Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Café Pamplona: Slice of Spain in Harvard Square

You may miss it completely if you’re not looking for it -except in the summer because bright yellow umbrellas and café tables line the sidewalk. Café Pamplona, located on Bow Street, just off of Mass. Ave., brings a mini-slice of Spain right to Harvard Square.

Located in the basement level of an old red house, this historic café continues to be a spot for students, professionals and visitors to gather for a leisurely European-style lunch or evening espresso. Café Pamplona has been a meeting place in Harvard Square for about 50 years. Josefina Yanguas, the founder of the café, who passed away in 2007 at 90, would be happy to know that her legacy still continues.

Helzo “Junior” Leite, of Recife, Brazil has been working at the café for two years. He says regular customers fondly remember Yanguas and share stories about her when they come for the café’s signature beverage: café Pamplona –and a bowl of red gazpacho.

“They will tell stories about her sweeping outside in the morning, or setting up the espresso makers,” Leite said. “We have many regulars who have been coming here for decades.”

The café is a cozy and leisurely place to enjoy time reading a book, chatting with friends over coffee, or to satisfy hunger with a media noche sandwich and flan.

But, if you come to do work, make sure your laptop is fully charged. While the café offers free Wi-Fi, there are no power outlets to be found along the creamy yellow walls.

Avier Valensuela, 24, enjoys coming to the café for the black bean soup. Originally from Nicaragua, the Northeastern University student finds comfort in the soup.

“It is made very similarly to what we cook at home so,” he said. “It is best with the sour cream.”

The prices and portions are reasonable. $3.95 will buy a large bowl of gazpacho; $5.75 an toasted guava-cheese sandwich on a large baguette; $6.95 a tortilla española.

If you can’t make it to the Running of Bulls festival in Pamplona next week (July 5-14), you can still stop by this Harvard Sq. spot for some authentic coffee and a bite to eat.

Café Pamplona: 12 Bow Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 617-492-0352.

Pamplona 101:

Pamplona is the capital of the Navarra province in the Basque region of northern Spain. You might think you’ve never heard of it, but if you’ve ever heard of the famous “Running of the Bulls” (San Fermín Corrida de Toros) festival or have read Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises – you’ve heard of Pamplona.

Picturesque and historical, Pamplona is a well-preserved area that is known not only for the Running of the Bulls festivities (July 6-14) , but also for its rich architectural and cultural heritage that dates back to the Visigoths and Moors. (Now I’m sounding like a nerd. Did I mention in my first blog that I was a Spanish major? As I am writing this blog, I am imagining myself listening to Dr. Luis Jimenez lecture about Spanish art and architecture in a course I took circa 2002.)

Back to Pamplona. By far one of Pamplona’s greatest attributes –other than Plaza del Castillo – is its gastronomical culture. The entire region of Navarra has an exceptional cuisine which is said to be an intimate blend of Basque, French and Mediterranean cultures. The foods also have influence from the coast as well as the mountain region. Popular dishes include meat dishes like goat and lamb as well as fish and game. The list goes on and on. For more information about the delicious food of Pamplona, click here!

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