work with any of our tenants that want to come back,” DiGiovanni said.

Harvard Gazette

City approves new home for A.R.T. in Allston

Project includes large residential building for Harvard affiliates, will add to vibrancy of emerging hub of creativity, innovation

he Boston Planning and Development Agency on Thursday approved an innovative new University project in Allston that will serve as the new home for the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) and add 276 residential units amid a housing crunch in Greater Boston.

The 70,000 square-foot David E.  and Stacey L. Goel Center for Creativity and Performance will include two flexible performance venues, rehearsal studios, teaching spaces, a spacious public lobby, and an outdoor performance yard. The 175 North Harvard St. project will also include a residential building that can accommodate about 500 Harvard affiliates in units ranging in size from studios to four-bedroom townhouses.

“Harvard is delighted to move ahead with creating a new home for the A.R.T. in Allston. This center for creativity and performance will enable the A.R.T. to expand its remarkable and dynamic work and will add to the creative energy already developing within the Harvard Innovation Labs, Harvard Business School, the Science Engineering Complex, and the emerging Enterprise Research Campus, all within the existing robust arts scene in Allston,” said Harvard’s Executive Vice President Meredith Weenick.

“We are thrilled that the creation of significant new University housing might reduce pressure on a stressed local housing market and create further opportunities for the Harvard community to more deeply engage in Allston’s creative and distinct neighborhood culture,” she said. “We are grateful to the city of Boston, the BPDA, and our Allston-Brighton community partners and elected officials for their collaboration and engagement throughout this process.”

The project will be located around the corner from the University’s Science and Engineering Complex on Western Avenue and a half-mile from the Enterprise Research Campus, which is under development in partnership with Tishman Speyer. Planners hope the creation of a new home for A.R.T. and significant residential space will further enhance and add vibrancy to an area that is becoming a hub of creativity and innovation in Allston.

A leading force in the American theater, the A.R.T. has produced groundbreaking theater at the Loeb Drama Center on Brattle Street in Harvard Square since its founding in 1980. A gift to Harvard in 2019 of $100 million from College alumnus David E. ’93 and Stacey L. Goel catalyzed the process of reimagining the University’s arts campus to include a new home for the A.R.T. that would enhance the arts communities on campus and in Greater Boston.

The Boston Globe

From ice cream at Bailey’s to high school with Matt Damon, Grendel’s Den restaurateur Kari Kuelzer personifies Harvard Square

And now she has a new neighborhood pub: Sea Hag.

Kari Kuelzer, 53, lives in the Cambridge house she grew up in — convenient, since she also runs Grendel’s Den in Harvard Square, her second home since her parents started it in 1971.

She’s been well-known around the neighborhood for decades and even grew up doing theater with Matt Damon in his breakdancing days. In fact, Kuelzer enjoyed a show-biz stint in Los Angeles, too. But, unlike her famous classmate, she returned home to become known on a smaller stage. Now she’s in charge at Grendel’s (with some serving help from her college-age son, another Rindge graduate).

A few weeks ago, she branched out with another cozy pub down the street, Sea Hag. For those who aren’t literary scholars: Both names are nods to “Beowulf.” Her late mom christened the original, and Sea Hag is Kuelzer’s tribute to her.