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French Quarter could open in the space currently occupied by Salvatore’s

A New Orleans-inspired restaurant and bar may be opening in Boston’s Theater District in the space currently occupied by Salvatore’s (545 Washington St.). Salvatore’s is petitioning the city to transfer its liquor license to the team behind Downtown Crossing restaurant Back Deck — the hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, July 17 — and the new Washington Street restaurant would be called French Quarter.

Back Deck chef Paul Sussman confirmed the news with Eater, saying that if the plans are approved, the team would begin renovations sometime in September, with an opening timeline set for late fall.

The menu will skew more Creole than Cajun, Sussman said, and the bar will feature common New Orleans cocktails, such as a Sazerac, Ramos gin fizz, hurricane, and milk punch. There will also be several New Orleans beers available, as well as a limited wine list.

“We plan on recreating a French Quarter neighborhood watering hole,” Sussman told Eater. “We are trying to do pretty much traditional New Orleans — maybe updated a bit, but not chef-interpretations.”

A preliminary menu provided to Eater by Sussman includes dishes like fried okra, fried chicken livers, various crawfish preparations, fried catfish, gumbo with chicken, andouille, and shrimp, Creole sausage and shrimp jambalaya, and shrimp etouffee. Dessert options include bourbon pecan pie, bananas Foster, and bread pudding.

As for Salvatore’s, this will be the mini-chain’s second closure since original owner Sal Lupoli sold his five restaurants to four former managers in 2015. The Seaport location closed in April 2018.

When French Quarter opens, it’ll be part of a fairly small New Orleans-inspired food scene in Boston. While a number of local restaurants touch on Cajun cuisine — especially Cajun and Vietnamese-Cajun-style seafood boils — and Creole cuisine, few Boston-area spots explicitly describe themselves as New Orleans-inspired. Buttermilk & Bourbon in Back Bay and the Revelry food truck are a couple that do.

Stay tuned for updates on French Quarter’s potential late fall opening.

French Quarter May Be Opening in Salvatore’s Space in Downtown Boston [BRT]
Sal Lupoli Sells His Salvatore’s Restaurants to Several of His Top Managers [BG]
The Salvatore’s Location in the Seaport District Closed Last Week [EBOS]

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Levain Bakery’s chocolate chip walnut cookie and dark chocolate chocolate chip cookie

Gary Wong/Flickr (Creative Commons)

It will also consider expanding to Washington, D.C., and Chicago

An always-crowded New York City bakery known for its massive cookies could eventually expand nationally, and its founders are considering three possible cities, including Boston. Levain Bakery is best known in New York City for its hefty six-ounce cookies that are almost unreasonably thick, best eaten warm for prime melt-in-your-mouth consistency.

The bakery is a mainstay: It opened on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in 1996, and since then it has been a prime destination, with New Yorkers and tourists alike queuing up for the now-iconic cookie, among other pastries and baked goods.

There are currently five locations in New York, including one in Montauk, plus another forthcoming location in New York’s NoHo neighborhood, and the bakery’s founders recently announced that Levain may expand outside of New York around 2020, with Boston, D.C., and Chicago “under consideration.”

Levain recently received investment from a private-equity firm called Stripes Group, which has a history of backing other industry brands like Blue Apron and Grubhub.

If Levain does eventually make its way to Boston, it will contend with the likes of several popular bakeries and chains that already have a foothold here, including the ever-growing local Tatte Bakery & Cafe and Flour Bakery groups; college-town cookie chain Insomnia Cookies; two other NYC imports, Milk Bar and Magnolia Bakery; and plenty of other sweet spots.

Stay tuned for any updates on potential Levain expansion beyond New York City.

New York City’s Best Cookie Could Be Headed to a City Near You [E]
A Big Cookie Gets a Bigger Stage [GS]

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Black Lamb comes from the team behind Bar Mezzana, Shore Leave, and No Relation

A South End restaurant team continues to build its neighborhood empire this week: The crew behind Bar Mezzana (360 Harrison Ave., Boston) and Shore Leave/No Relation (both at 11 William E. Mullins Wy., Boston) unveils Black Lamb, an American brasserie and a “love letter to the South End.”

Black Lamb opens Tuesday, July 16, at 571 Tremont St. (previously the longtime Stephi’s on Tremont space), at 5 p.m. The restaurant serves a compact menu with a full raw bar and main courses that play off French brasserie-style methods for casual American tavern fare.

