A field guide to Boston's 'lasting' treasures — to be enjoyed before they're razed in favor of chain stores
The heart of Harvard Square
Harvard Square is perhaps Greater Boston's most protean neighborhood. By now it's a time-honored tradition to bemoan that this red-brick Cantabrigian triangle has lost its character — its soul! — as the rapacious chain stores have wedged their big boxes into its tiny, tweedy confines. But if Words-Worth and the Wursthaus are no longer, it's worth remembering that Tower and Tweeter have been forced out as well. Meanwhile, Cardullo's has stuck it out for more than half a century, Leavitt & Peirce is still purveying tobacco after 122 years, and Mr. Bartley's and the Hong Kong are still extant. So the Square is a locale in constant flux: neither beloved homey haunts nor corporate carpetbaggers are guaranteed a permanent place at the table. What's intriguing are the businesses that manage to survive, cockroach-like, smack in the middle of a neighborhood where rents can exceed $150 per square foot. Chief among them is Whitney's, the delightfully beer-smelling dive bar, which has somehow held its own since the early '50s, as the Urban Outfitters and Abercrombie & Fitches have come and gone around it. It's dark and cavern-like, and spare in its neon-lit dûcor. Bud bottles are available on the cheap, as is the chance to play Big Buck Hunter while watching the human traffic pass by outside. It's terrific. But to paraphrase Yeats: can the center hold?
— Mike Miliard
CARDULLO'S GOURMET SHOPPE | 6 Brattle Street, Cambridge | 617.491.8888 | LEAVITT & PEIRCE TOBACCO | 1316 Mass Ave, Cambridge | 617.547.0576 | MR. BARTLEY'S GOURMET BURGERS | 1246 Mass Ave, Cambridge | 617.354.6559 | THE HONG KONG | 1238 Mass Ave, Cambridge | 617.864.5311 | WHITNEY'S CAFÉ | 37 JFK Street, Cambridge | 617.354.8172
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