Harvard Square’s new restaurant towers above the rest, literally.
The Heights, which opened in early March, sits on the top floor of the Smith Campus Center, giving diners a bird’s-eye view of the Charles River and the southern part of campus, including the bell tower of the Baker Library and inside the U-shaped Harvard Stadium. Offering lunch, dinner, and even cocktails for Harvard affiliates and their guests, The Heights puts flavorful twists on familiar favorites.
“Everybody’s trying to fit a niche,” said executive chef Joseph B. Santos, a veteran of the New York City food scene. “What I’m trying to do here is break the mold a little bit.”
He’s doing that with an 80-seat venue that offers quick-service lunch and full-service dinner featuring modern cuisine inspired by tastes from his childhood, his culture, and his travels in Europe, Asia, and the U.S. dishes range from a Rhode Island-style calamari with Korean gochujang aioli instead of the usual marinara sauce, to a mac and cheese plate served Mediterranean-style with Greek olives, spinach, and artichokes. There’s also garden-style mac and cheese, Black Angus burgers, Cuban sandwiches, a Cambridge-inspired salad, and even an Instagram-ready vegetable dish called the “Meze Hall.”
“It’s a lot of flavors that are familiar to a lot of people. We’re calling the food contemporary American [because] what the face of America is now is a melting pot,” said Santos, who is Asian and Filipino-American and loves seeing what other cultures eat and how they cook it.
The menu shows off Santos’ passion for homemade ingredients and dishes that are camera-ready. He buys local and cooks from scratch when he can. “The Toast” pops with a mix of colors from kale, radishes, red onions, and egg that tops it off. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich uses a house-made peach jam and is stuffed with Applewood bacon. French fries, sprinkled with a vibrant blend of red spices, come with a side of homemade barbecue sauce. All are perfectly made for social media.
“Part of it is actually seeing it prepared properly and putting some love into it to have it look beautiful,” Santos said. “We take a minute or two extra just to make sure it’s done right.”