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RESTAURANT REVIEW

Airhead Bread

Hi-Rise Bread Co.

By Allison Lewis
ASSOCIATE ARTS EDITOR

Hi-Rise Bread Co.

56 Brattle St, Cambridge

617-492-3003

208 Concord Ave., Cambridge

617-876-8766

Mon-Sat 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Hi-Rise Bread Company in Harvard Square is a fun little lunch stop. It’s quite popular on Saturday at 1 p.m., so if you’re looking for a quiet space, this isn’t it. Still, the atmosphere is very chill -- picture a few tables and chairs in a quaint area outside, and lots of people just enjoying the weather and the food. For me (and for most people, I think), an $8 sandwich had better be worth it. Mine, the #12 -- a classic grilled cheese on fat toasted bread with tomato, made the grade. I wouldn’t pay $8 for it every day (to be honest, it’s more than I can eat, and, as my friend described it, very rich), but it was the right choice on this particular sunny Saturday.

By the time I got there, I was annoyingly hungry (I had walked all the way from MIT -- we passed Bartley’s on the way there and I almost caved in). We barely found Hi-Rise hidden beside the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. They’re renovating the upstairs, so Hi-Rise is currently no more than a hole-in-the wall -- not even large enough to keep the ordering line from spilling outside. It’s barely big enough to order and then quickly jump out of the way before the person in line behind you knocks you over. Yes, it can be intimidating, but today, I wasn’t easily intimidated. I ordered like a pro: “Can I have the number 12 and a chocolate chunk cookie? And do you have diet coke?”

“Ummm, we only have root beer and ginger ale.”

“I’ll have a lemonade.” I still don’t know why I ordered this. I don’t like lemonade, actually, but I took the risk for lemonade-lovers around the world. The stuff at Hi-Rise is good, but it makes my stomach hurt.

I paid the airhead at the cash register. He was very sweet, actually. When I asked for a receipt, he wrote it by hand on a slip of paper (he wrote “receit” on the bottom in blue sharpie, just in case I forgot).

“We’ll bring your food outside. What’s your name?”

“Betty,” I said.

My friend and I made a run for the only empty table outside. Unfortunately, an old man cut us off and (very greedily) grabbed it first. Not to worry. A nice young couple came to the rescue. They scooted over and offered us half their table. (And their leftover napkins. These two were genuinely nice -- something quite rare. Perhaps it’s the food? I wondered.)

“Betty! Betty! ... Betty!”

My friend tapped me. “What ... Oh! That’s me!”

The guy handed me the food and laughed out loud.

Some things I learned from this experience: One: I should use my real name from now on. Two: An $8 sandwich, no matter how good, is very big.

As I struggled to finish my sandwich (lots and lots of messy cheese), I melted into the Hi-Rise scene (the crowd humming, intelligent conversation, wax paper, and woven plastic baskets) and I didn’t say a word to my friend, until, “How is your food?”

“It’s good. Very good. Very rich.”

“What the hell is it?”

“Basically a dressed-up breakfast sandwich. Lots of egg. Lots of bread.”

The #27, “James Phones In,” egg, bacon, lettuce, and mayo on whole wheat bread, is not my kind of thing, but for all you breakfast sandwich junkies, Hi-Rise has a good one. (Actually, their breakfast in general is supposed to be great. The beautiful breads, muffins, and pastries behind the counter looked well worth waking up for.)

I had to try a $3 Chocolate chunk cookie for dessert (I’m a chocolate lover, but even if you’ve just got a craving, this cookie’s your fix). I ate the whole thing -- quite a feat, because just like the sandwich, this cookie’s mammoth. Is there even cookie between all the chocolate? Had I stuck my hands in a puddle of mud somewhere? (I still have chocolate under my nails.)

But for the people who don’t like their treats obnoxiously sweet (boo on you), I also tried the blackberry-flavored Italian soda. It has a kick and a subtle festive flavor.

My overall verdict? Yummy. Hi-Rise Bread Company is cute and pleasant with good, pricey sandwiches, and a friendly, spaced-out staff. At the very least, they know good bread.