In addition to items like lamb tartare and corn bisque, Black Lamb is serving duck breast frites with orange bearnaise, roasted cauliflower with anchovy and grapefruit, and a cheeseburger with caramelized onion and fries, along with special entrees each day of the week (Tuesday, for example, is veal schnitzel day.)

The management team at Black Lamb consists of partners Colin Lynch, Heather Lynch, Jefferson Macklin, and Ben Kaplan. Executive chef Chris Drown, previously of O Ya and Hojoko, is leading daily operations at Black Lamb.

As at the team’s other restaurants, the drink menu for Black Lamb comes from beverage director Ryan Lotz and includes a selection of cocktails like a classic mojito, a gimlet with grapefruit and salted lime cordial, and a dirty martini. There are also four rotating draft lines and a wine list featuring small-scale producers.

Black Lamb’s pastry chef Christina Larson developed a dessert menu that runs the gamut from European treats to American diner pies, including key lime pie, 17-layer chocolate cake, corn madeleines, and lemon sorbet with frozen vodka.

Inside, Black Lamb features design work from Hacin + Associates, which also designed Shore Leave, and Cafco Construction built out the space. The restaurant seats 46, with a 14-seat bar and a five-seat raw bar. In August, Black Lamb will add a 28-seat patio.

The new restaurant marks quick expansion for the group — Bar Mezzana, which serves coastal Italian cuisine with a focus on crudo and pasta, opened just over three years ago and quickly became a gem in the neighborhood. Tiki bar Shore Leave followed in late 2018, and then sushi bar No Relation opened inside Shore Leave a few months later.

Black Lamb’s dinner service begins July 16, while lunch service launches July 17 and brunch begins July 28. Black Lamb will ultimately operate Monday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. with the bar closing at 12 a.m., Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. with the bar closing at 1 a.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. with the bar closing at 1 a.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. with the bar closing at 12 a.m.

For a look at the full opening menus for Black Lamb’s lunch and dinner service, see below.

Black Lamb [Official Site]
Bar Mezzana Team to Open Black Lamb Brasserie in the South End [EBOS]
Bar Mezzana Team to Grow South End Reach With Another Restaurant [EBOS]

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Kim’s Tofu is now open where Loui Loui once operated

A new Korean restaurant has joined the ranks of Allston’s food world — a scene that already includes quite a bit of good Korean food, especially fried chicken. Kim’s Tofu recently took over the space previously occupied by Cajun seafood restaurant Loui Loui at 160 Brighton Ave., Boston, where it focuses on tofu dishes.

Kim’s makes its tofu in-house, serving varieties of sundubu, or Korean tofu stew, made with beef, pork, and seafood. The menu also features seafood pancakes, spicy pork, and various sides and rice.

Early reviews praise the restaurant’s service and quality of food. Situated next door to Brighton Music Hall, Kim’s Tofu sits in a hotbed of Boston dining, with many popular restaurants like Habanero Mexican Grill and S & I Thai steps away.

Kim’s Tofu is open for lunch and dinner, from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., according to the restaurant’s Facebook page.

Kim’s Tofu [Facebook]
Kim’s Tofu [Instagram]

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The Porch has completed its relocation from Wakefield

A restaurant filled with Southern food, live music, and games debuts in Medford on Monday, July 15, completing its relocation — and massive expansion — from Wakefield. The Porch (tag line: Southern fare and juke joint), from chef and owner Jonathan Post, has completed its buildout of nearly 9,000 square feet of space at 175 Rivers Edge Dr., and it begins dinner service this week.

The restaurant, designed to seat 250 inside, has a substantial bar, a stage for live performances, and an outdoor patio with 50 additional seats. There’s also space for private events, as well as pool tables and other games.

Brian Samuels Ribs at the Porch

Much as it did in Wakefield, the Porch serves a lineup of food from the South, including smoked meats, soul food, and Cajun dishes. The menu includes items like barbecue pork, shrimp and grits, Nashville hot fried chicken, skillet cornbread, and a whole hog barbecue. Drinks at the Porch include craft beer, whiskey, and cocktails.

Post — who is originally from Nashville and spent time at Boston-area restaurants Blue Ginger, 80 Thoreau, and Moody’s Delicatessen before opening the first Porch in Wakefield — is working with partner Cenk Emre, executive chef Alex Horowitz, bar manager Oliver Castro-McClung, and assistant general manager Dacia Boston.

The Porch is starting out serving dinner from 5 to 11 p.m., and it will add lunch later this summer. A handful of musical acts are already booked to play at the restaurant, including the Minks on July 20 and Popa Chubby on August 9. Further details on musical acts will be available on the restaurant’s website.

