56 JFK Street
May 26, 2005
The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain. The rain in New England stays with us like an uninvited guest. (Ben Franklin once said that “After three days, men grow weary of a wench, a guest, and rainy weather,” but I won’t go there!). Needing comfort food after a week of gunmetal skies and incessant rain, The Adventurer drove over to Cambridge for a noontime repast that would take his mind off a weather forecast of several more days of precipitation. I found respite in the tiny Iruna Restaurant, a few steps down a short alley at 56 JFK Street just outside Harvard Square.
This place is irresistibly retro, with creaky, straight-backed wooden chairs, dark stained wooden floors, and glass-topped tables for two or four. The décor consists of two or three hanging plants, a couple of posters and the wooden wainscoting that’s probably been there since the eatery opened forty years ago. The two dining rooms are small, with tables at close quarters. Since I was dining solo, I eavesdropped on several conversations, deducing that the clientele this day hailed from academia - a collection of students and their parents, and professors telling war stories. (Note: this would not be a good spot for a tryst.)
The special of the day was breaded veal topped with a dollop of butter infused with lemon, garlic, and parsley. It was served with white rice and accompanied by either white bean soup or gazpacho, and a garden salad. The veal arrived in short order, pan-fried with a crusty bread crumb coating, savory but a bit too chewy. The piping hot soup contained a good handful of whole white beans and was served up in a tomato base. Small morsels of ham gave it a smoky taste, altogether restorative on such a dreary day. The rice had a slightly buttery taste and the salad, dressed with oil, vinegar and a hint of something nutty that I couldn’t identify (should I admit that?) was the most tender iceberg lettuce salad I’ve had in years.
The lunch menu offers Tortillas, Bocadillos (sandwiches), Ensaladas (salads), Hot and Cold Tapas, Postres (pastries, as if you couldn’t tell that one), and Bebidas (beverages, including white and red Sangria).
The spare furnishings of the Iruna Restaurant might not remind one of the Costa del Sol but the food will. And the prices are enough to make a diner shout “Olé!” My dinner came to $7.49 including tax.
Now, assuming you’ll forgive me for citing bawdy Ben, I hereby invite you to call me up if you’d like to join me for a Spanish lunch anytime soon.