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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 https://www.thepaintedburro.com/

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Hoodline

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.

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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.

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Vanity Fair

Obama, Bezos, and Mr. Wonderful: Inside the Hash House of Harvard’s Elite

Henrietta’s Table might not look like a three-star restaurant—but its clientele would have you guessing otherwise. “There’s no telling who you’re going to see,” says one patron, while another dubs it “a global nexus.”

n 2010, Derrick Rossi and Ken Chien, then colleagues at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, found themselves attending another coworker’s wedding. During the reception, after the “I do’s,” Rossi asked Chien a question, one that would lead to the creation of Moderna, the multibillion-dollar Covid-19 vaccine maker. “I have this finding and I’m thinking about starting a company. Would you like to hear about it?” Back at Chien’s lab, Rossi mentioned that Robert Langer, another academic, was also interested in joining the founding group. When it came to where they might discuss the venture as a trio, Chien had just the place in mind: “I said, ‘Let’s have breakfast at Henrietta’s,’ because that’s kind of the place that people go to.”

Every city with movers and shakers has a power breakfast spot. New York? The Loews Regency. Washington, DC? It’s a small schlep to the Georgetown Four Seasons. Los Angeles? The Polo Lounge. So it should come as no surprise that Harvard University, a city-within-a-city, has its own stomping ground, with enough hungry power players to field a panel at Davos.

Henrietta’s Table, an airy farm-to-table restaurant in the heart of Harvard Square, is nestled on the second floor of the Bill Gates–backed Charles Hotel, the see-and-be-seen spot for billionaires, academics, billionaire academics, world leaders, venture capitalists, newspaper columnists, Harvard parents who are all of those things, and Mr. Wonderful, the guy who always sits in the middle of the Shark Tank dais. “You can talk to people in London, Geneva, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, they’ve all been there,” Mr. Wonderful, aka Kevin O’Leary, tells me. “It’s a global nexus.”

Henrietta’s first opened its doors in 1995, long before hipsters laid claim to the farm-to-table movement. The Charles Hotel had opened 10 years prior and quickly became the go-to luxury spot in an area dotted with bed-and-breakfasts and buildings as old as John Harvard himself. At the time, Harvard Square was still a few decades away from turning into the Disney Springs shopping village of the Ivy League.

Today, the cityscape looks very different. And while many mom-and-pop shops have since been replaced with eateries elegant and extravagant, Henrietta’s Table remains the go-to spot. “You know that the service is going to be good, the food is going to be good,” says Ashish Jha, a former Harvard professor who later joined the Biden administration to oversee its Covid-19 pandemic response plan. “Henriettas’s has a reliability that makes the actual act of eating breakfast almost sort of in the background.”

Just over half the diners are affiliated with Harvard, according to Alex Attia, the hotel’s general manager. The restaurant “often seems to function like an auxilliary [sic] faculty club,” Martha Minow, a Harvard Law School professor and former CBS Corporation board member wrote over email. The 200-seat interior is coastal grandmother meets colonial Williamsburg (Virginia, not Brooklyn), with a Revolution-era terminology to match (dinner is “supper” and the kitchen whips up $15 “red flannel hash”). The slat chairs, simple menu, and open kitchen make it feel like you’re dining in a New England country home instead of a stuffy, soulless hotel. “It’s home cooking, it’s the typical eggs and bacon and hash that you can make at home if you want,” Attia says. “That’s the focus of the menu.” The most popular items include the $18 french toast (a favorite of early-riser Al Roker) and $14 yogurt parfait.

Unlike the Regency or the Four Seasons, you’ll find that restaurant chatter extends well beyond the world of politics and high finance, with academia always in the mix. Attia says Harvard University president Claudine Gay is a regular. (“This is her place for breakfasts and for dinners,” he notes.) Attia, who took the helm in 2003, bops from table to table, greeting a who’s who of influential figures every morning. Broadway bigwig Diane Paulus is known to break bread there and Snap Inc. chairman Michael Lynton has been spotted too. “There’s no telling who you’re going to see, from governors to mayors to Jeff Bezos, Henry Kissinger,” Harvard basketball coach Tommy Amaker says.

