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restaurant review: b.good, eat less

Healthy Fast Food in Harvard Square

By Rosa Cao
STAFF WRITER

b.good

24 Dunster Street (off Mass Ave. in Harvard Square, across from Herrell’s Ice Cream)

Cambridge

Phone: (617) 354-6500

www.bgood.com

Open every day 11 a.m. — 11 p.m.

Think of b.good as a stripped-down version of McDonald’s, but healthier, and priced more like abp (au bon pain). The space is bright and airy, with colorful amateur art on the walls and energetic music that’s not too loud for conversation. Despite a somewhat obnoxious advertising campaign preceding the opening of its new location in Harvard Square last month, b.good provides a reasonably charming eating experience.

While you pay a premium for the Harvard Square location as well as the slightly higher quality ingredients (nine bucks for a combo including burger, soft drink and a side), you do get pretty much what you pay for: basic American food in an arguably healthier incarnation. Nutritional information is posted right on the menu, and all of the burgers/sandwiches are available on whole wheat.

Our burgers were a little underdone (there was quite a bit of pink inside my signature “b.good burger,” and my friend’s turkey burger was downright chilly in the center), but they were surprisingly tender for lean meat that hadn’t been deep-fried. The turkey was also unexpectedly flavorful.

The salads tasted … healthy. (They probably were really healthy). The croutons were hard, chewy, and pretty tasteless, another casualty of the aversion to frying. Spinach is available, in addition to several varieties of lettuce, and a fat-free dressing sour enough to be umpleasantly aggressive.

The heavily advertised “real fries” were okay but did not really live up to their billing as fries, although the potatoes were real enough. They tasted like dry baked potato packed inside crunchy (but not the least bit greasy) strips, which is perhaps not surprising for something with only 120 calories. Of course, we might have fallen victim to a particularly overcooked batch. And they do grow on you, sort of like Baked Lay’s — by the end, even our most finicky eater had declared them “okay.”

Stir-fried crunchy vegetables (broccoli, carrots, and peppers), on the other hand, were great: fresh tasting, flavored with a touch of soy sauce and garlic, and a lot more healthy than potatoes in any form.

The milkshakes are made with skim milk and frozen yogurt, while fruit shakes are more like smoothies. The chocolate shake had a nice thick texture, although it was a little artificial tasting — certainly no worse than the corresponding McDonald’s shake, though significantly less sugary. Mango looked promising, but we didn’t get to try it on this trip. They also offer free refills on a variety of soft drinks, including orange Fanta and Barq’s root beer.

Almost all menu items contain less than 500 calories; this might be a good thing if you’re watching your diet, but we, at least, were left hungry. Fortunately, there’s a nice (but alas, also overpriced) bubble tea place around the corner on JFK Street, offering miniature pork and leek dumplings along with Asian drinks in hot and cold varieties.

Back at b.good, the service was efficient, friendly, and helpful — so while this joint may not be worth its own trip across town in the winter, it’s not a bad stop for a snack if you’re already in the neighborhood, especially for those trying to keep it healthy after Thanksgiving.