The Boston Phoenix
February 11 - 18, 1999

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Leo's Place

A real Square meal

On the Cheap by Arto Payaslian

It's a Tuesday and you're at work, sitting in front of your computer trying to look busy. All of a sudden, you think steak and cheese -- you decide to eat lunch at Leo's Place, in Harvard Square, and all is right with the world.

The narrow but comfy diner at 35 JFK Street has existed in some form for more than 25 years, and is as much a part of Square culture as the Hong Kong, the ART, or the Brattle. Leo's has even enjoyed a little fame bubble recently: after Ben Affleck named the cheeseburgers here his favorite, Channel 4 News showed up to film a segment.

But Leo's isn't just about cheeseburgers. Everything is homemade: chicken-noodle soup ($1.90 for a cup), shrimp stir-fry ($6.45), lasagna ($5.50), rice pudding ($1.25). "We grew up with a lot of folks around here," says chef Richie Bezjian, who is co-owner with his brother, Raffi. "I reached a point where I realized I could create dishes other than a basic cheeseburger plate." Richie now serves his own recipes, like butternut-squash soup, spicy stir-fry, and all kinds of omelets.

"There you go," Richie says as he drops your steak-and-cheese plate in front of you. The steak is choice fresh beef: not frozen, not fatty, not gray. You start with the salad to get the vegetables out of the way. As you finish your meal and think about leaving, Raffi makes a fresh pot of coffee and puts on a funk CD. So you'll be a little late getting back to work. You were just pretending to be busy anyway.

Leo's Place, located at 35 JFK Street, in Cambridge, is open weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and on weekends from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call (617) 354-9192.

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