It’s a summer tradition for so many Bostonians: Go up to Portland; eat everything. Especially the acclaimed brown butter lobster roll at Eventide Oyster Co. So when the Eventide team — Big Tree Hospitality, also behind the Honey Paw and Hugo’s in Portland — announced a forthcoming Boston restaurant late last year, there was much rejoicing.
Tomorrow, October 7, Eventide Fenway officially opens its doors to the public at 1321 Boylston St., Boston, inside the Van Ness building.
There are plenty of similarities between the two Eventides, but there are a few key differences. Yes, the lobster roll will be on the menu. Better still: It will be bigger. But visitors to the original Eventide will remember a full-service restaurant, while the new Boston location will have what the team refers to as “continued service,” a sort of hybrid between fast-casual and full-service.
The gist of it: Order from servers who have mobile devices, rather than traditional cash registers, and provide your name and phone number before finding a seat. You’ll receive a text alert when your food is ready, which you can pick up at the counter. But that’s not where the service ends. Roaming servers will check on you and take any additional orders throughout your meal; you don’t need to return to the line to get a refill on your oysters and rose. Customers do bus their own tables, but it’s a simple one-step tray drop. And Eventide Fenway has no gratuity; instead, there’s a 5% administration fee, a practice gaining in popularity in Boston and beyond.
Plus, online ordering will eventually be available on the Eventide website and via an app, launching at a later date.
“Literally from the first summer of opening Eventide up in Portland, we thought that the food and the way people used the restaurant would really lend itself well to a sort of counter-service version,” says chef and co-owner Andrew Taylor, “and we’ve always had our eyes sort of set south. Boston is my hometown; I love it here. We’ve always envisioned it as a great spot to land if we ever did want to expand outside of Portland.”
“That was from the very beginning,” says general manager and co-owner Arlin Smith, “but as the success of Eventide happened — we knew we were going to have a fun spot, but we didn't know to what degree — that's when we started having more serious talks about what do we do with this? How can we expand? We realized that this was something that could be turned into a much bigger concept than just putting a fast-casual spot in Boston.”
As for the particular location, the team was hesitant at first, thinking of the Fenway Taylor knew from around a decade ago. “My vision of Fenway was gas stations and fast food joints and 82 days a year,” Taylor recalls. “We were really impressed, once we started looking at spots in the Boston area, what has happened to this neighborhood. Our landlord Steve Samuels has really done an incredible job of developing this area and making it what it is today, which is basically year-round, lot of young people living here, a lot of workers, a lot of tech companies moving in right above us — and then you have of course the 82 days [of baseball season home games]. So we were just incredibly impressed with this neighborhood and how much it's developed and how far it's come.”
On the menu at Eventide Fenway, aside from the lobster roll, there are oysters, of course — a mix of Maine and Massachusetts types, served by the half dozen and dozen alongside a choice of two accoutrements, from red wine mignonette to pickled red onion ice. There are crudos and tartares on the cold side, while hot dishes include a green curry lobster stew, fish sandwich, and clam chowder. On the side, nori-dusted potato chips and more.
As previously reported, Big Tree pastry chef Kim Rodgers, who serves soft serve topped with thematically appropriate caramelized honey or honeycomb at the Honey Paw, will be serving soft serve here as well. But at Eventide Fenway, it’ll be a brown butter soft serve to complement the famous lobster roll. (“No lobster on the soft serve,” specifies Taylor with a laugh.) Keep an eye out for other seasonal soft serve flavors, as well as other desserts with a very New England spin, from whoopie pies to oatmeal cream pies.
While Eventide in Portland has a full liquor license, the Fenway location is embracing its more casual nature with beer and wine only, featuring a range of beers from near and far and a wine list that features bubbles, whites, sherries, and rosés that play nicely with seafood. Several wines are available on tap. “Keg wines are a really awesome movement, as far as a carbon footprint,” says Smith. (The team is also keeping the environment in mind by serving everything on compostable, disposable plates.) Smith also notes that there will be an emphasis on “high-end bubbles” for those who want a celebratory meal. For non-boozy options, Eventide is serving up house-made sodas and local kombucha.
Eventide Fenway seats 70 (plus about 16 on a seasonal sidewalk patio in front of the restaurant that won’t debut until next spring). The focal point of the space is the oyster bar rock — actually three big pieces of Maine granite held together, totaling 10,000 pounds, an upgrade from the 1,500-pound Portland version. (Don’t worry: It’s situated right on top of a column below the space.)
“That was our biggest design piece at the original location,” says Taylor. “When we opened, it was like it had its own gravitational pull in the restaurant. You could see people moving to it, eyes focused on it as soon as they walked in the room. It became such an awesome dramatic piece, so we really wanted that to be the focal point here, and we wanted to make it even more dramatic.”
Another feature of the space is artwork by Aaron Staples, intricate sumi ink and brush drawings of sea life. (His artwork also appears at the original location.)
Eventide opens at 4 p.m. tomorrow, but starting Sunday, it will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, although hours may eventually be extended on Fenway’s busy event days. No reservations; just show up and find out why Taylor and chef/co-owner Mike Wiley got three Best Chef, Northeast James Beard nominations in a row, finally bringing home the prize this year.
And think of Eventide as everything from a quick workday lunch spot to a special occasion destination.
“Some of our favorite customers in Portland are the ones who sit here for an hour and a half casually, languidly enjoying a wonderful meal,” says Taylor. “We think that’s awesome. We do want to make it easy for people to get in and out, but we also want to cater to those people. We joke: We want a blind date to be able to come here and either get out quickly or spend two hours and have something special.”
“We want to provide people with delicious food,” says Taylor. “This is sort of a modern interpretation of the classic fried clam and lobster roll shops that dot the New England coastline. It’s a fun, energetic space; it’s fun food, not overly pretentious. We try to keep it casual, keep it entertaining.”
“We’re really excited to be here,” says Smith.
“Bostonians have been some of our biggest supporters and biggest clientele up there [in Portland],” says Taylor. “If I had a nickel for every time a Bostonian said, ‘Are you going to open one in Boston?’, it would have paid for this place,” he laughs.