Michael Scelfo’s Longfellow Bar Opens This Weekend

Here's a first look at the menu of the chef's not-so-typical drunk munchies.

Snacks at Longfellow Bar

Snacks at Longfellow Bar. / Photo by Toan Trinh for “Small Bite: Raising the Bar

Michael Scelfo is back for another round at the neighborhood bar. The Best of Boston chef, who started his local career cranking out bar food in Downtown Crossing, is about to open his third Harvard Square restaurant, called Longfellow Bar. Located above Scelfo’s flagship Alden & Harlow, Longfellow is a casual, two-floor hangout equipped with a small seasonal roof deck (!). It boasts yet another noteworthy cocktail program from the restaurateur, and a finger food-focused menu that’s “a love letter to bar food we all know and love,” Scelfo says, “with our own personal spin on it.”

Chicken wings are there (hickory-smoked, with dill-pickled celery); Caesar salad plays a role (with dried anchovy and garlic breadcrumb); and pigs-in-a-blanket get upgraded with Italian cotechino sausage and black truffle. Scelfo even has waffle fries on the Longfellow Bar menu—albeit scratch-made with Sparrow Arc Farm potatoes, and loaded with garlic scape salsa verde and espellette aioli. Most items are meant to be noshed on sans silverware, including entrée-sized options like a redux of Alden’s iconic burger, and a new house burger topped with fermented peppers, grilled onions, and pickled Tillamook cheddar. Check out the opening menu below.

“We want people to get in there, getting messy, passing, sharing, dipping, and ripping. It’s meant to be relaxing and a good time,” Scelfo says.

It’s relaxing, in a way, for the chef, too. When Scelfo first moved to Boston in 2001, he was a cook at drinks-driven places like the downtown nightspot Goodlife, North Street Grille, and Temple Bar. “But I was getting just enough opportunity to do the kind of scratch cooking I love to do, in those confines of that type of food and type of menu,” he says. Who can forget the initial frenzy Scelfo created with his “secret burger” back when he was executive chef of the Grafton Group’s Russell House Tavern?

“Those days I was working for other people who had their own terms. I had to respect that, but find creative ways to satisfy myself,” Scelfo says. “Now that I’m in the ownership, it’s fun to steer it all.”

Dan Pontius, a day-one bartender at Alden & Harlow, is leading the high-level cocktail program at Longfellow. Like the shelves at Alden & Harlow and Scelfo’s seafood spot, Waypoint, the backbar at Longfellow is stocked with infusions, vinegars, syrups, and bitters, made in-house with hyper-seasonal vegetables and other interesting ingredients. “We don’t try to go over the top, but hopefully we’ll surprise people,” Scelfo says. The cocktail “track list” is bolstered with bartenders’-whim selections, “session” drinks (low-proof), and mocktails, plus wines by the glass and bottle, and a small but strong selection of packaged beers.

What shouldn’t surprise people? The welcoming hospitality at Longfellow, cultivated by director of operations (and Alden fixture) Jen Fields.

The new bar takes the place of an iconic home-away-from-home in Harvard Square, Café Algiers. “I have such a fondness for the building and the space itself, so I really wanted to highlight the original details,” Scelfo says. To do that, the design team exposed original brick walls tapped with square-head nails; and opened up the bi-level’s spot’s first-floor ceiling. It offers a bit of airy grandeur, and lets ground-floor guests peek at the white marble bar, brass fixtures, and vaulted ceiling upstairs. The second-floor bar offers access to a small roof deck, equipped with an outdoor drink rail, that should be a perfect spot for sipping during warmer months.

Opening his new, laid-back Longfellow feels like a full-circle moment for this chef.

“It’s fun to revisit bar food that I lamented back in the day, being more comfortable in my own skin now,” Scelfo says. “Now I can do bar food with whimsy and fun and nostalgia as well. It’s reaffirming to be able to go back and do that on my own terms.”

Longfellow Bar officially opens Saturday, Jan. 19. To start, it opens daily at 4 p.m., with the full menu available until last call. Weekday lunch begins Wednesday, Feb. 6, at 11:30 a.m., with burgers and the rest of the full menu, plus specials including an Italian sandwich with with mortadella, fennel salami, fontina, basil leaves, and pickled pepper relish. Extended weekend hours will launch in the coming weeks.

40 Brattle St. #3 (above Alden & Harlow), Harvard Square, Cambridge, 617-864-0001, longfellowharvard.com.

Longfellow Bar's Italian sandwich

Longfellow Bar’s lunch menu-exclusive Italian sandwich. / Photo by Michael Scelfo