Maritza Hernandez (left) and Delores Martinez showcase Las Palmas’ featured fare

Maritza Hernandez (left) and Delores Martinez showcase Las Palmas’ featured fare.

Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

Already here: mango tofu. Coming soon: Mother Juice.

3 min read

With new food kiosks open, and more offerings in the pipeline, the Square is poised for a post-COVID culinary comeback

With offerings both familiar and new, several local food retailers are expanding dining options for the Harvard Community.

“We wanted to curate a mix of offerings that represent the diversity and tastes of the neighborhood,” said Sean Caron, managing director of Harvard Real Estate. “We have partnered with some food retailers that we know will serve the local neighborhood in an authentic way that brings vibrancy to the Square.”

In the Smith Campus Center, two food kiosks opened last month.

Las Palmas serves Latin dishes, including build-your-own rice bowls with choices including tropical mango tofu and plantain chips. The menu also offers empanadas and desserts such as caramel flan. Harvard Square is the third location for the Roslindale-based business, and it was an easy choice, said Roberto Green, who runs Las Palmas with his wife, Seila.

“In 2019 when we only had our Roslindale restaurant, over 80 percent of our catering business was coming from Cambridge, so we knew the community was looking for the type of food we offer — delicious, flavorful, and affordable,” said Green.

By partnering with Harvard, the restaurant was able to step into the Campus Center space and open with minimal lead-time and manageable costs.

“These are types of partnerships that we as small business owners really appreciate,” Green said.

Leti Silva, manager of Sally's sandwiches and Blackbird Doughnuts, displays a gourmet doughnut.
Counter service at Blackbird Doughnuts and Sally's Sandwiches.

Leti Silva offers up a tempting gourmet doughnut from Blackbird Doughnuts. Silva manages the newly expanded Blackbird, which now includes Sally’s Sandwiches.

The familiar Blackbird Doughnuts kiosk has moved to a larger suite within the Campus Center and has added a sister concept, Sally’s Sandwiches. Owner Rebecca Gullo described the menu expansion from doughnuts to sandwiches as a natural progression for the restaurant. “The Cambridge community is such an excellent culinary audience for us. We really wanted to offer a small neighborhood shop, where we hit on the tastes and cultures of the people who work for us and provide a genuine food experience for our customers,” she said. For Sally’s Sandwiches, this means the menu includes tacos, and diners should be on the lookout for latkes from Gullo’s family recipe sometime soon.

These two businesses are the first in a host of new food establishments that will be opening soon. Another Smith Campus addition will be Mother Juice, which is scheduled to open in January, The Painted Burro is scheduled to open in the former Border Café site on Church Street later in 2022.

“We are pleased that the Square is responding to the waning days of COVID in exactly the manner we hoped: with optimism and confidence. We’re excited about the eateries at the Smith Campus Center, and while we lament the loss of Border Cafe, we are excited about the Painted Burro. Their presence on the corner of Palmer and Church will bring good food and good vibes to a corner of the Square that sorely needs delicious smells, light, music, and laughter. This is all very good news for Harvard Square,” Denise Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, said in a statement.

Harvard Square is not the only place with new food choices. A Fuel America coffee shop also recently opened at 114 Western Ave. in Allston. “We think these new food options really do provide something for all tastes — from health food to comfort food. With the new Fuel America location, students, faculty, staff and the community will have a great space to enjoy food, drink and a place to study and socialize in Allston,” said Caron.