Restaurant Review: UpStairs on the Square in Cambridge

A unified kitchen is turning out food that's better than ever.

The Monday Club BarThe Monday Club Bar, on the first floor of the restaurant, has a whimsical ambiance. (Photos by Ekaterina Smirnova)

Everybody has a list of go-to restaurants for important occasions: a big date, dinner with the boss, a catch-up with an old friend. UpStairs on the Square has been the spot for all those things since it opened 30 years ago (last November marked the 10th anniversary in its current location). Located smack in the middle of Harvard Square and full of tweedy Harvard types (during one recent dinner there, Bill Weld was two tables away), it’s the closest thing we have to a private dining club.

Despite its flamboyant décor—from the pale-pink-and-gold “Soirée Dining Room” to the fuchsia private dining room to the purple-and-green, Alice in Wonderland–like “Monday Club Bar”—UpStairs on the Square has remained a destination for business-people and wide-eyed college students alike.

Full disclosure: I serve on the board of Community Servings with Mary Catherine Deibel, who co-owns the restaurant with Deborah Hughes, and I got married there in 2004. So I may be biased when I give my unqualified recommendation of UpStairs as the place to celebrate a festive occasion, but I’ve always had qualified feelings about the food—which has never been the primary draw.

The restaurant has recently made strides to rectify this. Last year, Monday Club Bar chef Susan Regis took over the more-upscale Soirée Dining Room as well. After four recent dinners to test this unified effort, I found the execution to be uneven. But I also found dishes I liked better than any I could remember eating in the past.