Central Square Eatery Is Nothing Special

Tavern in the Square

730 Massachusetts Avenue

Cambridge, Mass.

(617) 868-8800

After seeing Tavern in the Square in Central Square (on Massachusetts Ave. just past Prospect St.) multiple times over the course of the summer, I was finally able to visit the restaurant a few weeks ago.

What initially drew me to the eatery was the outdoor seating, which is enclosed by small fencing so a patron would not feel as though he were in the middle of the sidewalk. Ironically, though, during my visit to the restaurant, it was a bit too hot to eat outside. My group ended up choosing the air conditioned interior seating, which afforded us a view of the sidewalk.

The restaurant had a modern and sophisticated feel, with rich woods and clean lines. Unfortunately, the food did not match the level of the décor.

The menu of Tavern in the Square is best described as American. There are a wide variety of options, including appetizers, pizzas, salads, sandwiches, and full-sized entrees. Meals are moderately priced, with most lunch options around $10. For appetizers, the chicken fingers ($6.99, lunch price) are listed as either available plain with a honey mustard dipping sauce or buffalo-style with blue cheese dressing. They can also be ordered with a side barbecue sauce, which we did.

The plain-style chicken was crispy with a thin crust that did not suffer from the common problem of excessive grease. But while the white meat of the chicken was tender, it was a little dry. The barbecue sauce added some flavor and moisture, and I liked the thick and sweet flavor of the brown concoction; however, it obviously wasn’t home-made. Maybe I’m just spoiled, but I think restaurants should have their own barbecue sauces.

For entrees, we tried the pistachio encrusted tuna salad ($11.99) and the arugula and goat cheese pizza ($9.99). The tuna salad consisted of greens, cucumbers, wasabi peas, and crispy wontons tossed in a light lemon vinaigrette topped with medium-rare tuna slices. The entire dish is wrapped in zucchini strips which made for a pleasing presentation. The tuna was fresh and well prepared, and the warm fish pieces provided a nice contrast to the cool vegetables. The salad was certainly the best dish of the day (though I would have liked some of the dressing — or plain lemon juice — drizzled on the fish to accentuate the flavors).

The arugula and goat cheese pizza was a white pizza (i.e. without red sauce) with goat and mozzarella cheeses, leeks, arugula, and topped with a balsamic vinegar reduction. The balsamic reduction was a satisfying mix of tang and sweetness, and it acted as a sauce for the otherwise sauce-less pizza. In addition, the balsamic reduction provided some necessary moisture for the somewhat dry crust. Luckily, the crust was not very thick so its dryness did not completely ruin the dish.

Overall, the portions at Tavern in the Square are all large. And the food is, well, OK; it wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t noteworthy. Sure, the outdoor seating option is nice, but Central Square is not exactly the most picturesque area. If you want a place where everyone can find something, the restaurant’s extensive menu will do the trick. Otherwise, I would recommend trying a more diverse option in Central Square, Harvard Square, or Boston.