As is Eater’s annual tradition, we’re closing out 2017 by surveying local food writers (including our own staff and contributors) on various restaurant-related topics, and we’re publishing their responses in these final days of the year. Readers, please feel free to chime in with your own thoughts in the comment section below.
Keep an eye on the Year in Eater archive page for other stories in this series.
Today’s next question: What are your headline predictions for 2018? (See the predictions from 2016 for 2017 here.)
MC Slim JB, restaurant critic for The Improper Bostonian:
“Some ancient chickens will come home to roost in the plummeting from grace of big local industry names due to sexual harassment charges. And I have a few sadly-unresolved repeats from prior years. Our longstanding worker wage issues will get uglier: Trump just made managerial tip-stealing legal. We’ll see more beloved food items (especially seafood) get much more expensive or entirely unavailable due to our backwards-acceleration response to climate change. And again, our great indie restaurants will suffer — some will close, and some bright new talents won't be able to open their own places — thanks to relentless pressure from mediocre national chains and our untenable liquor-license costs. Once again: Support your local artisans, I beg you.”
Marc Hurwitz, founder of Boston's Hidden Restaurants and Boston Restaurant Talk, restaurant critic for Dig Boston, and more:
“The restaurant bubble finally comes (or not — check back with me next year when I'm wrong again). Also, I think the trend of very high-end restaurants coming to Boston will continue, considering all of these uber-luxury residential towers being built and many of them having ground floor commercial/retail space.”
Jenna Pelletier, food editor of Boston Magazine:
“The Honey Paw to Open in Cambridge.”
Jacqueline Cain, associate food editor of Boston Magazine:
“‘Everything Has Closed, Because the Rent Is Just Too Damn High.’ Just kidding. But sometimes, I'm scared.”
Scott Kearnan, editor of Zagat Boston and food editor of the Boston Herald:
“I expect that we'll see more headlines that expose the systemic issues of misogyny, harassment, and sexual assault that are endemic to the restaurant industry, as they are to many others. I hope that we will see more headlines that discuss what we can do about that.”
Catherine Smart, contributor to the Boston Globe and cast member of Milk Street TV:
“More all-day dining. I adore places like Juliet and Mamaleh's where you can pop in for a little something any time of day. I think people are seeking a comfortable place where they can really become regulars, whether it's for a cup of coffee and pastry or a big, celebratory meal. I've yet to check out Ciao Market, but if it's anything like Ciao Pizza and Pasta, it will be a gift. I think we will continue to char the heck out of everything (especially brassicas) and turn Tiki drinks into craft cocktails, and I'm fine with that.”
Sam Hiersteiner, contributor to the Boston Globe and more:
“Man's Diet Falters Again Amidst Sagging Resistance to Peanut Butter.”
Terrence B. Doyle, reporter for Eater Boston:
“$15 Minimum Wage Passes in Massachusetts.”
Alex Wilking, contributor to Eater Boston:
“‘Brookline *Finally* Gets Its First Brewery.’ A man can dream.”
Rachel Leah Blumenthal, editor of Eater Boston:
“Not a lot of positivity in my predictions this year, unfortunately.
On sexual harassment: As others have mentioned, the sexual harassment dominoes have only just begun to fall, and I suspect we’ll be seeing more and more headlines in that vein in the coming year, locally and beyond, in the restaurant industry and beyond. (Note: If there’s something that you think Eater should investigate, in Boston or any city, there are several secure ways to send tips; see instructions here.)
On the journalism side, this leads to interesting questions about whether/how to cover the restaurants associated with admitted or accused harassers. At the Globe, Devra First and some of the Globe critics in other disciplines had an interesting discussion on this recently, and here at Eater, our editor-in-chief Amanda Kludt is thinking about it a lot as well. It’s a tough question. Withholding coverage from otherwise deserving restaurants because their owners turn out to be terrible isn’t fair to all the other employees who depend on the success of those restaurants. But if we do cover them, readers deserve to have the full context so that they can make a decision on whether or not they want to support a restaurant owner/chef/etc. who has behaved in a certain way. But then that goes right back to impacting the business that many others depend on. So what’s the right answer? It’s a question I think we’ll all be exploring a lot in the next year.
On leaving Boston: Due to rising rents and the ever-present talent shortage in Boston, I wouldn’t be surprised to find some Boston chefs decamping to nearby cities to open restaurants in the coming year — places like Worcester, Providence, or Portsmouth, which all have growing (or already amazing) dining scenes that don’t necessarily get enough credit from people living in or close to Boston.
Earlier this year, we published an interview with Deadhorse Hill chef/co-owner Jared Forman — a talented chef with ties to Boston and New York — on why he decided to open a restaurant out in Worcester (and now he’s got a second one coming up soon, too). ‘It was partly financial and partly about the feel of the city,’ Forman said at the time. ‘It just feels right. It feels comfortable, like we can exist out here. And there are plenty of people who want good food.’ I think that’s a sentiment more chefs will be repeating this coming year, as it gets harder and harder to ‘exist’ in Boston.
On liquor licenses: Here’s hoping for an untangling of the local liquor license systems — a solution that somehow finds a way to treat both new and existing businesses fairly, taking into account the hundreds of thousands of dollars some restaurant owners have already invested into liquor licenses while still finding a way to make licenses affordable going forward — and available in under-served neighborhoods. Not sure there’s anywhere close to a perfect solution there, but I’m hoping the powers that be get closer to figuring one out in the coming year. In the meantime, here’s some helpful background on what a mess it all is: ‘Scores of Cambridge restaurants paid six figures for a liquor license. Others got them for free.’ [Boston Globe]; ‘T.T.’s, River Gods owners paying the price of reforms removing liquor licenses’ value.’ [Cambridge Day]
On brewery growth: On a more positive note, I’m expecting we’ll continue to see an exploding Massachusetts beer scene in 2018 — hopefully not to the point where it becomes a perilously big bubble about to pop, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet. For the time being, the more, the merrier. From a consumer standpoint, at least; I can’t speak for brewers. I’m excited that we have a beer writer here at Eater Boston and look forward to sharing more of his stories on local breweries (and restaurants with excellent beer programs) in 2018. We’ll be featuring a mix of the seemingly endless stream of new breweries as well as classic spots. Stay tuned.
A few miscellaneous optimistic headline predictions: Boston Gets Its First Puppy Cafe. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Finally Follows Its Upstate and Western NY Comrades Into Boston. Sweetgreen, Caffe Nero, and Dig Inn Collectively Decide That Boston Finally Has Enough Locations of All of Them. Not a Single Juice Bar Opened in Boston in 2018. More Local Independent Restaurants Open in 2018, Reversing the Out-of-Town Fast-Casual Trend.”