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Rachel Klein to Open RFK Kitchen in Needham

She's aiming for a spring opening for her "fun, eclectic" restaurant, which will feature a 20-seat counter by an open kitchen.

Rachel KleinLiquid Art House executive chef Rachel Klein, an alum of OM, the Mandarin Oriental, and more, is finally getting the chance to open her own restaurant, a project she had approached in the past but had to shelve because the timing wasn't right. This time around, she was grabbed while walking down the street and told to check out this piece of property, she said. "I had an opportunity that I couldn't pass up," said Klein, praising the "amazing" space and landlord. "Everything just lined up." (Meanwhile, she will remain involved with Liquid Art House in some capacity.)

She plans to open RFK Kitchen in Needham in the spring. It'll be located at 948 Great Plain Ave., right by popular Italian restaurant Sweet Basil.  Klein lives in Needham with her husband and two children, and she's wanted to open a restaurant in town for about six years.

"I'm really looking forward to contributing to a town that I'm personally invested in," Klein said. "My son's in public school there, we own a house there, we spend our money on the businesses there. I want to see the town successful." And one particular point of excitement for Klein? Finally getting the chance to see her friends, who can't always make it into Boston to see her while she's at work. Now they'll be able to come by more easily, and she can't wait to cook dinner for them.

The focal point of RFK Kitchen will be a 20-seat counter that looks into an open kitchen. "When I cook for my friends and my family, they always sit at my counter; it's how we eat," she said. "I want to create this interactive place for ideas and communication. People don't really eat at the dining room table anymore like they used to, sharing their day or their ideas. Now everybody goes out to eat all the time." In addition to the counter, there will be more of a traditional dining room area as well as a bar area, bringing the total seating up around 100. Klein intends to apply for a full liquor license.

The restaurant will have a "fun, urban feel" she said, and the price point will be moderate, with various ways to spend a little or a lot. Diners will have the option, for example, to go for a chef's tasting menu if they want a more "adventurous" experience. "We're designing these menus where there are a lot of options; it can be family-friendly but also appeal to the foodie or to someone who wants to hang out at the bar."

"Especially when you're in the suburbs, you really need to be aware of the fact that there are families," she said, and she won't be surprised to see parents bringing kids in early in the evening. One highlight of the kids' menu will be "bento boxes," mirroring a mix-and-match type of healthy option on the adults' lunch menu. (The restaurant will serve only dinner in the beginning, but lunch and brunch will be added eventually.)

RFK Kitchen's counter will be perfect for more than just the show of an open kitchen — think cooking classes and guest chefs. "I really want it to be personal, where people can talk to who is making their food and get involved. I think people are so interested in what's happening in kitchens." Klein is also looking forward to interacting with the community outside of the restaurant, like building relationships with farms and other chefs in the area. Volante Farms, a five-minute drive away, is already a regular Saturday morning stop for Klein — she needs her Moody's sausage-and-egg breakfast sandwich.

"Needham is a big dining town, and they like to eat out, and they're open to new and fun stuff," she said. "I just want to be creative and accessible and make exciting food." The bottom line: RFK Kitchen is intended to be "fun, eclectic, modern American, chef-driven, and dynamic." With an emphasis on fun.

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