A Medfield restaurant closed its doors this month to make way for a new concept from the same owners, Boston Magazine reported. Owner Craig Neubecker shuttered Zebra’s Bistro and Wine Bar on July 3 and will debut a new, overhauled concept soon.
About six months ago, Zebra’s ditched the white tablecloths, moving in a more casual direction, and now, this temporary closure will help shepherd the restaurant into a new era, Neubecker told Eater.
Neubecker’s push for a new concept comes nearly 17 years after Zebra’s first opened. The restaurant has racked up top praise in the last few years, including a Best of Boston award from Boston Magazine and a "suburban star" from The Boston Globe (among other awards), but Neubecker said the time was right.
"A lot’s changed since then," he said. "And the way that I personally like to eat out has changed as well." No more three- or four-course meals that last for hours, he said. Instead, he wants to be able to grab a bite to eat and still have a quality dining experience, which is exactly what the new, as-yet-unnamed Zebra’s will aim for.
"We want to do that quality food in a very unpretentious, approachable way," Neubecker said. Part of that involves changing the layout of the restaurant. Instead of having three separate spaces — a main dining area, a private dining room, and a bar — the restaurant will become one, with a central U-shaped bar that will serve as the focal point and will help "transfer that energy from one room to the next."
"I’m really excited about having a restaurant that is now in that format that I like to eat," Neubecker said. "I don’t think people want that type of fine dining any more." He said he felt they had a pretty good hold on that niche with Zebra’s, but with a pressing need to evolve, he thought closing the restaurant down for a couple weeks would give the place a fresh start in the eyes of customers.
Chef Joshua Bottini will lead the charge with a new menu. Bottini, formerly of Davio’s, The Franklin Group, Church & Main (Burlington, VT), and The Ocean House (Watch Hill, RI), joins the team at Zebra’s from Spago in Las Vegas. He left for Vegas last March, making his way across the country and tasting food along the way. Bottini’s goal for the new Zebra’s will bring together many of the foods he had on that journey, with a taste of Boston style.
Bottini told Eater the concept of the menu is everything guests have seen somewhere else, but with an approachable twist. There might be bucket fried chicken with ancient spice and fried corn bread, or even chicken skins with cucumber ranch tzatziki and Sriracha.
"Pretty much what I want to do is create an atmosphere where you’re almost coddled to be more adventurous," he said. The food will be interesting and delicious, and if guests haven’t had something before, they won’t be afraid to do so.
There will be one dessert — a carnival-style fried dough with three types of toppings — and the menu will be free of French and Italian words, as well as kitchen terminology. "Just the ingredient, not the cooking style," Bottini said.
"My motto for everything — it’s not for me, it’s for you," he said. "And that’s my motto for the community."
Bottini will change out two menu items a week, so there won’t be any specials at the restaurant, just a focus on the foods.
"All these things on here are things that are just fun," he said. "It’s having fun and enjoying it and not making it anything too pompous." Bottini said it will be a place where customers will always know they’re going to get something new, but also where they’ll be challenged as an eater. "The whole idea of it is to trust us that we know what you want, and it’s okay to order something you’ve never had before."