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La Brasa
La Brasa
Rachel Leah Blumenthal

La Brasa's Fire Is Getting Hotter One Year In

When La Brasa opened just over a year ago, it came after two-and-a-half years of work — and that was just after the project was announced. Co-owner Daniel Bojorquez, an alum of L'Espalier and Sel de la Terre, had been planning his restaurant for five years. Here he talks about his East Somerville restaurant's first year, from fire to simplicity.

Daniel Bojorquez - La Brasa

[Photo: Daniel Bojorquez/Courtesy of Joel Edinberg]

Does it feel like it’s been a year?

Daniel Bojorquez: It feels like it’s definitely been a year, yes. But some days it feels very quick, and some days it feels like it’s been very long. I guess it depends on the day — how business is doing. It's just been a very interesting year when it comes down to it.

What’s your first memory from opening day?

I remember we were doing training, going through the same things every restaurant goes through on opening day, and I was just really, really excited. I don’t feel like it’s been work, to be honest, since opening. It’s just been a lot of fun. Some days are tougher than others and you’re physically exhausted sometimes, but it’s a lot of fun. I remember feeling very anxious, and there was a lot of energy, from the staff to the clientele. A very euphoric moment.

Looking at how the restaurant has turned out one year in, are there any significant changes from your original vision?

When I opened this restaurant, I wanted it to be very real, very homey, and those are things you can't force to happen. It's kind of like when you move to a new house, you don't just put up a painting because you want a painting on the wall; you want it to be the right painting, the right thing that matters to you. It's the same sort of idea with a restaurant. It's been hard for me to be patient and let things happen, because you get in a sort of competitive mode — Oh, I want to do this; I want to do that; I shouldn't really do this. So I don't really feel like I wish I had done something differently because I've let everything happen on its own.

I've gotten questions from everyone, saying, What's the concept? And I'm like, Fire. They say, Yeah, but what do you mean, 'fire'? Every restaurant has fire. What do you mean by that? I don't know what I mean. It's been hard standing by and staying true to that, but everything's been a blast here; everything feels very natural, very organic.

"If you want your business to last for the long run, it's not a sprint, it's a marathon."

It really surprises me, the need for everybody to have some sort of idea of what you are doing. I feel like you can build it, maybe at a slower pace. When you talk about restaurants with an old-school, been-there-forever sort of feel, they didn't happen by forcing [a concept]. I'm old-school that way, I guess. If you want your business to last for the long run, it's not a sprint, it's a marathon. You have to let things macerate and let the people who are working feel comfortable to be able to translate that comfort to the patrons.

How would you describe the clientele in terms of people from the neighborhood vs. people coming in from farther away?

Maybe a little more people from outside of the neighborhood, especially during the weekend, but what makes the space is people from the neighborhood. We have a lot of people here every day from the neighborhood, some interesting characters, and I’ve been trying to really embrace the neighborhood. The people here make it very unique. I've worked in a lot of different areas with different demographics, and the people here — you can feel they're having fun. I definitely like the people here.

What has been the most difficult moment of the year?

Literally every day has been very hard. I'm used to difficult times, as fucked up as that sounds. I'm very happy with what we're doing, and I think that really difficult times are very momentary. I like to approach them that way. Oh, two hours ago...fuck it. Cook something.

How have you felt about the professional reviews as well as what people post on sites like Yelp?

When it comes to Yelp and other things online, I feel like most of the time they are accurate, and I try to really take my personal feelings out of it. When something went wrong, most of the times I know it already.

Now we're in a very competitive sort of time for restaurants, especially here in Boston — there are a lot of restaurants opening. That's a good thing, and people expect a lot from everybody, which is difficult, but shit happens. But as long as you're trying to do something about it, it's fine. And sometimes with bad reviews, you have to accept that maybe they weren't at the right place to begin with. It can be hard reading the reviews, but it's just opinions; everybody does the online thing, and you can write whatever. It is what it is. What can I do except for try to be better?

When it comes to professional reviews...the first one we got was from the Globe. I wanted three stars, I got two-and-a-half, but I think the review read pretty well, and the things she put there were pretty much accurate. No excuses, but when we opened, it was bumpy along the way. I don't want people to be like, We're fucking up because we're new; you shouldn't use that as an excuse as to why you're being reviewed a certain way. But also I feel that nowadays you open a new restaurant, and they go to review it right away. I feel like the restaurant hasn't really come into its own until after the first year. But it's good promotion, good marketing — you want people to know about your restaurant.

Reviews can have an impact on a business, but I guess that’s part of the game. There’s no getting around that. So I feel that everything’s been right; I just wish there were different timing, people being a little more sensitive with business owners. A review can really make or destroy a place.

For someone who hasn't been here before, what would you say to draw him or her in?

I like to think it's different than what Boston is used to, so that on its own deserves a visit — I don't think you can get a lot of things that we do here in other restaurants. When it comes to the food, the menu is pretty self-explanatory and straightforward at this moment in time. It's designed for people to be relaxed; you don't have to have a first course, main course, etc. You can really do what you feel like in the moment. That sort of freedom makes it very attractive for a lot of people and very comfortable because you can really do whatever you want.

"I think what we're selling is simplicity."

I think what we're selling is simplicity. We see a lot of big-time foodies who bring their parents here who are not as adventurous, and it's still good for everybody. We're in the middle ground covering the gap between fine dining and bar food. A lot of what we do can fall under that, but we try to put more care into it, more technique. So that's what we have to offer.

I just want people to know that I love people coming here and having fun. Enjoy the time.

La Brasa team

[Photo: Part of the La Brasa team/Rachel Leah Blumenthal for Eater]

La Brasa

124 Broadway, , MA 02145 (617) 764-1412 Visit Website

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