Where to Alden & Harlow, the new Harvard Square restaurant from chef Michael Scelfo, located in the former Casablanca space.
What for Scelfo has a strong following from his years at restaurants such as Russell House Tavern and North Street Grille. This is his first solo project, and his most personal — according to its website, Alden & Harlow replicates the kind of cooking Scelfo does at home with family and friends. If your family sups on pan-roasted clams with smoked pig’s tail, oyster gratin with uni, and a “secret burger,” you know what to expect.
The scene Chefs, restaurant owners, servers, and more chefs are here in force. As soon as it opened, Alden & Harlow was a food-industry darling. At the long, wraparound bar, people recommend dishes to their neighbors and explain the meaning of their tattoos. At a table, a group wearing sport coats and name tags makes small talk. There are many discrete spaces — the bar, nooks with booths, a dining area with a plant wall. The lights are down low, the white tile walls hung with vintage signs (“package whiskey,” “Brown’s Bar-B-Q”). Bartenders in button-downs and washed denim aprons serve drinks to people lending one another hardcover books. Fresh-faced Warby Parker patrons mingle, sending shots of Fernet to friends across the room and in the kitchen. Everywhere, people are putting away tremendous amounts of food.
What you’re eating Pickled corn pancakes (above) with shishito peppers taste like breakfast for dinner, while the dish everyone at the bar seems to be talking about is the chicken-fried rabbit — a crunchy nugget served with celery, apple, blue cheese, and chili oil, an elegant cousin of the Buffalo wing.
Care for a drink? The McGregor’s Garden is a cocktail made with bourbon, Benedictine, lemon — and spiced parsnip puree, which adds a mild, vegetal sweetness. Peter Rabbit would approve, if you hadn’t just eaten him.
Overheard People talking about food, Sochi, stray dogs, and sex. “I’m so full,” a man says to his dining companion. “I know,” she commiserates, “I want to die I’m so full.” “I know! Should we look at the dessert menu?” Shop talk among people who work in restaurants: “All the food went out and we didn’t know what anything was!” “Don’t even think about a shift drink.” “I flew my buddy out to stage at Noma.” At the bar, a man with an operatic laugh tells his neighbor: “He and I did ‘La Boheme’ together.” Two women share smoked chocolate bread pudding with salt ice cream. “I’ve got this one. It’s your birthday, darling,” one tells the other. “Now that you’re rolling in the cash from your adjunct professorship!” her friend chortles. “Oh, I know, shopping here we come! Neiman Marcus!” the prof says in droll tones. Someone orders the chicken-fried rabbit, and the man next to her pouts sadly. “Oh, poor bunny. Just kidding! It’s [expletive] delicious.”
40 Brattle St., Harvard Square, Cambridge. 617-864-2100. www.aldenharlow.com.