The Porch is one of several new restaurants opening in Medford this year, and it’s accessible by a shuttle that runs from the Wellington MBTA station to the Rivers Edge development every 15 minutes.

“We want to be to Medford what we’ve always wanted to be to everyone: the metaphorical porch,” Post previously told Eater. “We want to be a gathering place for all people, where differences are set aside and people come together over great food and great music.”

Brian Samuels Inside the Porch

A Southern Food and Music Oasis Is On Its Way to Medford [EBOS]
The Porch Southern Fare and Juke Opens in July in Medford [BM]
The Porch Southern Fare and Juke [Official Site]

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The Eater Award-winning bar celebrates a year in business this month

Boston has a handful of small but mighty wine bars. Among them is Nathálie, a cozy spot in the Fenway neighborhood filled with natural wines and European-style bar snacks. Led by Haley Fortier — an alum of the Barbara Lynch empire and the owner of another wildly popular wine bar in downtown Boston, Haley Henry — Nathálie celebrates one year in business this month, marking 12 months of exceptional developments, including national accolades and local acclaim.

The winner of Eater Boston’s 2018 award for bar of the year, Nathálie built on the model of its big sister Haley Henry, but it’s far from a copy, according to Fortier.

“It’s a new space and new vibe,” she said. “I really didn’t want to just take Haley Henry and [copy it into a new spot] because I’m a very firm believer that those things never work,” she said. “The key to anything is patience. You have to be able to see the big picture and not just want instant gratification.”

Where Haley Henry locked into a focus on natural wines and tinned fish from the beginning, the food at Nathálie has evolved over time, and it continues to do so under the direction of executive chef Peter McKenzie, who joined the team at the end of 2018. The current menu features a few montaditos — “little bites of Spanish heaven,” per the menu — as well as wine-friendly dishes like squid ceviche in its own ink, pickled patatas bravas, fried Ipswich clams, and a cheese plate.

“I think our struggle in the beginning was really finding our identity there and then learning how to start over again,” Fortier said. “When you see your first business is really oiled, it’s running, it’s hard to be like, why isn’t [the second business] going fast enough? But if I look at the trajectory of everything, it’s exactly the same pace that it was for Haley Henry.”

Nathálie Wine Bar/Official Site

Fortier, along with managing partner Kristie Weiss and the bar’s staff, manages Nathálie’s constantly rotating natural wine selection, which features mostly small production wines from women-owned operations. Natural wines are a fairly buzzy topic right now, and Fortier’s two bars are fully dedicated to the cause. (A few other local venues — including Rebel Rebel in Somerville, Tasting Counter in Somerville, and Curio Wine in Cambridge — are similarly enthusiastic about natural wines.)

“When you talk about natural wine, you’re talking about wine that is not harassed by people,” Fortier said. “It really is just what it is — minimal intervention. There’s not really a definitive answer on ‘natural’ because there are no rules around natural wine.”

There’s a reason certain bottles of wine taste the same every time, and why natural wines break that form, according to Fortier: “It’s just about not putting shit in your wine,” she said. “I think people are paying attention more now because natural wine is really a wonder. You can have a bottle that we bought six months ago that sat on the shelf for six months and it doesn’t taste anything like when we first bought it. Why? Because there are so many particles in the bottle still, it’s still kind of growing. And that’s why there are no rules around natural wine because you really don’t know what to expect.”

Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater Orange wine at Nathálie

For Fortier, who said that her personality defaults to patience and balance, it’s the perfect fit for her two businesses — with natural wine, you have to be open to different tastes and evolution. Some of the best options for exploring come from within the country, according to Fortier.

“I’m actually really excited about some producers in the USA, because the United States for the longest time had this really bad reputation as just being California cabs,” she said. “There are some really great producers doing some really amazing things.”

Customers will find such wines rotating through the wine list at Nathálie, including selections from Brianne Day and Patricia Green Cellars in Oregon, Martha Stoumen and Onward Farmstrong out of California, and Krista Scruggs of ZAFA Wines from Vermont, to name a few. All single glass pours at Nathálie are made by female winemakers, and Fortier estimates that 70 to 75 percent of the bottles on the bottle list are as well.

The wine list at Haley Henry is quite different, and it’s the distinction between her two businesses that Fortier values.

