George Aboujaoude knows a thing or two about labors of love. The Boston native was practically raised in his family’s legendary Lebanese restaurant, Cedars, and today, he owns two city favorites: Committee and Bijou. His newest endeavor, Eva, which opened on April 22—just in time for Boston’s marathon weekend—replaces Cafeteria, another Aboujaoude success story that shuttered in 2020.
“The whole restaurant just becomes so personal; you know what’s inside the walls,” Aboujaoude says of his latest venture, a bright new American spot with laid-back charm. Eva, which means “full of life” in Hebrew, also pays homage to the restaurateur’s two children, Elias and Vivian. Judging from its shareable plates, generous patio, and convivial atmosphere, it’s a place that most certainly lives up to the name.
Though Eva’s menu features some of the greatest hits from other Aboujaoude restaurants, pan-Mediterranean accents set it apart.
Cafeteria regulars will see the popular brick-oven spinach artichoke dip make an appearance, while Committee fans will appreciate the inclusion of Greek flavors—the kitchen is steered by that restaurant’s former chef, Luis Figueroa, after all—in the form of grilled octopus and lamb meatballs.
Figueroa’s creative energy shines brightest in dishes such as the fra diavalo pizza, a bold pie layered with tomato sauce, shrimp, pickled cherry peppers, and Aleppo pepper. “It tastes like you’re eating pasta but in pizza form,” says Aboujaoude. “[Figueroa’s] a really phenomenal and gifted chef who’s always experimenting to bring new things out—if I let him pick the menu, it would be three pages long.”
Unlike Cafeteria’s all-day menu, Eva has distinct options for lunch and dinner. It was a decision partly fueled by the versatile space itself: While the sun is shining, light streams in from large windows that afford an expansive view of tony Back Bay; when it sets, Eva dims the lights and gets sexy. “I really think that you can come in two times a day, and each time it’s something different,” says Aboujaoude. For instance, steak tips and fries with truffle aioli and spicy chicken piccata with pickled cherry peppers will only be served in the evenings.
In the coming months, the restaurant will unveil a weekend brunch menu, filled with hearty plates such as green tomatillo shakshuka, grilled sourdough avocado burrata, and French toast.
Patio-friendly beverages dominate the extensive drinks menu at Eva, ideal for long and lazy afternoons.
Choose from pitchers of sangria or a slew of cheekily named cocktails—Monkey Business, To Have…An Have Another—heavy on tequila, aperitifs, and rum. The real standouts here, though, are the local brews. General manager Nicholas Antonucci and assistant general manager Davis Norton previously worked together at Trillium Brewing Company in Fort Point. Their expertise translates into a curated selection of nine Greater Boston beers on tap.
Eva’s interiors, an extension of its spirited name, are warm and lively, courtesy of Newton-based designer Tiffany Barqawi. Unlike its predecessor, Cafeteria, whose palette was more monotone, Aboujaoude’s latest is an exercise in vibrance, decked with leafy accent panels, plush blue banquettes, natural wood tones, and hand-woven raffia chandeliers.
Diners can feel the heat in almost any season – a rarity in Boston – thanks to Back Bay’s largest patio space. Heaters at Eva supplement the sunshine on one of the city’s most unobstructed patches of prime real estate. Eva’s sprawling forecourt stretches the two-story restaurant’s seating capacity, which also means double the hustle for the kitchen and the servers. But Aboujaoude and team wouldn’t have it any other way, he says.
“There’s a reinvigoration we’ve needed for a long time—we thought most likely the pandemic would be the nail in the coffin,” he says of fellow neighborhood restaurants. But thanks to new and upcoming additions such as Contessa, Grand Tour, and Faccia Brutta, “Back Bay is really back and stronger than it was before. This is the rebirth of Newbury Street.”
Eva is now open Sunday through Thursday from 11 am to 11 pm and Friday and Saturday from 11 am to 1 am.