Josh Foley cut his teeth in the kitchens of Harvard Square's Harvest and San Francisco's Zuni Café, and now he's setting up a place of his own. Foley is opening a new restaurant called Avenue, where he will be serving up rustic New England dishes that draw upon his past experiences.
Avenue is located at 445 Main St. in Medfield, which is about 45 minutes from Boston as the crow flies. The building, Foley said, is a fully restored historic building, and "it's been kind of a complex lengthy process" getting all the necessary permitting in order.
As of now, there are plans for a soft opening in early April, and Avenue could be completely open in May, Foley said. He's been working with a development team to build out the space, including Michael Staub of Group M.
Foley, who lives in Medfield with his wife and four kids, said he saw an opening in the town for a restaurant that would serve as a place for approachable food in a family-friendly environment.
Foley said he plans to pull a little bit of inspiration from all the places he has worked, creating a menu that centers around his wood-fired grill, which he calls a centerpiece of the kitchen. The grill is a Split Argentinian Wood Grill, custom-made by Norcal in California.
The menu uses some classic New England seafood in homey recipes and makes generous use of the wood-fired oven and grill. Dishes include a wood & charcoal grilled chicken with grilled bread salad, pine nuts, and cranberries; New England seafood chowder; wood-fired flatbreads; oysters; and a butter-poached lobster with Vermont cheddar fondue and pasta.
Before the restaurant's official opening, Foley said he hoped to get permission to test out his specially made grill, along with the wood-fired, charcoal-gray brick oven.
The open concept floor plan spans 3,000 square feet, with a "tavern" area that is separated from the dining room only by the difference in flooring. The tavern seats 40 and has a slate floor, while the dining room (set to accommodate 85 people) is done up in hardwood, and all areas of the restaurant have a view of the open kitchen and the signature oven.
He spent a year interviewing general contractors and fundraising and is now in the midst of building out the space. Foley has pulled in his friend Corey Comeau (Stephanie's on Newbury) as his sous chef and has more hiring and training planned ahead of the opening.
"Just kind of concurrently working on 100 things and trying to delegate," Foley said. His wife Jessica, who has a full-time job in the financial industry, has been tremendous pulling things together, Foley said, working on the floor plan, choosing table tops, and more. The pair met when they worked at Harvest together in 1994 — she was the general manager and he was the chef. Eventually, Foley said, she will join him at Avenue full-time.
The space itself has 10 massive windows that make it "one of a kind," Foley said. "The visibility on this space is tremendous, too," he said, right next to the town hall.
Foley said his past experiences in restaurants have informed his plans for Avenue, along with its cuisine.
"I started out as a dishwasher in high school and caught the bug," he said. He ended up working at the old Harvest in Harvard Square, where he said he really learned how to cook.
"Harvest had a major influence on me. I was lucky enough to cook for Julia Child a number of times," he said. He later worked in San Francisco for a few years at the storied Zuni Café before returning to the Northeast and taking up a position at the new Grill 23 & Bar.
Later, Foley took a "family-friendly" job at Sysco, where he said he had more time to coach his kids' sports teams and be home with his family. Eventually, the pull of restaurants grew too strong.
"This was the perfect storm," he said about Avenue. "I live a stone's throw from this prime location in the center of town."
Foley has been living in Medfield for 10 years. He assessed the restaurant situation, considered what the area would support, and created a concept that would differentiate itself within the landscape of the town.
"I knew it was going to be a big undertaking," he said. "Totally worth it."
[Photos: Provided by Josh Foley]