“We might have some crossover on producers, because there’s a lot of great things, but my entire staff at Haley Henry goes to Nathálie to drink, and my entire staff at Nathálie goes to Haley Henry. Why? Because they have completely different wines, which is amazing. When you own restaurants, it’s a lot easier and cheaper to be able to buy in bulk and then distribute it,” she said. “But for me it’s really more about the intimacy of the place and really trying to curate something that is noticeable and not just for my own staff — because they’re hungry and striving for more and more and more — but for the people that we’re serving. It’s incredible to have people walk into the bar constantly and not even look at the menu and just be like, ‘Just pour me something amazing.’ That feels really good. It’s important to be able to set yourself apart from every other place that’s opening and really curate the list and the vibe that you want.”

This story is part of a series of features highlighting the 2018 Eater Awards winners. Stay tuned for the next installment, and look back at a feature on 2017’s taproom of the year, Lamplighter, here.

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Union Comedy will get you drunk and make you laugh

Somerville is getting an improv comedy theater that will serve alcohol and various snacks. The folks behind the Union Improv Festival and the Kerfuffle event series plan to open Union Comedy, a 72-seat theater and improv school located at 434 McGrath Highway, up in the Prospect Hill section of Somerville’s Union Square area.

Union Comedy will offer original long-form improv comedy programming, as well as an improv comedy school. Theatergoers won’t go hungry or thirsty: There will be a bar which will serve beer (Red Stripe, Anchor Steam, and Somerville’s own Aeronaut all feature on the opening night menu), cider, wine, liquor, and soft drinks. Attendees will also be able to indulge in various snacks, such as personal pizzas, burritos, cheese and chicken taquitos, and chips.

“The bar program at Union Comedy Theatre is all about affordability and choice for our customers,” co-founder Ben Scurria told Eater via email. “With most of our shows being $10 or less, we wanted a bar that reflected that approachable attitude too. We’re going to have six tap lines. Four of those will offer a rotating selection of beers and ciders, with at least one local beer always on tap. The other two lines will be reserved for a white wine and a sangria. We will also be offering a selection of canned mixed drinks at opening, with an eye towards expanding the bar program as we grow.”

Scurria is joined in the endeavor by partners Andrew Barlow, Ben Gibb, Pat Kearnan, and Sara Teague, all of whom have produced, directed, and performed in various comedy productions in and around Boston. They’re currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to help offset some of the costs related to construction and opening, seeking to raise $30,000 — or ideally the stretch goal of $50,000 — over the next month. (At press time, they were already nearing $18,000.) The project is also being covered by the founders’ capital and SBA-backed small business loans.

The team hasn’t announced a timeline for Union Comedy’s opening yet; stay tuned for updates. When it does open, it’ll add to Union Square’s comedy scene: The Comedy Studio is open on the second floor of Somerville’s Bow Market, featuring stand-up comedy daily.

Union Comedy Crowdfunds for Permanent Theater [Scout Somerville]
Union Comedy is Building Boston’s Newest Comedy Theater [KS]

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Indiana-based Eddie Merlot’s plans to open in the Seaport in early 2020

Boston’s Seaport District, which is already home to several out-of-town steakhouse chains, is getting another. Indiana-based steakhouse chain Eddie Merlot’s — which was eyeing a Seaport location way back in 2013 that didn’t come to fruition — plans to move into the sprawling space at 505 Congress St. that was formerly occupied by La Casa de Pedro. Eddie Merlot’s currently operates 13 restaurants spread out across the country.

La Casa de Pedro — which closed its Seaport location in July 2018 and its original location in Watertown in March 2019 — recently petitioned the Boston licensing board to transfer its liquor license to Eddie Merlot’s. Bill Vezeau, the steakhouse chain’s director of business, told Eater that Eddie Merlot’s hopes to open in January 2020.

“We will carry our full menu of prime and wagyu beef, but will also feature a more extensive offering of fine fresh seafood to accommodate the Boston market,” Vezeau told Eater via email. “We have partnered with a Boston seafood company called Stavis Seafoods for many years and are looking forward to being a neighbor in the Seaport District. We are very excited to be opening in Boston and serving both residents and visitors to the Boston area.”

Eddie Merlot’s serves the standard range of steakhouse fare, including appetizers like creamed corn, mashed potatoes, steamed asparagus, and scalloped potatoes. Current menus at its existing locations feature seafood items such as yellowfin tuna steaks, cedar plank salmon, and grilled shrimp.

When Eddie Merlot’s opens, it’ll join several other steak-focused chains in the neighborhood: Del Frisco’s, Morton’s, and the Palm, not to mention a Smith & Wollensky’s not too far away, plus seafood-and-steak chains like Ocean Prime and Mastro’s Ocean Club.

