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Nookie Might Need a New Pair of Pants

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Welcome back to a special, weekly ongoing series of Eater column On the House, in which former Fenway Park executive chef Steve "Nookie" Postal shares his experience of opening two Cambridge restaurants: Commonwealth and Steinbones. Here's part thirty-one.
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Ha. You thought you were done with me, right? Not so fast. Last week's blog post was all weepy teary about how I'm gonna miss everyone, and I don't want this process to be over...well, wrong again. I want it to be over. I want everyone out of my space. I'm done with tape measures, drilling holes, sawdust fucking everywhere?I'm done with it. We are almost finished. Last-second touches. A little nip and tuck, if you will.

There is so much to do. Starting from scratch is really hard. There have been a ton of hiccups. Lots of stuff isn't working right yet. Our heating system sounds like a jet engine. One of the ovens doesn't work. Ice machine needs tweaking. Walk-in needs some love. The list goes on and on. I knew this was one of the risks of buying "previously loved" equipment, but I didn't really have a choice. And I don't regret it, either — at least not yet.

Our back office set-up is a mess. We can't print yet. Our wi-fi is totally screwed up. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Can't fax or scan anything. I know, who still faxes things, right? But most of our purveyors have been around a long time and, well, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. But it's a bit annoying. Sound system got set up today; that sounds pretty good. I'm hoping for Pat Benatar, but I'm leaving the playlist up to Justin.

Samples and salesmen have been pouring in. Everyone wants us to sell their shit in the market. Some of it's good, and some of it's not so good. But then we get in the trick bag of price. Like today, I tried some really good beef jerky. Wasn't the best I ever had, but it was pretty damn good. Cost me over $5 for a two-ounce bag. That means I'd have to charge $7 or $8 at a minimum. That's a lot of money for just two ounces of jerky. I'm not saying I'm gonna sell Slim Jims, but at the same time, I don't want to be the most expensive place in town. I'm not necessarily looking for the best products available — more the best products available at the best prices.

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Like, take eggs, for example. I can get amazing, local, farm-fresh eggs. Yolks so vibrant they will make you shit yourself. But they will cost me $6 a dozen. Then I need to mark them up. Who wants to buy eggs for $8 or $9? So, it's all about finding that happy medium between an $8 egg and a crappy, mass-produced, hormone-injected egg for a $1. At least, I think?I really have no idea since I've never run a market before. It's cool, though; we will figure it out? (Shitting my pants, shitting my pants, shitting my pants.)

What else? Menu is done; branding is complete. The menu is different, that's for sure. I hope people like it. Maybe I'll tease it out this week, but I'm not ready quite yet. What I wanted was...well I didn't know exactly what I wanted. I know what I didn't want. And I didn't want lots of menus. Welcome. Here is our drink menu, wine list, bar menu, menu menu, dessert menu, and after-dinner drink menu. I wanted it tight, compact. Not fussy. Not overly pretentious. Needs to go with the food. The food is so simple. So simple, it makes me nervous. Is it too simple?

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I read the fabulous review Ribelle got. Congrats to Tim and PaoPao. I know how much hard work went into that, and it's amazing to get a four-star review. But Commonwealth is so simple, I wonder what people will think. Will they say, "I could do that at home" or " That's it?" I mean, I'm hoping they don't say that. I'm hoping people get what I'm going for. Simple food, done right. Everything I am doing has been done before. I'm not reinventing the wheel. Just trying to put out real, honest good food. We will see.

So, what's the big hold up, you ask? I'm just waiting on one last sign-off from the City of Cambridge, and we will be good to go. Training and production starts on Tuesday. You can guess when we are opening, but it will be some time soon after that. Alright, that's all I got. Staubinator yelled at me today 'cause I'm not making lists. I gotta go do that, 'cause the last thing I need is to have him mad at me. Good night and go Sox?

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Follow Nookie on Twitter: @chefnookie and @commnwlth.
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Commonwealth (Cambridge)

11 Broad Canal Way, Cambridge, MA 02142 (617) 945-7030 Visit Website

Commonwealth

11 Broad Canal Way, Cambridge, MA

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