When September comes, Inman Square will be home to the playska, a sandwich lovechild of a burger and sausage, courtesy of Tim and Bronwyn Wiechmann. The husband-and-wife duo is also behind the well-loved T.W. Food in Cambridge and Bronwyn in Somerville. Their new venture — their first foray into the quick-service world — will be called Playska after the featured sandwich, which is a play on the Balkan dish pljeskavica. Tim has been playing around with pljeskavica and other foods inspired by Central and Eastern Europe at "Prototype Nights" at Bronwyn, taking place on Tuesday nights from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. (Prototype Nights will continue even once Playska opens, he says. It's been "super fun," despite the harsh winter interfering with several instances and forcing the Wiechmanns to abandon the idea of doing it as a late-night event.)
Now I'd like to work on bread.
As previously reported, Playska will be located in the longtime Rosie's Bakery space at 243 Hampshire St. The signature sandwich features a beef-and-pork patty on soft pogacha bread, embellished with ajvar (a red pepper compote), a cream cheese-based sauce, red onion, and pickled cucumber. It's the perfect way for Tim to combine his loves of sausage-making and bread-making; in fact, the latter is a driving force behind the concept for Playska. "We wanted to do something new, innovative, exciting, different for us," says Tim. "We have fine dining, we have a bar, and now I'd like to work on bread, on a bakery — a different skill-set, really. It's a combination of a lot of the traveling that we were doing and stuff I've been doing for fun in the kitchen."
"I really like the culture of Eastern Europe-meets-Turkey," he continues, "so I kind of got into the history of it all and read about it and started cooking some of the food and visited it. All of a sudden I was thinking, How do I turn this into something I can do here? And that's how Playska was born."
This will sort of be greatest hits revisited.
Outside of the playska, the menu hasn't been fleshed out completely yet, but the gist of it will be Eastern European-inspired sandwiches with bread, condiments, and pickles all made in-house. "Just like how Bronwyn is inspired by Germany and Austria and Hungary, but we're comfortable putting ramps in the spaetzle, this will have the same sort of feel to it," says Tim. "It won't have a strict code of a certain type of cuisine. A lot of the things we've done [at Bronwyn] in a different context, so this will sort of be greatest hits revisited. Greatest Hits, Unplugged...except I hate 'unplugged,'" he laughs.
"I think we know that those are the first things we're setting out to achieve, but where it actually ends up falling may be grassroots how it plays out in the end," says Bronwyn. "You have to put something forward to start, but we may find that we start making chips in this other way or the pickles go over here...but definitely the playska is the initial experience. Maybe we'll get into more morning pastries at some point, taking the bread into another [direction], seeing where it moves on its own as we open."
"It's not a second store, right?" says Tim. "It's its own — it was born out of nothing — so it's a prototype store. It'll be very exciting and colorful and filled with really interesting stuff," he laughs. "I can't help it. I can't be like, tuna salad. I wish I could."
No $14 sandwiches.
At this point, the Wiechmanns are aiming for the sandwiches to be priced below $10. "No $14 sandwiches," says Tim. They're not yet sure whether they'll be offering loaves of bread for retail or if the intense bread program will feed exclusively into the sandwich menu.
The September opening timeline seems reasonable — for one thing, there won't be alcohol ("unless we want to open in 2017," says Tim, laughing), and the renovations to the space will merely be cosmetic — there's no build-out. There will be about 16 seats in the front, like at Rosie's, and it'll all be counter-service. Hours aren't final yet. "You just don't know until you start working in the neighborhood," says Tim. "We're definitely going to have lunch and dinner and probably be open all day," but they're not sure how late they'll stay open.
The Wiechmanns hadn't specifically been looking at Inman Square — they looked at places in Ball Square, on Beacon Street in Somerville, in Brookline — but when Rosie's became available, they acted fast. "It's a superb spot," says Tim.
"With a great legacy," adds Bronwyn, noting the transformation from one bakery to another. "Of course we're going to go about it in our own unique Tim and Bronwyn way."
"It'll be totally different [than Rosie's]," Tim says, "but it'll still serve food and baked goods."
"We won't be reinventing the wheel there, other than offering a very different product," says Bronwyn. "We're definitely not getting hung up on having every new toy at our disposal," she continues, with regards to the quick timeline. "We want to get in there and begin to bake and have fun and open the doors."
"We keep it simple, we really do," says Tim. "We're not very fussy."
I think we're trying to keep it real.
With Bronwyn (the restaurant), it was a much bigger project in terms of the build-out and design. "It was more about transporting somebody, emoting a feeling," says Bronwyn (the person). "This is going to be more barebones. Come in for a great product. A lot of times in the Eastern European set-up, it's not about the big, fussy production of how you get the great product, it's the great product. I think we're trying to keep it real."
"Trying to keep it light, fun, not too complicated, good ideas, good preparation, relying on our experience," says Tim. "That's where we're going with it."
"When we were thinking about project three, we were like, We want this to be fun," says Bronwyn. "Not that Bronwyn and T.W. aren't fun, but we were thinking, Let's do something that we're interested in doing that we really can keep fun and not an obligation. We're good at running a fine dining restaurant, I'm getting good at this [Bronwyn] — I'm still learning, but we don't deal well with monotony, so we find ourselves in a new kind of business plan that is definitely new territory. I think that's exciting, and it'll stem from the product being great."