A homey, fun restaurant called Ritcey East will open around the last week of August in Watertown, and the name is a tribute to the old family business, according to owner Michaela Ritcey, the youngest of six children in a restaurant family. It’s taking over the Raider Tavern space at 208 Waverley Ave., as Boston Restaurant Talk noted.
Ritcey’s parents owned Ritcey's Sea Food Kitchen in Waltham, which closed in 2005 after 95 years of life as a fish market and then as a restaurant (the conversion happened in the 1940s.) But what Ritcey didn’t know was that there was also briefly a Ritcey’s West across the street. Last year, while she was getting things together to open her own restaurant, she stumbled on a Facebook post in a Waltham group reminiscing about the second restaurant, which she had never heard of, and her mom confirmed that it was open for three years but closed the year of Ritcey’s birth because her dad “felt like too much was going on; he couldn’t handle both restaurants and having a new kid.” As a tribute to the name and to her parents, Ritcey is calling her forthcoming restaurant Ritcey East.
Ritcey had always hoped to take over Ritcey’s Sea Food Kitchen, but her parents wanted her to go to school for something else and only return to the restaurant industry if she truly loved it. “I never quit,” she tells Eater. “I bartended all through college, I did some prep work, and as soon as I graduated, I got into managing.” Then, this space in Watertown fortuitously popped up — “a small space, a great starter space,” she says. It’ll seat 55.
“Then I got brainstorming, and the places I absolutely love are feel-good, homey places,” she says. “We’re so chef-based right now, which I love and appreciate, but we forget what restaurants used to be like. Before Yelp, before you could travel everywhere, they were neighborhood spots where you’d go and feel like family. I feel like my parents’ restaurant really did that, and that’s what I want to purvey in my restaurant. I want comfort food that I’m sourcing as locally as I can, that I’m not buying frozen, that I’m prepping in-house in a small space and trying to fill up people with the best food I can.”
There will be a play on a fast-food burger, she says, and she’s currently practicing fries. Also on the menu: dishes like fish and chips and “adult Hot Pockets,” which will be ham and cheese empanadas. “Just fun, homey food that people can feel is approachable but still fun and homemade and with an interesting twist. Everything I do kind of has a weird twist on it because I’m a little bit of a weird person,” she laughs.
Ritcey East has a full liquor license, and Ritcey — a self-proclaimed “wine nerd” — is especially excited about the wine selection, which she says will be “approachable” and offer something for everyone, from the “wine snob” to “someone who doesn’t know how to pronounce ‘pinot grigio.’”
As Ritcey East heads towards its expected late August opening, there’s not too much more to be done; Ritcey has already hit up the antique stores to furnish the space, which features a gray-blue color scheme, dark wood, and a bit of a rustic feel. But the installation of signage out front will have to wait just a bit longer as the building is being rebricked.
When the restaurant opens, it’ll only serve dinner for a while. Expect lunch service to kick in around Christmas. Stay tuned for updates about Ritcey East’s Watertown debut.
• Ritcey East [FB]