One of Eater's 10 most anticipated fall openings, Estelle's, is now looking towards a December opening in the South End, but it is no less anticipated. The Southern restaurant will be located at 782 Tremont St., just around the corner from one of its Wilcox Hospitality Group sister restaurants, Parish Cafe. Owner Brian Poe (Poe's Kitchen at the Rattlesnake, Tip Tap Room) and executive chef Eric Gburski (former chef and general manager of East Coast Grill) sat down with Eater to talk about what diners can expect from Estelle's, where the idea came from, the concept of "total restaurant focus," and more.
So what can you tell us about Estelle's?
Brian: It's a restaurant. [Laughs.] I'm excited to be with Eric on this because while I grew up Southern, he understands the whole style and everything that comes with it, and he's got a lot of love for food, so it's going to be fun. It's fun for two chefs to get to work together.
Eric: It's exciting to be opening a restaurant, that's for sure, and we're hoping to do the right thing in the South End. We want to bring a restaurant to the neighborhood that the neighborhood's looking for.
B: Absolutely. It's been a long process, but we're excited. It's close.
What will the menu look like?
E: It's a Southern concept, dinner only, except for Saturday and Sunday brunch. You might see chicken and waffles - I'm not going to give you a 100% guarantee there - but chicken-fried steak, morning egg dishes, things like that for brunch. I spent a lot of time at East Coast Grill, and brunch was one of our mainstays, so I feel like we can bring that idea to the neighborhood. We're not going to do lunch because we don't want to compete with our family; Parish Cafe does a very good lunch. We also just want to do something a little bit different from the rest of the family.
B: And we love bars. [Laughs.] I've written some great menus sitting across the counter at a bar. In the same token we love food, so you can put the two of those together, and we've got 30 draft lines going, obviously some local and probably some Southern influence in there.
E: Yeah, the Southern concept of it is not necessarily a collard greens and fried chicken house. We're going for a kind of Gulf Coast style so that we can utilize some seafood, we can utilize Louisiana influence, New Orleans influence, but still some brisket. I have a lot of experience in the barbecue business - and seafood - from being at East Coast Grill for 13 years with Chris Schlesinger, so my influences are going to come out. We were known for big, bold, and bright flavors, so that's kind of where we're going to go.
What made you want to open up another restaurant so soon after the Tip Tap Room?
B: We were going to do Poe's Pub over there - we'd been working on that for two years - and then my partner Gordon [Wilcox] turned to me and said, "This may happen faster." It's a good thing for a hyperactive chef. I go spicy over at The Rattlesnake, savory over here at the Tip Tap Room, and then I can play with Eric and his Southern style at Estelle's. The opportunity's been there for so long; I've watched that corner forever. I want to be a part of that neighborhood, and the whole idea behind it for me is just to have fun cooking. I've been so high up in corporate cooking and hotels that I want to get back to cooking, and this is it. I want to get back.
E: To the roots!
B: Yeah, it's what we do.
E: Brian's a cook as well as a chef and owner, and like myself, I think we believe in the fundamental concept that you've gotta do all the jobs in a restaurant for the restaurant to succeed. Be willing to scrub the pots and pans, be willing to cut the meats, be willing to bus a table if you have to. Whatever it is that needs to be done. It's what we call "total restaurant focus." And with Brian, from his training and from the time I've spent with him, that's definitely what you see. I think that that's what we're looking for at Estelle's.
B: I just got teary-eyed.
E: The truth is that when you get older in this industry like us - we've been in this industry for a very long time, don't need to tell you how long - you learn the tricks of the trade, and you also watch people fail. One of the best learning experiences is to fail. I've spent a lot of time burning a lot of food on someone else's dollar, and I'm ready to put it on my own shoulders. That's something you get from experience.
B: There's nothing better for me than to work with a high-caliber chef, and when you get us behind the line, there's no such thing as ego. It's two guys cooking, and that's the fun part. It's why I started cooking.
E: That's what we hope to bring over to Estelle's. It's comfortable. It's comfortable for you as the customer, it's comfortable for the cooks, it's comfortable for the management, it's welcoming. Being a Southern restaurant, hospitality is very important.
· All coverage of Estelle's on Eater Boston [~EBOS~]