Eddie Merlot’s Plans to Open in the Former La Casa de Pedro Space in Boston’s Seaport District [BRT]
La Casa de Pedro Temporarily Closes in the Seaport [EBOS]
Watertown Restaurant Casa de Pedro Closes Amid Bankruptcy Proceedings [BG]

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TKK Fried Chicken opened its first U.S. location in New York City in 2018, and it has plans for more

Decades-old Taiwanese fried chicken chain TKK Fried Chicken is coming to town, as noted by Twitter user @siisterspooky. This will be the first location in Massachusetts, and it’s coming soon to 1 Beale St., Quincy, according to the company’s website. The location, formerly home to a Papa Gino’s, will be a combined TKK Fried Chicken and Kung Fu Tea shop; the latter, a bubble tea chain, already has about a dozen Boston-area locations.

TKK Fried Chicken opened its first location in the Wanhua District of Taipei, Taiwan, in 1974. The chain currently has 66 locations in Taiwan, two locations in Shanghai, and one location in New York City’s Flatiron neighborhood. The New York City location is also a partnership between TKK Fried Chicken and Kung Fu Tea.

TKK Fried Chicken’s website indicates that the Quincy location isn’t the only American expansion in the works — the chain also plans to open shops in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Cherry Hill, New Jersey; and Richardson, Texas.

The Flatiron shop’s menu features fried chicken standards like tenders, wings, breasts, thighs, and drumsticks, along with fried chicken sandwiches, and sides like mashed potatoes, coleslaw, curly fries, crunchy cheese curds, and shishito peppers. The Flatiron location also appears to have a beer and wine license, though it’s unclear at the moment if the Quincy shop will offer alcohol.

Eater NY critic Robert Sietsema visited the Flatiron location earlier this year and noted that the chicken comes in three styles — original, crispy mild, or crispy spicy. “For god’s sake, get the crispy spicy!” he wrote. Also notable: a “very good biscuit” and the “really, really good” kwa kwa bao, “an invention that’s become a signature of the chain.” It’s sticky rice packed with mushrooms, sealed in chicken skin, and fried.

Eater has reached out to TKK Fried Chicken and will update this post as more information becomes available.

TKK Fried Chicken [Official Site]

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14 current and former workers sued Happy Lamb Hot Pot for labor violations

The 14 current and former workers who sued Happy Lamb Hot Pot for various alleged labor violations have settled the lawsuit, according to a press release sent to Eater by an attorney representing the workers; the attorney was unable to specify, due to confidentiality obligations, whether it was an in-court or out-of-court settlement. The lawsuit was dismissed by the United States District Court of Massachusetts.

The lawsuit sought hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages for alleged labor violations — including wage theft, failure to pay overtime wages, pocketing and improperly distributing workers’ tips, physical violence, exposing employees to potentially hazardous cleaning chemicals, and refusing to let workers use accrued sick time — though the amount of the settlement has not been disclosed. A lawyer representing the workers told Eater via email that the workers were satisfied with the settlement.

“In this current climate, many workers have been hesitant to enforce their rights, but everyone has a right to be paid fairly under the law,” said Bethany Li, the attorney with Greater Boston Legal Services representing the workers, in the press release. “Our clients prioritized creating an environment that is safe and just for all workers. We are happy they are satisfied with the outcome of this case.”

Nine workers filed an initial complaint against the Central Square, Cambridge, location of Happy Lamb Hot Pot with the United States District Court of Massachusetts in October 2018. Five more workers came forward with allegations in April 2019. Attorneys added those allegations to the initial complaint and filed a supplemental complaint stating that the alleged abuses occurred at both the Cambridge and Chinatown, Boston, locations of Happy Lamb Hot Pot.

Happy Lamb Hot Pot officially denied the allegations with the US District Court of Massachusetts, stating, “Defendants deny each and every allegation of fact, conclusion of law, or other matter contained in the Complaint that has not been expressly admitted herein.” Repeated attempts by Eater to reach Happy Lamb Hot Pot management for comment were unsuccessful.

Happy Lamb Hot Pot plans to open a third Boston-area location, this time in the former Sunset Grill & Tap space on Brighton Avenue in Allston.

Workers Are Suing Happy Lamb Hot Pot, Alleging Wage Theft and Other Violations [EBOS] • More Workers Are Suing Happy Lamb Hot Pot [EBOS]
A Hot Pot Chain That Has Been Accused of Labor Violations Is Expanding to Allston [EBOS]

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