When Amaker was hired to coach Harvard’s basketball team in 2007, he asked the late Harvard law professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr. to breakfast at Henrietta’s. The two had gotten to know each other as Amaker became acclimated at Harvard. By the end of their meal, Amaker asked Ogletree if they could do it again. Ogletree brought a few other professors with him the following time, setting in motion “the breakfast club,” a monthly get-together of famous faces and members of the Harvard basketball team. Amaker tells me speakers have included President Barack Obama, three Massachusetts governors, Senator Raphael Warnock, former education secretary (and former Harvard basketball player) Arne Duncan, and Jacinda Ardern, the former prime minister of New Zealand, among many others. According to Amaker, the breakfast club has become so popular that people running for office now ask him if they can speak at the gathering. “It’s that kind of room, they know it. It has that kind of cachet.”

When Obama, a Harvard Law School graduate, came to speak to Amaker’s group last year, he noted the personal significance of returning to Henrietta’s, a restaurant he was familiar with during the early stages of his relationship with the former first lady, Michelle Obama. “He said it was always the nicest. He said, ‘I didn’t have a lot of money then,’” Amaker recounted, so “‘for us to be able to eat at Henrietta’s was a big deal.’”

Nick Kristof, the globe-trotting New York Times opinion columnist and a former member of Harvard University’s Board of Overseers, has spent many nights at the Charles Hotel and run into many a world leader there. So, naturally, the hotel’s main breakfast spot is where the mighty start their day. “Henrietta’s Table is the world’s crossroads,” he wrote in an email. “I’ve run into everyone there from Madeline Albright to Sudan’s foreign minister to Yemen’s Nobel Peace Prize winner.”

Back in the 1990s, when Kevin O’Leary was building what later became known as The Learning Company, Henrietta’s was a Shark Tank of its own. O’Leary, ever the dealmaker, knew that venture capitalists would spot him at the restaurant with rival firms, drumming up even more interest in the company. “We raised billions at The Learning Company,” O’Leary says. “I always made sure that we’d start [at Henrietta’s], and we’d do two or three meetings there, and everybody would know that we were negotiating.”

Since then, the restaurant has, to a certain extent, preserved its reputation as a prime destination for dealmaking. “If you didn’t want people to know that you were meeting with this or that Senator or member of Congress or something, you would avoid Henrietta’s Table,” says Larry Tribe, a Harvard Law School professor and a frequent political commentator. Still, Tribe adds, “If people had confidential dealings that they wanted to engage in, that’s probably the last place they’d go.”

It’s also become a hot spot for chance encounters, where diners like Jha would shoot the breeze with people they wouldn’t typically have time to see. “The idea of running into other people was never consciously in my head,” he says, “but the number of times I went there for breakfast and ran into somebody I knew was way more often than times when I didn’t.”

But of course, it’s not all muckety-mucks. Sitting just feet away from cabinet secretaries, media moguls, and famous academics are a few groggy students visiting their grandparents, unaware of the powerful luminaries surrounding them. It’s not the Nobel Prize, but waking up in time to behold such a towering tableau is something.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Boston Herald

Seasonal shopping + charming scenes = great local holiday markets

In Hallmark holiday movies, the shopping scenes always have the same vibe: Cute, cozy, outdoorsy with lots of places for characters to get toasty. There’s rarely a mall, seldom a big box store and almost never a tablet screen for the shopping center.

Luckily, we can find that in real-life.

Welcome to the holiday market set up, a concept that’s taken on a myriad of interpretations. Across the Bay State, you’ll find all kinds of great holiday markets, from seaside and quaint to bustling in the big city.

They all share this in common: You’ll not only find your Hallmark holiday shopping bliss, you’ll find unique gifts as well. Consider these options, a few of the many holiday markets out there this season.

Harvard Square Holiday Fair: A tradition since 1986, the Harvard Square Holiday Fair (https://www.harvardsquareholidayfair.com/) takes place this year Dec. 15-17 and Dec. 21-23.