Eventide Fenway, which has been open for just over five months now, feels already firmly entrenched in Fenway’s booming dining scene. The young restaurant quickly snapped up Eater Boston’s 2017 award for fast-casual restaurant of the year in December, and its lobster roll — which was born at the original Eventide in Portland, Maine — is among the city’s best (despite what one critic may say). Diners can get a fried oyster roll, oysters on the half shell, a selection of different crudo, clam chowder, and even a chicken katsu sandwich. It’s as though the menu of a seafood shack (minus the chicken katsu sandwich) from some idyllic town on Maine’s coast were transported to the kitchen of a chic space in the city.
Summer in New England is practically defined by seafood shacks — and also by baseball, so it’s fitting Eventide chose Fenway for its foray into Boston. And this spring will mark the first time Eventide Fenway will coincide with Red Sox baseball. (It was open at the tail end of the local team’s short run in the 2017 MLB playoffs, but not long enough to gauge what the clientele — or the volume — would look like.) Chef Mike Wiley says that Eventide is preparing for that eventuality.
“We plan to staff up for first game,” Wiley told Eater. “We want to make sure from a culinary standpoint we’re ready to rock and roll once the season is underway. We want to be really efficient, and we don’t want to let the standards fall. We want to be putting the same food out when we do 500 covers that we do when we do five covers.”
Wiley also has something else up his sleeve for the beginning of baseball season: Eventide is going to do a knockwurst.
“It’s another nod to the location we’re in,” said Arlin Smith, Eventide Fenway’s general manager and co-owner.
Smith noted that they didn’t choose the Fenway neighborhood because of the ballpark but that they were still eager to embrace all that history.
“We knew it is a big part of the neighborhood,” Smith told Eater. “And we don’t want to act like we’re not a part of it. Quite opposite: We’re embracing it and hoping to take advantage of [game] days. And we’re excited to offer something different than the norm on game day.”
“People can come in and crush oysters, eat a great sandwich, and still get alcohol but not be in a dark, dingy atmosphere surrounded by televisions,” Smith continued. “It’s another option for families to take advantage of.”
Wiley echoed Smith’s enthusiasm, though he admitted he has less history here than he does in Portland.
“It’s harder for me because I don’t have the history of living in Boston...but when the Sox are in town, the vibe changes,” said Wiley. “Boom, history. This has been like this for however long they’ve been playing.”
It’s a unique vibe for the Boston location, which has a number of differences from its full-service sibling up in Portland. Indeed, the Boston location was never meant to be an exact replica. Addressing the similarities — and differences — between the Boston and Portland locations, Wiley and Smith had similar things to say.
“We really wanted people who had been in Eventide in Portland to, when they walked into Fenway, recognize the space and feel some familiarity,” said Wiley. “But a carbon copy didn’t make a heck of a lot of sense. We wanted to maintain the same design idiom — the same colors, the same materials — but make it feel more cosmopolitan...Of course, you can only get so cosmopolitan when you’re serving food on compostable plates.”
“Going into Boston, and this concept being different — we wanted to push the concept of fast-casual with continued service — we wanted to clean it up a bit,” said Smith. “We took the same colors and similar materials — concrete counters and art — but with clean, airy lines. We wanted it to be well-lit. And we made an intentional decision to ensure it didn’t feel kitschy; we didn’t want to fit some rustic shack into a city.”
While Red Sox baseball and new clientele are both exciting, they’re not the only reasons Smith is excited for spring.
“We’re excited to be busier, but we’re also excited get fresher products,” said Smith, noting Boston’s many farmers markets and its abundance of great fish markets.
If you’re headed out to a ballgame this spring — and you don’t want to hang out in a dark sports bar — give Eventide a whirl. And get the lobster roll.
This is part of a series of features highlighting the 2017 Eater Awards winners. Read the rest here: