The fast-casual Mexican restaurant that became a Cambridge nightlife hub

AMBRIDGE — On warm weekend nights in Harvard Square, a line of young people wraps around a brick building, eagerly awaiting entry into a nightlife hub in the country’s original college town.

They come in droves ready to party at . . . a fast-casual Mexican restaurant.

Behold: Felipe’s Taqueria, where cheap burritos and margaritas, and a large rooftop bar draws crowds from Cambridge and beyond.

“I feel like [the roof deck] is just sort of undoubtedly always fun,” said Simone Unwalla, a 26-year-old Harvard Law School student who frequents the restaurant. “There’s always a decent amount of people up there.”

This unique feature has transformed Felipe’s from a quick-service taqueria into that plus a destination for people seeking a night out with fresh air under the stars.Expand article logo  Continue reading

“In terms of being able to offer a variety of experiences, I think that certainly Felipe’s is unique in that aspect,” said Denise Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association.

The space is about as versatile as they come. The lower level is complete with large windows facing the street (a people watcher’s dream), a build-your-own-burrito station boasting a wood grill, and a full bar in the back. There’s also a mezzanine with extra seating that gazes out onto the flow of customers below. And, of course, there’s the game-changing x-factor, a roof deck with umbrellas, string lights, and a bar of its own.

Cambridge Day

Plan to enliven Harvard Square’s Palmer Street reimagines Coop Annex with restaurant spaces

A rendering from a March 6 meeting shows proposed restaurant space on Palmer Street in Cambridge’s Harvard Square. (Image: Harvard Square Advisory Committee)

Harvard University plans to reuse the empty former Coop Annex building at 12-30 Palmer St. for new commercial ventures and outdoor space, part of a plan to make Harvard Square more walkable and engaging. One idea presented March 6 to the Harvard Square Advisory Committee is for the first floor to be used as a restaurant space that could have the facade open during good weather.

The alley is a blocklong shared space for business, pedestrians and delivery trucks famous mostly for having the folk venue Club Passim at its Church Street end; the Brattle Street end is less busy but has been a reliable space for buskers to set up and in 2018 got an Instagrammable set of angel wings painted on a brick wall by artist Jason Talbot – just stand in front of them and have someone take the picture. Between the cross streets are artful, if lesser-used, benches.

Cambridge Day

Brett Angell’s ‘Night Studio’ lets passersby peer at any hour into an artist’s moonlight moments

On view in the narrow windows of the 25/8 gallery in Harvard Square, “Night Studio” is a playful ode to how artists work in the dead of night, with all its creative possibility. The exhibition showcases the work of Boston’s Brett Angell, who recently exhibited his distinctive cigar box paintings at Brookline’s Praise Shadows Art Gallery.

Thanks to the gallery’s 24-hour access, viewers can enjoy the wonders of “Night Studio” long after surrounding museums closed their doors. It’s one of the most inventive uses so far of the new space, and full of small treasures. A mock studio sets the stage for the exhibition to the side. Paint brushes, sketchbooks and lamps crowd a table; the books contain sketches for many of the moon, bird and spaceship motifs that echo through the rest of the show. A jacket – presumably Angell’s – hangs on a wooden chair, as though the artist is settling in for a long night’s work.

Paintings dress the walls, many laden with alien and tentacle imagery. Angell even makes use of the window sills, arranging over a dozen paintings there. For such a small space, there’s a truly incredible amount of work on view –  yet it doesn’t look crowded. It’s no surprise that the salon-style hangings of Angell, a senior staff member at the MFA, are masterful. He has all the resourcefulness you’d expect from a professional exhibitions preparator, making masterful use of what’s available to him.

“Night Studio” is a must-see; and thanks to 25/8’s 24/7 hours, it’s easy to squeeze in a visit whenever your schedule allows.

The show was curated by Yutong Shi.

25/8 artspace, 2 Linden St., Harvard Square, Cambridge 

Harvard Independent

Here’s the Tea on Bubble Tea

Ten One Tea House: Harvard Square’s newest boba addition.

If you are an avid bubble tea fan, like many college students are, here is some exciting news: on March 1, a brand new bubble tea shop, Ten One Tea House, opened in Harvard Square on the corner of JFK and Winthrop Street. This Boston-area chain has finally come to Harvard’s campus. Priding itself on “artisanal healthy drinks for tea lovers,” according to its website, Ten One Tea House has achieved great popularity on social media, amassing over 3000 followers on Instagram.  

This location might ring a bell to Harvard bubble tea connoisseurs—it was once home to Möge Tee, a bubble tea shop known for its fruit slushes and frappe-style teas. If you were one of the Harvard students sad to see Möge Tee go, no need to sweat. Ten One Tea House offers equally promising fruit slushes while setting itself apart with its assortment of milk and green teas. 

Ten One Tea House, a chain like Möge Tee, has other noteworthy locations in the Boston vicinity, such as Somerville, Fenway, and Newbury. Cambridge’s Ten One Tea House maintains a pristine interior with its white walls, illuminated menu, and sophisticated furniture, making it more luxurious than its bubble tea shop counterparts. The shop’s sophisticated aesthetic seems to translate into the tea flavors they offer on the menu: osmanthus honey, Earl Grey milk tea, and strawberry green tea, to name a few. Even if these untraditional flavors are not your cup of tea, Ten One Tea House has many staple flavors to appeal to the more conservative bubble tea drinker, such as brown sugar, matcha, or taro milk tea.

Another intriguing aspect of this bubble tea shop is its variety of toppings. When we went earlier in March to try their bubble tea, we asked for matcha latte milk teas with boba. In terms of price and size of the drinks, Ten One Tea House is on par with the other shops in the Square, to the dismay of bubble tea fans who may want a less expensive alternative. But, its creative flavors are what very noticeably set the shop apart.

The worker asked us to clarify which type of boba we wanted. To our surprise, we learned that they had three other types of boba in addition to brown sugar: white honey, blue butterfly, and dragon fruit. Tiger Sugar only offers the traditional brown sugar tapioca option, and while Kung Fu Tea has variety in its toppings, it has none of the same flavors. Our original conception of the bubble tea places was that there was not much disparity in the quality or variety of their teas. Knowing the differences in their menus, not only will it be fun to vary up your bubble tea outings when strolling through Harvard Square, but now you can build your excitement to try a more novel option.

With the existing knowledge that Möge Tee had to shut its doors, does Harvard Square really need another boba shop? Shops like Kung Fu Tea, Gong Cha, and Tiger Sugar are already clearly established in the Square, so what is the benefit of adding another destination for bubble tea? This skepticism, however, may fade after giving Ten One Tea House a chance. 

What does Ten One Tea House bring to the table? The shop’s attention to the quality and variety of its ingredients, as well as its expansive menu options, make Ten One Tea House extra special. But will this be enough to compete with the rest of the boba shops in the area? Only time will tell. Ten One Tea House’s unique array of flavors holds the potential for a promising future. If one craves a sweet drink with notes of fruitiness and fragrant tea, then this is the new ideal boba shop to try. 

Harvard Independent

Let’s Taco-bout it.

A review of Achilito’s Taqueria.

Every Harvard student’s good night out ends at one of the Square’s renowned late-night Mexican-style eateries. With this comes a fun debate on the walk home from a party over whether Jefe’s or Felipe’s will ultimately satisfy that 2 a.m. craving. The die-hard fans of each of these establishments will happily engage you with their points as to why one is better than the other, so much so that “Jefe’s or Felipe’s” should probably be added as a standard part of the Harvard introduction. However, one new restaurant may begin to shake up the debate and add itself into the conversation. Could Achilito’s Taqueria, new to Harvard Square, sway students to betray their old favorites?

The family-owned restaurant, native to Jamaica Plain in the South Boston area, was founded in October 2018. Harvard Square is now their third location, implicating success at their previous two establishments. Upon arrival, customers should expect the expediency of Jefe’s rather than the home-style feel of Felipe’s. Achilito’s is decorated with brightly colored walls, Bandera de México hanging from the ceiling, and vivid orange chairs, with minimal seating space. The experience is meant to be quickly paced. 

Harvard students are known for constantly berating HUDS dining options and, rightfully so, complaining about the d-halls shutting down at 7:30 p.m. One would expect that despite its current lack of reputation around Harvard, a new restaurant in the Square should be busy because it offers an escape from students’ meal plans. Boasting hours of 10:30 a.m.-4 a.m., Achilito’s certainly caters to the college scene. While up late p-setting or socializing, there is an endless list of reasons why students may find themselves with late-night cravings. Currently, Achilito’s has a Taco Tuesday Deal that offers three tacos and a mango, piña colada, or lime virgin margarita for $12. Considering that these drinks typically sell for $5 each, one would anticipate this to be a huge draw for customers. Additionally, you can purchase their alcoholic margaritas for $11 each until 1:45 a.m. every night of the week. 

Considering this deal, it would not be surprising if Achilito’s became the next wildly popular food option in the Square. Despite it only being advertised with some “Taco Tuesday” signage outside the restaurant, the offerings of the advantage speak for themselves. Something to note is that their signs portray what appears to be a Stock Image of hard shell tacos, however Achilito’s sells flour or corn soft shell tacos. It is a great bonus that they have the option of corn or flour tortillas for no difference in price. For this Taco Tuesday deal, customers choose between chicken, spicy chicken, or beef along with the options of pico de gallo, cilantro, crema, and onions for toppings free of charge. Other toppings are 50 cents, and the salsas are an additional dollar. They have a wide range of protein options if you’re not ordering with the Taco Tuesday deal—these range from baja shrimp tacos to the greasiest pork you’ve ever tried. If this is what you are looking for in a taco, then you have come to the right place. 

Although their Taco Tuesday deal is perfect for a cheap bite, the same cannot be said for the rest of their menu. Their burritos come in either a regular or large. The regular size ranges from $10-$14.50 (depending on the protein option) and they charge $2.50 to upgrade to a large. This comparatively high price does not bode well for competing in the already saturated Mexican food market in the Square. At Felipe’s, burritos cost $7.50 for a regular and $8.50 for a super burrito, and at Jefe’s, they are $10.30 with the option of any meat. Since college students are always looking for the best deal, this data seems to come into support of Felipe’s or Jefe’s being the preferred option. This being said, Achilito’s has phenomenal churros and chips with guac or queso. These both retail for a mere $3, which is comparable to other restaurants. So, the quality of Achilito’s and the convenient experience it offers is undeniable, making it still worth a shot for those willing to try out somewhere new. 

We have seen such a phenomenon before with Noch’s vs. Joe’s or Tasty Burger vs. Shake Shack. All of these options also serve the perfect amount of grease to soak up the alcohol after a night out and have their band of loyal followers. And now, Jefe’s, Felipe’s, and Achilito’s all offer various options for Harvard students to fulfill their late-night quesadilla, bowl, or burrito craving in the Square. It seems pretty simple really—Harvard students love their Mexican food, so why not more?

If history were to repeat itself then in the coming months, we would see that there is always room for another comforting, hand-held, late-night food option on a college campus. Especially with fun drinks and easy-to-grab snacks, it’s easy to see how Achilito’s could become an institution. Alternatively, the disappointment in the lack of cuisine diversity, and love of old favorites could keep Harvard students away from Achilito’s, despite their fun deals and late-night hours. Next time you are out late and craving a taco, stumble into Achilito’s to try something new. 

The Boston Globe

The great Harvard Square pizza war: Who’s getting a bigger piece of the pie?

Since it opened in mid-September, Joe’s Pizza has been challenging customer loyalty to nearby pizzerias. Here’s why that might be good for everyone.

CAMBRIDGE — When Ron Sullivan organized his bi-annual Trial Advocacy Workshop, an intensive course teaching trial skills at Harvard Law School, pizza wasn’t on his mind. But in January, as the professor scurried around the Sheraton Commander Hotel, where his out-of-town colleagues were staying, he noticed a lot of boxes from Harvard Square’s buzziest restaurant.

“They literally seem addicted to Joe’s [Pizza],” Sullivan said of his colleagues. “They order it to the hotel so they have it late-night as an after-dinner snack.”

Since it opened in mid-September, Joe’s Pizza, which slings New York-style slices and originally hails from Greenwich Village, has been challenging customer loyalty to nearby pizzerias, including Sicilian-style Pinocchio’s Pizza & Subs. Despite Joe’s “wonderful reputation,” Sullivan has yet to try it out of fealty to Pinocchio’s, which has been serving Ivy Leaguers (and everyone else) since 1966.

“I feel like I’d be cheating or something if I tried another pizza,” he said.

Pinocchio’s owner Adam DiCenso, whose family purchased the shop in 1984, said the business has recovered after taking an initial dip when Joe’s opened just a few blocks away.

“When they first opened, we definitely noticed a little bit of a drop in our business. There was so much hype around it,” he said. “But honestly after three weeks or a month, we kind of felt like things went back to normal.”

Joe’s took over the site of &pizza, a Washington D.C.-based pizza chain that shuttered after a three-year run. Mfonsio Andrew, a sophomore at Harvard, said many students trekked to the New York import, which is just steps from the Harvard MBTA stop, during the first few weeks of the school year.

“It was actually insane,” she said. “The lines were out the door for Joe’s Pizza.”

But after the initial hubbub waned, Andrew noticed factions emerging along geographic lines: upperclassmen near the Charles River remained loyal to Pinocchio’s, while freshmen supported Joe’s, which is just steps from their dorms in Harvard Yard. “There’s a large division,” she said. “For convenience purposes, most upperclassmen who are on the river still just go to [Pinocchio’s].”

The new pizzeria also gave freshmen an after-hours hangout spot, according to Harvard freshman Olivia Zhang. Although Zhang believes a majority of first-years prefer Joe’s (herself included), she said students old enough to remember life before Joe’s tend to support Pinocchio’s.

“Upperclassmen were very big on sticking to Pinocchio’s, and they all kind of boycotted Joe’s in a sense,” Zhang said.

Elise Pham, a Harvard sophomore, said Pinocchio’s long-standing ties to the area have given it an edge with undergraduates. “Students just love Pinocchio’s the most, I would say.”

Slices of pizza at Pinocchio’s Pizza & Subs.

Joe’s Pizza owner Joe Pozzuoli Jr. has taken the brand his father started to cities beyond the Big Apple, including Ann Arbor, Mich., and Miami. The New York-based owner zeroed in on Cambridge when he realized the demographics resembled the shop’s original New York location.

“It just seemed like a logical step because it is a college town, and we always do well with college students. We do very well with NYU students here in New York,” he said. “It almost had a neighborhood feel with college kids.”

Despite entrenched establishments like Pinocchio’s, which sells square slices and subs, Pozzuoli Jr. said he was undaunted about entering the market because of his experience in New York.

“Where we’re located in Greenwich Village, there’s lots of pizza places,” he said. “We find that certain areas become destinations. There’s a certain synergy of having multiple pizza places in the same area because then the area itself becomes known for good pizza.”

The Portland pizza chain Otto fills a tiny Massachusetts Avenue storefront in Harvard Square.

Whether Harvard Square will become a pizza destination remains to be seen, but Anthony Allen, the owner of Otto Pizza, located just steps from Joe’s, said it might be happening.

“We were concerned about our sales [but] our sales have actually not gone down,” said Allen, whose shop sells inventive slices, such as one loaded with butternut squash, cranberry, and ricotta. “It seems like people are just eating more pizza.”

Since Pinocchio’s arrived on Winthrop Street over half a century ago, plenty of Harvard Square pizza places have come and gone: Tommy’s House of Pizza, Uno Pizzeria, Cafe Aventura, Upper Crust Pizzeria, and The Just Crust, to name a few. Kevin O’Leary, the investor and Shark Tank panelist, has visited Joe’s and believes their prime location should help the store persevere.

“I think they’re turning so much,” said O’Leary, who used to live in Boston. “That’s what you want. You want every square foot active, turning that register.”

Joe’s, whose slim menu includes $4 cheese slices and $5 white slices, stays open later than Pinocchio’s, closing at 3 a.m. on the weekends. But Pozzuoli Jr. insisted the decision to keep serving into the wee hours wasn’t a chess move against the competition.

“We gained a reputation here in New York by being open later than most pizza businesses,” he said. “So it’s just part of our model. We tend to go a little bit later.”

Customers look out onto Havard Square from their perch inside Joe’s Pizza.

It’ll take more than extended business hours to peel off regulars in the community beyond freshmen and tourists. Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman remains loyal to Pinocchio’s and wrote in an email that he hasn’t “broken ranks.” Others, like Moderna cofounder Robert Langer, who has eaten at Pinocchio’s for 50 years, are buoyed by the pizzeria’s enduring appeal.

“Nothing in the Boston area lasts for very long,” he said. “Pizza is even harder in my opinion.”

Despite a splintered customer base, Harvard Square’s pizza proprietors welcome the competition and refuse to disparage rival shops. DiCenso believes his store’s family-run ethos keeps customers piling inside the cramped, white-brick building.

“I’ve always felt that part of the magic, if you will, is those bonds that we formed with individual students,” he said. “We know their names, we know what they order. In recent years, I feel like that’s something that’s kind of lost in the whole thing here.”

