Tag Archives: Harvard Square

Charlie’s Beer Garden: When it Rains Bad Nachos, it Pours

18 Jul

Final Jeopardy: Where in Boston can you both drink Harpoon Rasberry UFO on tap in the outdoors AND wait in the world’s longest line for the world’s dirtiest bathroom?  Why, at Charlie’s Beer Garden in Harvard Square, of course!  Run by the fine folks behind Charlie’s Kitchen right next door, the beer garden is a godsend during the summer, when alfresco drinking opportunities are few and far between.  We love the burgers here, and were very excited when nachos made a debut on their summer menu.  Do they earn their place in the permanent rotation?  Let’s find out!

  • Appearance: (6) Flat, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Decidedly cheesy to the naked eye, which is decidedly a good thing.
  • Quality of Ingredients: (5) Decent chips, though definitely not homemade.  The guacamole was gluey enough to be decidedly from a bag, but still appreciated.  The cheese was quite melty and delicious.  And then….we come to the chili.  At first bite it seemed innocently tasty.  Kidney beans and meatball-sized chunks of ground beef were pleasant surprised. But then, we realized that something with the chili was terribly, terribly wrong.  It didn’t seem at all more watery than usual, but for some bizarre reason any chip that touched it became immediately soaked.  And not soaked in a good way, with a thick, flavorful gravy– more like sodden.
  • Distribution of Toppings:  (4) While there were significant amounts of cheese and chili,  because of the aforementioned chili situation, this in the end rendered the topping-covered chips nearly inedible.   We picked at the edge and used forks to whittle away at the toppings, but in the end, we were left with this sizeable inedible remainder:

Now that’s just depressing.

  • Price: (2) We can’t remember how much they cost and they aren’t listed on the online menu.  Whatever it was, they weren’t worth it.
  • Overall:17/40.  Looks like the Otherside Cafe has some competition for the worst nachos served to you in the company of fixed-gear bike riding hipsters.

It was fitting, nay, even poetic that after these soggy nachos, God saw fit to open up the skies for a surprise downpour and soak them even more.

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John Harvard’s Kettle Chips: Baked Potato Nachos

7 Jun

Specialty nachos, much like love, adventure, and drug dealers, are everywhere if you know where to look.  It takes a keen eye in reading a menu, the confidence to ask for something off-menu, and a patience with not-so nacho-enlightened waitstaff, but it can be done.  During our recent nacho expedition to John Harvard’s, we spied something promising: their Kettle Chips, described as “fresh fried potato chips, cheddar cheese, crisp bacon, scallions and sour cream.”  After making inquiries with our waitress (“So, are these nachos?” “No, they are potato chips.” “But do they resemble nachos?” “Well, no, they aren’t corn chips, they are kettle chips.” “Let us clarify: are they some sort of chip, covered in some sort of cheese and toppings?” “Well, yes…”) we took the plunge and were in the end rewarded with this:

  • Appearance: (6) Much more Sahara than Garden of Eden, but we swooned over the oozy, melty, occasionally crispy cheese coating.
  • Quality of Ingredients: (6) We were expecting more substantial pieces of bacon, but they were so small to be almost powdery.  Still, this “bacon crust” provided nice crunch and flavor. The chips were thick and freshly fried, and we love potato chips, but they tasted a little overdone at times. The cheese was excellent and deliciously melty.
  • Distribution of Toppings: (7) Once again, the bottom layer of cheese on the plate blew our minds.  There was so much cheese, but even on these, the sour cream was a little cloying.  With these nachos, they omitted all the lighter ingredients and gave us the straight goop– greasy, gloppy and artery clogging.  It was a little much, and difficult to eat.
  • Price: (8) At $7.99, these come out to approximately 1,376 calories per dollar.  Quite the value, eh? Depends on how you count.
  • Overall: 27.  It’s a good concept but not for the faint of heart.  Seriously, they should require a doctor’s note and an electrocardiogram before they place your order.

John Harvard’s: Ivy League Nachos Without the Pretention

2 Jun

Dark days have fallen upon Nacho Patrol.  Our Master of Margs, Queen of Qdoba, Siren of Sports, Smashley, has relocated to the warmer climes of California.  For her last goodbye, we met at the place that best represented the six years we had spent with her: Border Cafe, for a Cuervo Gold margarita, rocks, no salt.  Border Cafe, however, had quite a wait for a table so we sought solace in the warm bosom of another familiar Harvard Square establishment: John Harvard’s Brew House.  With its stained glass windows and dark wood features, John Harvard’s is a great place to hole up and get friendly with our favorite holy beverage, beer.  They brew their own and while the varieties can be rather hit or miss, it’s at least more interesting (and just about as cheap) as your average bar with the trinity of Bud-Miller-Sam.  We got especially friendly with their nachos:

  • Appearance: (8) It’s like the Hasty Pudding Parade in there!  These nachos let it all hang out and only left us wanting to know more.  A cacophony of colors and textures, we could tell from the start that this was going to be no normal patrol.
  • Quality of Ingredients: (8) While all the ingredients in nachos tend to take their flavors from the same set of Tex-Mex seasonings, each topping here had its own, very distinct flavor. The pulled pork was juicy and smoky, with a pronounced “bacony” flavor; this at times came close to crossing the line into overwhelming but never quite did.  The salsa had a wonderful garlicky bite, which we had never come across before.  The tri-colored chips were house-made, crispy and fresh.  We loved the addition of olives, scallions and jalapenos, and found the latter to be of the perfect spice, pickle, and size.
  • Distribution of Toppings:  (10) If their nachos are any indication, many establishments in Boston seem to be suffering from some sort of cheese shortage.  Well, we have found the reason: John Harvard’s is hoarding it all.  It seems that they literally had more cheese than they knew what to do with, because on top of a respectable cheese layer and numerous wonderfully melty cheese pockets, they pulled a move that we have never in all our reviews ever come across: a preemptive layer of cheese on the bottom of the plate! What??  It worked wonderfully, as the plate itself was hot enough to keep the cheese liquid, allowing for a little extra cheese reservoir for those odd naked chips.  Which, much to our delight, were blessedly few and far between.  Not only did the distribution do an excellent job of ensuring that every chip had something on top, every chip had multiple toppings. Just take a look at this beauty:

On top of the chip, which is barely visible, we’ve got cheese, pork, guacamole, a black olive, and a single decorative scallion for good measure.  Every chip presented a unique combination of distinctive toppings, making these a fascinating delight to consume.

  • Price: (8) Not having paid attention to the menu, we feared the worst when the check arrived.  How much must John Harvard’s demand for such delectable nachos?  To our glee, they came to $10.50.  Nowhere near as large as Sunset but with these, size is not the prize!
  • Overall: 34/40.  After much middling nachos, we are thrilled to welcome John Harvard’s to our Top Five.  It’s been great having you!