Among the many area restaurant spaces that have undergone dramatic transformations in the last several years, Russell House Tavern in Harvard Square stands out. While it’s now practically ubiquitous, Russell House was on the forefront of the movement to source food and drink locally when it opened in 2010.
I’ve dined at Russell House many times in the last five years and a recent meal there reminded me that while new restaurants often get a lot of hype, sometimes it’s old favorites that are worth shouting about.
The space that Russell House occupies was formerly a restaurant and bar called Z Square that was completely transformed when Russell House opened. It’s now a beautiful, cozy space with several seating areas both upstairs and down. From the rich wooden bar upstairs and plush leather seats to the photos capturing old Cambridge and even a patio in the warmer months, no detail at Russell House has been overlooked.
Local beer and craft cocktails may be de rigueur these days, but Russell House has been serving them for years. You can order a classic Bee’s Knees or Moscow Mule or something more modern, like the Harvard Yard No. 3 (Laphroaig 10 Year Scotch, Croft Distinction Port, Green Chartreuse, Salt). Beer lovers will rejoice to find the taps laden with local favorites like Pretty Things, Jack’s Abby and Notch Brewing. Russell House also serves a range of delicious, well-priced wines, including a few offerings on tap.
Much of the food Russell House serves is locally sourced and seasonally influenced, so the menu changes throughout the year. You can always count on a wide selection of meat, seafood and vegetable dishes, which is why it’s one of my go-to spots when dining with a crowd of varying food preferences. Everyone can find something they love and leave more than satisfied.
The raw bar teams with local seafood, from Pat Woodbury’s clams and Maine rock shrimp to a rotating selection of oysters. And meals range from the casual, inexpensive tavern pizzas to the elegant, pricier Local Berkshire Pork Trio. A selection of salads and small plates featuring local ingredients like Somerville’s own Fiore di Nonno burrata round of the savory menu.
Desserts are mostly clever twists on the familiar, a molten molasses cake, apple empanadas and housemade churros with chocolate ancho sauce. In addition to the evening meal, Russell House serves a mean brunch, and the lunch service is perfect for when you’re seeking something beyond sandwiches that won’t break the bank.
Consistency is the key to outstanding restaurant performance over time and Russell House has mastered that while remaining on the cutting edge of the culinary scene.