FOOD: Grendel’s Den — Harvard Square [Boston]


The closer winter gets to Boston, the more I want to stay curled in bed all day with a cappuccino and the curtains drawn. Having a 9-5 really cramps my get-cozy style, but luckily, Grendel’s Den understands where I’m coming from. This Harvard Square hovel sits underneath the swanky and zany UpStairs on the Square and offers a dark, crowded, and delicious respite from the winter winds. Grendel’s is fundamentally a basement pub, with way-better-than-standard pub fare. It’s a quirky seat-yourself, gender-neutral bathrooms kind of establishment with the vibe of medieval mead hall. Think Beowulf, minus the bloodshed. The restaurant has an interesting background (read the full story on the back of their menu) but there are really only two things you need to know about this place:IMG_0541

1) Happy Hour, every night, 5 – 7:30 PM

2) Happy Hour, Sunday through Thursday, 9 – 11:30 PM

But, wait — isn’t Happy Hour in Boston prohibited by the informally known “Happy Hour Regulation” found in Chapter 204 of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations? Why, yes, yes it is. Mass law puts regulations against lowering drink prices for short periods of time during the week. But clever Grendel’s instead cuts the price of food in half with the purchase of a full-priced drink of 3 dollars or more.

Not only do they have incredible cocktails and delicious brews, but the food is phenomenally comforting and somehow tastes better for half the price. It’s possible to order a burger, and a good one, but I’d recommend any of the hearty sandwiches or the fish of the day. Or check the specials insert in the menu. Lately, the chefs at Grendel’s have been dishing up some serious winter-time fare. If they’re there, go for the Peruvian Quinoa Stew or the Butternut Squash Risotto. They’re essentially the meal-time equivalent of being wrapped up in your bed covers: warm, satisfying, and cheesy. I would pair either with a strong stout. (Look for the beer list on the boards above the fireplace. I wasn’t kidding when I said this place is cozy.)

Even though being gainfully employed is messing with my hibernation schedule, working in Boston and living in Cambridge puts Grendel’s Den smack-dab in the middle of my commute home on the red line. It doesn’t feel possible right now but I know it’s only going to get colder. The orangey-glow of Grendel’s and the promise of a warm alcoholic beverage are about the only things that can motivate me out into the world when it’s freezing or below. While you’re there, see if you can find the tiny Grendel figurine. He’s named for the mythological beast but looks totally benign, balancing a stack of sandwiches, a salad, and a hot drink. He’s snugged up in his own little hole between the front door and the bar. It doesn’t get much cozier than that.

Grendel’s Den
89 Winthrop Street
Cambridge, MA 02138