So a science writer walks into a bar. He’s by himself.
Actually, that’s not a joke, that was just my Monday night.
The bar is called Miracle of Science, close to the MIT campus in Cambridge. I’ve been drawn in by the bar’s most prominent feature: its enormous menu, in the form of a periodic table. It’s hand-drawn on a chalkboard covering an entire wall. In the top corner of the table, where hydrogen would be, sits the most fundamental element of a bar menu, Hb for hamburger, below it Cb for cheeseburger, Vb for, well, you get the idea. Yes, just like the periodic table, the menu is grouped into columns and color-codedd based on the item’s properties. Br for brownie, not bromine.
Miracle of Science opened in 1991; the menu was designed by a bartender in 2002, who’s long since moved on. His initials RR are still visible in the corner.
The Ronie Burger is the best thing on the menu, according to a bartender and the guy sitting next to me at the bar. “It comes with pepperjack cheese and jalapeños actually stuffed inside the patty,” he tells me. It lives up to expectations, spicy enough to make me break out sweating. The skillet home fries and salsa that come with it are a nice touch.
Two years after the menu went up, Popular Science named it one of the “top nerd bars” in the nation. Back then, PopSci said the tables were “surrounded by microscopes and other lab paraphernalia.” But today, the decor is modern, minimalist and trendy. Game 5 of the World Series is on TV, but it’s on mute. The ESPN logo is burned into the corner of the screen. A 90s mix is playing. It’s a young techy professional crowd drawn from nearby tech firms—girls with big hipster glasses, guys huddled over laptops and their drinks.
Despite the name, there’s not much more of a science theme. But if you want real science with your drinks, you can go next door to Middlesex Lounge, run by the same owners. Middlesex actually hosts nerdy events, including Boston’s monthly Nerd Nite and science cafes hosted by WGBH’s long running science program Nova. Together, these two bars form a decent scientific core in the Central Square scene.
Matthew Curtis and Chris Lutes, the co-owners, also own Audubon Circle, Cambridge 1, and Tory Row, all similarly decorated trendy pubs. But they’re not too interested in advertising, says a bartender who declines to tell me his name and pleads with me: “Keep it unofficial, ok?”