Joe’s Pizza in Harvard Square.
The Harvard Crimson

Las Palmas Uprooted From Harvard Square After Less Than 5 Months in New Location

Las Palmas, a Dominican restaurant chain, shut its doors in Harvard Square in late November, less than five months after it moved into a new location on Mount Auburn Street in The Garage.

Last July, Las Palmas moved to the old El Jefe’s storefront from its original spot in the Smith Campus Center, where it had been located since late 2021.

The Harvard Square location was the third for Las Palmas, a “family-owned, woman-owned and a minority-owned restaurant in Boston.” Currently, the only Las Palmas restaurant open is the original location in Roslindale, Mass.

Seila J. Green, owner of Las Palmas, told The Crimson in September 2023 that the decision to move from the Smith Campus Center to a larger space came out of an attempt to “offer a bigger menu” and to become “more visible.”

That appears to have not succeeded.

Denise A. Jillson, the executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, said that she saw Las Palmas’ closure as a “consumer issue.”

“If you serve something that people aren’t willing to walk in and buy from you, you will close,” she added.

Eric L. Wang ’26 wrote in a statement that he tried Las Palmas but was not a fan of the restaurant.

“I had it at a hackathon at Wellesley and the only reason I ate it was because there was no other food,” Wang wrote. “It wasn’t that good.”

Gabriela M. Vasquez Rosado ’26, a Dominican student who went to the new location twice, said in an interview that Las Palmas held “cultural significance” for her — but she that its closure wasn’t “completely surprising” to her.

She said that at its Smith Campus Center location, there were a line of customers outside Las Palmas.

“That wasn’t the case when I went to Las Palmas at the new location,” she added. “When I have gone, there haven’t been that many people eating there.”

Grace M. Liu ’26 wrote in a statement that Las Palmas was not a large part of the student scene at Harvard.

“I feel like that place has been closed forever,” she added.

Jillson said that Las Palmas’ closure does not reflect any particular trend and that in Harvard Square, there has been a “tremendous amount of stability.”

“A lot of that comes from the stability of the student body, the student population, having workers back in the Square. That matters,” she added. “Foot traffic matters, tourism matters.”

CBS News

“French-style” Van Leeuwen Ice Cream shop to open 3 Boston-area locations

BOSTON – There’s no shortage of great ice cream shops in Massachusetts. But Van Leeuwen, a popular chain out of New York with over 50 stores, is coming to the Boston area this year and promises something a little more gourmet than your standard scoop. 

Three locations will open in 2024. One is set to open on Boylston Street in early April at The Street Chestnut Hill, another is coming to 131 Seaport Blvd. in the summer, and the third will be in Harvard Square this fall.

“Rich, chewy, creamy” ice cream

Co-founder and CEO Ben Van Leeuwen says his “French-style” ice cream uses far more egg yolks than the competition.

“You’re getting a really rich, chewy, creamy thick product,” he told WBZ-TV. “It’s made that way with just cream and eggs.”


The shop has made headlines for creative concoctions like macaroni and cheese-flavored ice cream, but Van Leeuwen said he’s focused on getting good ingredients like chocolate from Ecuador, and vanilla that was rated among the best on the market by Wirecutter. There’s also non-dairy ice cream options for vegans, made with coconut cream.

Van Leeuwen said the ice cream sells for about $7 a scoop. They will also be serving up sundaes, milkshakes and root beer floats.

“Sure, it’s more expensive than Baskin-Robbins,” Van Leeuwen acknowledged – but he says customers are willing to pay for a higher quality product.   

Why Van Leeuwen is coming to Boston

Why the expansion into Boston and Cambridge? Van Leeuwen said walkability was a draw.

“There aren’t many places in the U.S. that have really good foot traffic where people are actually walking around,” he told WBZ-TV. “One of them is Boston.”

Van Leeuwen says he got started in the ice cream business by driving a Good Humor truck back in his high school days in Greenwich, Connecticut. He’s come a long way from handing out chocolate eclair and SpongeBob Squarepants bars.

“I love food, I love ingredients,” he said. “I want to do something that can be done at almost the highest level, but still accessible to all.”

The Harvard Crimson

A Look into Old Harvard: Leavitt & Peirce

Although Harvard Square has undergone considerable changes over the centuries, a handful of remnants of “Old Harvard Square” still stand today. Leavitt & Peirce, the iconic tobacco storefront, is the oldest remaining retailer in Harvard Square and is a link to the area’s rich history.