There is something about going down stairs into a joint, off the street level, that makes you feel like you are walking into a private event. Beat Hotel in historic Harvard Square is just that, an event.
One would have never guessed that there was a shoe store there before. Reminiscent of a French speakeasy or bistro, the sounds, colors and smells embrace you the minute walk in the door. It reminded me a bit of the place Owen Wilson’s character frequented in Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris. The setting is almost carnival-like with a constant buzz of movement and activity. There are colorful murals, candles, chandeliers and sculptures everywhere. For solo diners, this is the perfect “people watching” locale. This bohemian feel is sure to make any visitor feel at home. On any given night the performance stage, wish is positioned unobtrusively at the back of the restaurant, allows for diners to get up close and personal with the music, or to choose a table that allows for more manageable background music. An esteemed line-up of jazz, blues and world music fill the Beat’s calendar.
Beat Hotel, similar to it’s sister location, The Beehive in the South End, has an extensive and eclectic menu both with their food and festive libations. “Our regularly changing menu of American and international-inspired dishes will please carnivores and vegetarians alike!” Dishes like Grilled Octopus and Baby Artichokes and Tandoori Spiced Halibut looked fantastic as they were placed further down the cooperatively shared table. A more traditional Rib Eye that flashed past me garnered my immediate attention. One of my fellow diners thoroughly enjoyed one of the Beat’s “Earth Bowls” which was loaded with fresh vegetables, shrimp, grain pilaf and pumpkin tahini sauce.
I went there for a personal favorite, the French Onion Soup. Enhanced with short rib, it was presented in a traditional terrine. My pavlovian juices were in gear as as soon as I saw the bowl approaching. Overflowing with Swiss cheese when it arrived I was sure to follow the cardinal rule with French Onion Soup: wait a minute before indulging, as the layer of goodness on top can mask the steaming (sometimes tongue burning) flavors that lay beneath. What I did discover was that the temperature and flavor were perfect, marrying the smoky and earthy flavors. The bowl captured the ultimate taste of both sweet and savory. The cheese was nicely broiled and the rich broth was full of caramelized onions and delicate bits of short rib. A filling dish, this soup could be paired nicely with their Little Gem Wedge Salad. Beat Hotel will most likely have a gluten free soup option on the menu also, like the current Green Lentil and Spinach Soup.
Do yourself a favor and get in on this event.