This is The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite hard-to-get tables.
[Photo: Rachel Leah Blumenthal]
Tyler Titherington is a five-year veteran of the Grafton Group, and he's worked at all the properties: Redline (now Park), Temple Bar, Grafton Street, and for the past year, Russell House Tavern. As general manager, he makes sure things are running smoothly in the restaurant's dining room, lounge, tavern, patio, and two bars. Eater spoke with Titherington about the eclectic Harvard Square clientele, celeb sightings, and the secret burger that's maybe too well-kept of a secret.
What are the busiest nights of the week? It's probably pretty standard for everyone: Friday and Saturday nights. Sunday brunch is another busy time of the week. But depending on what's going on at Harvard and what's going on in the Square, we could be really busy on a Monday night - you never know.
On a busy night, what's the typical wait for a group without reservations? The important thing is the size of the group and what time they're coming in. If they're coming in at that 7:30 to 8:00 PM sweet spot, they're going to have to wait a little longer than if they came in at, say, 5:30 or 6:00, but generally our wait times are between 15 minutes and a half hour. The longest wait that we would quote would be an hour, but we rarely even do that. We have a lot of options in terms of seating: we have the main dining room downstairs, the lounge area, the tavern upstairs, the patio, and also two bars, so generally that helps with the flow.
How far in advance do people make reservations? People call ahead for standard events like the Head of the Charles or the Harvard-Yale game - even a year in advance. (We can't take reservations that far in advance.) In general, it's a week or two, max. We get a lot of reservations the day of or the day before.
How would you describe the clientele? It's pretty eclectic. It's Harvard Square, so we get everything from students to young professionals to professors to Harvard Square regulars. It can be pretty much anything.
What would you say is the single must-order dish? Right now, I'm on the scallops. It's very locally inspired: seared Rachel Rose scallops, crispy Anson Mills grits, a local tomato vinaigrette, corn puree, and salsa verde. It's delicious.
Is there an amazing dish on the menu you wish people would order more? We have a pretty diverse menu between the small plates, the raw bar, and the entrees; everything gets a lot of action. We do have an off-menu item, which is not ordered as much - it's a secret burger. Our regular burger is ordered quite a bit, but the secret burger, which changes week to week, is sort of a back-pocket menu item that we have. Right now, it's delicious, so I'm kind of shocked that people haven't ordered it more.
How do people find out about it? Word of mouth, this article...
What is it this week? It's on ciabatta with Sriracha butter, air-dried Chinese sausage, green curry aioli, pickled jalapeños and carrots, fresh cilantro, mint, and basil leaves, and a poached egg on top. It's a little messy, but it's worth it.
Have you gotten any strange requests lately? I think the strangest request we'll get is buffalo wings or potato skins or something like that. But if we have the ingredients, we'll do anything we can to accommodate someone. We're happy to make changes when possible.
Any celebrity sightings? Recently we've had Claire Danes, Mila Kunis, Sophia Vergara with her family, and some sports figures - A-Rod, Dave Winfield. We get a nice cross-section.
What do you eat when you're not at Russell House Tavern? Anything! What's really cool in Boston lately is that there have been so many new restaurants popping up, so I've been trying to get to them whenever I can, but I have no specific place. I like to switch it up. The Kendall Square area is getting really big. There are a lot of great restaurants over there that I want to try.