For New England foodies, spring is about farmers markets, food trucks, and flowers, but this season there’s something else growing: new restaurants in the Boston suburbs. A cadre of notable city chefs are tossing their toques into the Interstate 95 ring, attracted by more space, lower rents, and excited diners waiting, fork and knife in hand. Take a look at the best new restaurants in the Boston suburbs.
Chef Rachel Klein, formerly of some of the city’s top hotel restaurants, gave up her gig as executive chef at Liquid Art House to pursue something closer to home in Needham – leading RFK Kitchen, slated to open in late summer. “I’ve been living here for 10 years, and I wanted to do something a little bit more upscale but with price points that the town already has,” she said, also noting that it’s easier to overcome hurdles like liquor licenses that can go for half a million dollars in Boston. “We’re trying to bring a bit more of that Boston aesthetic and feel with a serious bar program, people who are on the cutting edge of their craft. But nothing pretentious or anything that makes you feel stupid. Nothing hoity-toity!”
The mother of two is looking forward to offering other parents a cloth-napkin option that welcomes kids; the open-kitchen concept is ideal for upcoming classes for families and singles looking to mingle during bar seminars. Having fine dining within an Uber’s ride away also means that no one needs to skip out on the fun to be the designated driver or add on the cost of valet and a babysitter to the meal check since RFK is in the heart of town. “It’s really about being part of the community,” Klein said. “And yes, sometimes it’s good to be a big fish in a small pond.”
Restaurateur and chef Joe Cassinelli just expanded to Metrowest as well, with the opening of Osteria Posto in Waltham. While most of his locations are in Somerville, a hip, smaller Boston-area city accessible by public transportation (Posto, Painted Burro, and Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar also call it home), a trip to Osteria requires a car. So why take the chance with a new audience and locale? “I live in the suburbs, and most of the options out here are chains,” he explained. “Waltham is really centrally located, and it’s not overdeveloped, although there are a lot of families and tech people coming in now — the time is right.” Some of his guests even include fans of his chef-driven Mexican food hot spot and thin-crust upscale pizzeria.
What they’re finding is a more refined menu of prime steaks and homemade pastas with an airy 8,000-square-foot space that seats 240 (in addition to a 100-person function space) that wouldn’t be available in a city as built up as Boston. “With more space we’re able to offer a great wine program with extensive vintages so it’s really a cool experience,” Cassinelli said. “The palate is a little more foodie-driven and the service is more refined, but it’s still casual fine-dining.”
For Barbara Lynch, helping open 16C in Quincy with her niece Kerri Delaney-Lynch was a chance to take a menu in a new direction from some of Boston’s most renowned white-tablecloth establishments, Menton, No. 9 Park, B&G Oysters and Sportello among them. “She really helped me out with the pizzas, bouncing ideas off of each other,” explains Delaney-Lynch. “She’s got her frou-frou side, but sometimes even chefs just want comfort food, too — and I don’t think Quincy’s really ready for the Menton kind of thing!” That collaboration has yielded a menu that features a family wagyu burger recipe and a Boston staple — steak tips.
What makes Quincy attractive to the young restaurateur are options; the city has both public transportation from Boston and large parking lots not often found in this urban part of Massachusetts. It’s led to a “Mass.-migration” of sorts for many industry insiders here, too; tavern and craft cocktail bar The Townshend was opened by Island Creek Oyster Bar alums, and star Eastern Standard bartender Jackson Cannon and Yvonne’s pastry chef Kate Holowchick call Quincy home.
Chef Erik Powers, formerly of Grill 23, gave up his city gig to work closer to home in Melrose at T’ahpas 529, a tapas restaurant from local coffee shop owners Lorenzo and Emily Tenreiro slated to open in late summer. “I’m ready to try new things … with smaller plates and portions, you can expose diners to more flavors and use new techniques and sauces,” he said of Spanish influences versus the classic steakhouse Béarnaise.
Powers is also excited about a better work-life balance that means he doesn’t have to take a train, bus, and then depend on his wife to pick him up after late nights due to Boston’s limited commuter rail schedule times. Contributing to his community is just the icing on the cake. “I’m really looking forward to helping a family business grow; it’s just a bit more personal to really know the people you’re working with, and for.”
Other notable city restaurants slated to open locations outside of Boston this summer include Island Creek Oyster Bar, headed for Burlington; chef Frank McClelland of L’Espalier, who plans to open Riversbend in his hometown of Essex; and Giacomo’s Italian restaurant, which will open its first suburban location in Melrose. The small city just north of Boston was named Realtor.com’s hottest zip code of 2015.
Carley Thornell is a travel writer whose experiences eating street food in Japan, English peas in the UK, free-range steak in Argentina, and Brussels sprouts at Estragon tapas in her hometown of Boston have provided unforgettable culinary inspiration. Shout out at firstname.lastname@example.org.