Harvard Square’s new Beat Hotel marches to its own, offbeat drum

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Credit: Derek Kouyoumjian

Considering its pedigree, it’s not a huge surprise that the just-opened Beat Hotel in Harvard Square is a sensory overload of high-concept eating, drinking and entertainment. Like its South End predecessor, the Beehive, the space here (in the old Tannery shoe store location) is a stunning sight to behold.

Here it melds eras — the slinky, smoky decadence of jazzy, Parisian bohemia with ’60s-era hippie allure. The marriage of cultures can feel jarring – the decor is a bit like what might happen if Urban Outfitters designed a restaurant, my friend commented. While the aesthetic clashing kind of dampened my excitement, there’s no question that it’s a unique space.

Fluorescent peace symbols hover over the bar and billowy, tie-dyed curtains bracket the stage in the back (there will be live music here every night), while slinky chandeliers sprout from the ceiling like flowing dresses. It’s a lot to take in — and not just because the space itself is so large. Two long bars stretch back into the subterranean space, with multi-layered sections for dining. Even this place’s bathrooms feel like art project portals into another dimension.

This is all well and good, but a restaurant can’t live on (questionable) charm alone. Luckily, though Beat Hotel has literally only been open a few days, it seems likely that their food and drink will at least meet, if not exceed, the quality standard set by The Beehive.

The spirit, beer and wine selection is impressive right off the bat. Most notable are the 24 wines on tap, with most of the bottles leaning toward the very high end. This ensures that no bottle will go bad, we’re told, but also makes sampling from multiple varietals and various sizes (2.5, 5 or 12 ounces) easier. Food seems designed for mixing and matching as well; proteins are presented with four different options for side dishes that you can design yourself. No more existential crises over substitutions!

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As for cocktails, they’re of the craft-populist mold. Granny Takes a Trip is a decent Manhattan, made with Old Overholt rye, Bittermens Amere Nouvelle bitters and Vya sweet vermouth.

On the more eclectic side, the Rum Cha Yen takes Thai tea-infused rum, tea liqueur, condensed milk syrup, Bittermens Burlesque bitters and soda for a cream soda cocktail that’s sweet and aromatic in both appearance and taste.

Some interesting fruit ingredients show up as well, as in the Soursop Fresca, made with Bluecoat gin, soursop nectar, agave, lime and soda. It’s not a flavor profile that’s normally within my personal taste wheelhouse, but the tropical musk mixed with the bright botanicals of the gin proved exceptionally refreshing.

Elsewhere on the menu, out-of-fashion cocktails are cheekily highlighted, like the Harvey Wallbanger, Rusty Nail and the Stinger. At the moment things seem a bit over-priced, but that’s likely to correct itself within time. If you’re a fan of The Beehive, or, like me, just excited for a new place, off the beaten path, in Harvard Square — it’s definitely worth a visit.


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