Lunch in Harvard Square: Beat Brasserie

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Settle into Beat Brasserie for a little break.  It’s such a relaxing space you may need to stay for coffee and dessert…and then linger even longer. 

Whether you’re a parent and have school-aged children, you are on a tight budget this week/month/year, or you are just not a night person, lunch out is the perfect replacement for dinner out.  Sometimes, you are happy with a yoghurt and some granola at your desk, but other times you need to step away from your desk and eat a proper lunch (which you should be doing every day even if it’s just your yoghurt and granola at a park bench).  Harvard Square’s Beat Brasserie, popular for it’s tasty and jamming brunches with live music is now also serving lunch during the week.  I was invited in to see what lunch has to offer and was reminded once again why I should thank my lucky stars that I get to live in this city.

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These crab cake deviled eggs are delicious.  Worth a visit just for these and a quick drink. 

When I’m choosing a spot for lunch, there are a few things I want:

  • Good food (that’s a given)
  • A space where I can relax and enjoy a meal solo or with a friend.
  • A menu that is not filled with things I could or would make at home (and I like to cook so this can sometimes be a tough one).
  • Healthy options, just in case I don’t feel like indulging and so there is hope of finishing my work after.
  • A staff that is time conscious but also offers the option to linger.
  • Walking distance or parking options nearby
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These are the best booths I’ve ever sat in.  I want one for my house. 

Let’s start with the space. If you’re a local you’ll remember heading down those steps to do some shopping, and now despite the inviting arrow, the is something about going downstairs into a space you can’t see from the street that creates a hesitation. Just get over it and head down those stairs!  You will enter a groovy space with just the right amount of hip to make it feel modern with a clear nod to the Beat era.  You’ll also enter a room that is bright and spacious.  Slide into one of the gorgeous soft, leather booths with a friend or some colleagues or settle into a seat at the bar for a solo lunch. If you have been on Pinterest lately, you know that macaramé is making a comeback and at Beat Brasserie they’re ahead of the curve (okay it’s just so totally 70’s but still) I got a kick out of walking through this totally 70’s “wall” of macramé and wooden beads on my way to wash my hands before lunch and found myself daydreaming about how to recreate their stone trough sink at home.

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I had to share because: macramé and wooden beads.  How groovy is that?!

The staff is attentive and very friendly.  They know how to keep lunch moving along, but also respect any wishes to linger longer.  It’s a delicate balance that not everyone can master.  Getting to Beat Brasserie is pretty easy.  Harvard Square on a weekday morning is fairly accessible and there is often a metered spot available on the side streets or in a pinch you can park in one of the nearby garages.

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An assortment of deliciousness.  The artichoke falafel are usually served on a bowl, but we went for the slow cooked Mexican pork shoulder for this Bowl Azteca. I’m glad we asked to try the falafel too because that’s what I want next time. It was crunchy and light.

Okay, now let’s get to the really important part:  the food.  I love a varied menu but they also make me nervous.  A menu that has a little of this and a little of that often risks having some hits and some misses.  So far, after having brunch and lunch at Beat Brasserie I haven’t been disappointed with anything.  Even their oysters were perfectly shucked, fresh, and they had  Scorton Creek Oysters, which I haven’t had before.

It is as cliché as the macramé beads but the hard thing about lunch at Beat Brasserie is deciding what to order.  I suggest you come often or come with friends and try it all.

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Buffalo cauliflower from Beat Brasserie.  One of Harvard Square’s most crave-able appetizers.  Photo courtesy of Debbie Grubstein (A Little Bit About a Lot of Things)

I can’t come to Beat Brasserie without getting the buffalo cauliflower and, if I dare admit it “in print”, I actually almost never leave without an additional order of the spicy, day-glo orange cauliflower with blue cheese sauce and carrots and celery to go.

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The Azteca bowl is one of the Earthly Delight Bowls.  It comes with Adobo spiced quinoa, tomatillow salsa, corn, squash, green beans, avocado and baby spinach.  Then you can add toppings from the menu (see below). 

A favorite Beat Brasserie option, which would probably allow you to eat here once a week without getting bored, are the Earthly Delight Bowls.  Take the local chain places that offer grain or rice bowls and cross them with one of your favourite local restaurants and you’ll get the Beat Brasserie bowls. They are fresher, have more variety, and you get to enjoy them in a relaxing restaurant booth not standing at a sticky bar table surrounded by sweaty Soul Cycle folks.  You choose either the: Bowl Azteca with adobo spiced quinoa (which I believe is gluten free), the Greek bowl with couscous, the Hippie Bowl with greens and sprouted seeds, the Baby Blue Bowl with spinach, bacon, and a blue cheese dressing, or the Life bowl with beets and other roots.  Each one has their own mix of vegetables and delicious dressings and that is just the base.  You then can add on a choice of artichoke falafel, roasted free-range chicken, seared salmon, seared shrimp, slow cooked pork shoulder, grilled skirt steak, or seared za’atar spiced ahi tuna.  We tried the pork shoulder on the Bowl Azteca and it was the perfect comfort food.  Keep it vegetarian by adding the artichoke falafel instead of the pork and you won’t be disappointed whether you follow a vegetarian diet or not.

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Behold the burger with port aioli, crispy fried onions, fries and a choice of bacon (yes), and cheddar or gorgonzola.

I was craving a burger, but I was hesitant to order one, because I’m really picky about my beef patties.  The bun has to be just right (it was).  The burger meat has to have the right texture, I don’t like them too compressed or too mushy, (it was perfect and cooked just right). It also came with some of the best fries in town.

Oktoberfest is in full swing, but not everyone can pull it off.  (Skip the pretzels at Shake Shack but the beer steins are kind of fun).  The special at Beat Brasserie was an Oktoberfest plate with sausage (cooked in beer and seared to perfection) on a pretzel bun with sauerkraut, additional cabbage that was sweet and sour on the side, and a German potato salad.  I could have eaten that entire plate and I will go back again for more while it is still on the menu. The potato salad was a little dry but still a pretty good version of my favourite kind of potato salad (no mayo just mustard, vinegar, hard boiled eggs, and scallions).

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Come in from the cold and enjoy a piping hot, sweet apple crisp topped with creamy cool vanilla ice cream. 

If you have a sweet tooth don’t leave without ordering dessert.  They apple crisp was very sweet but full of flavour nonetheless.  The chocolate mousse is light and airy and goes perfectly with a cappuccino if you have just a little time to linger and need a little sugar/caffeine boost before heading back out into the real world.


Servings are large so feel free to share, or take some home for dinner or lunch tomorrow.

Harvard Square and Harvard Yard are beautiful this time of year.  Take the T into the area, bike, walk, or drive in and take a stroll before or after lunch at Beat Brasserie and you’ll feel like you’re living in a New England postcard.

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