The Harvard Square section of Cambridge has quite a number of restaurants in its relatively compact area, with all kinds of ethnic foods available and definitely some pretty fancy places here and there. But there are also plenty of spots for cheap eats, including a few that, while known to Harvard students and locals, aren't all that well-known to others. One such eatery is a burger place in the heart of Brattle Square (it was formerly located in The Garage on nearby Mt. Auburn Street) called Flat Patties, which has indeed earned high praise from restaurant critics but certainly doesn't get the same press as, say, Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage, another Harvard Square burger spot that has gotten national recognition. But Flat Patties is a place to consider if you're a burger lover, and is often mentioned in the same breath as Mr. Bartley's and other top Boston-area burger places.
The Brattle Street location of Flat Patties is more spacious and a bit more comfortable than its old spot in The Garage, which was rather no-frills and sparse. The main area consists of both counter and table seating along the front windows looking out at the street, while the ordering area takes up most of the rest of the space. A narrow staircase to the right leads to a small alcove-like area up above that has a handful of tables, while on warm days, a few more tables can be found outside. The interior of Flat Patties has a slight industrial feel to it, with brick walls, a soaring ceiling with bright lights built in, and an uncarpeted floor that keeps the noise level a bit on the high side, though it does seem a little quieter than the original location.
The freshly ground burgers at Flat Patties are quite thin and cooked on a griddle, which makes them very juicy and greasy (and their high fat content plays a big part in the greasiness). The single burger has lots of flavor, but it is the double burger that steals the show here, as the extra juices involved make it taste quite a bit better than the single, but be forewarned--make sure you have a huge stack of napkins handy, and don't expect the buttered bun to keep everything together, as it tends to fall apart due to all the juices. A few specialty burgers are also offered, including a mouthwatering Santa Fe Burger with just enough heat to keep things interesting without overwhelming the burger. Flat Patties has more than just burgers, by the way--the pulled pork sandwich is out of this world, with the tangy cole slaw and sweet-tasting barbecue sauce mixing perfectly with the high-quality pork, while the all-beef hot dogs are meaty and juicy. The roast beef sandwich is also decent at Flat Patties, though perhaps not up to the caliber of some of the outstanding roast beef joints north of Boston. And the handcut fries are marvelous here, with just the right amount of seasonings, while the chili cheese fries, though quite messy, are out of this world, with rich chili and golden cheese mixed into a huge batch of their wonderful fries. For those with a sweet tooth, milkshakes are available here, as is frozen custard. Prices at Flat Patties aren't quite as cheap as the national burger chains, but are still quite reasonable.
It is nearly impossible to come up with the one best burger in the Boston area, as there are so many different types out there. The flame-grilled meatball-sized burgers at O'Sullivan's in Somerville, for instance, are completely different from the thinner burgers off the griddle at Mr. Bartley's, which in turn are quite a bit different from the ultra-thin, greasy burgers at Flat Patties. But in this writer's opinion, it wouldn't seem out of the realm of possibility to pick Flat Patties over either of these places (or most other burger spots around Boston, for that matter), mainly because their burgers have so much flavor to them for such thin burgers. If you are a burger lover and haven't been to Flat Patties, it's probably worth the trip to this cheap eats joint in the middle of Harvard Square to give them a try.
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