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The Restaurant Business Will Chew You up and Spit You Out

Nookie’s back with his latest installment of “On the House”

revival alewife
Construction continues
Steve Postal

Welcome back to On the House, a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to open a restaurant — or several. In 2013, Steve “Nookie” Postal shared weekly glimpses into his experience opening Commonwealth in Cambridge, and now he’s back as he works to open two cafes (Revival) and a beer hall (Mothership), all while keeping Commonwealth up and running. Keep an eye out for new installments of On the House on alternate Fridays.

It’s all very overwhelming at the moment. I was talking to my therapist the other day (yes, I have a therapist; everyone should have one), and she was asking the same questions. Bla, bla, bla. No, no, no. Do you feel depressed?

I hesitated. Craned my neck a bit and thought about it. I’m not depressed. I’m not super happy right now, but I’m not depressed; I’ve just got a lot of shit going on right now. “Overwhelming” is a good way to put it. All-encompassing. Deep, dark places, this restaurant world takes you. It’s a lot.

And besides Commonwealth and Crema, and Revival, and Mothership, I have a wife and three kids at home. It’s important for me to be present for them, even though that time seems to be getting shorter.

It goes in waves. Very-busy-can’t-handle to slowing-down-and-getting-antsy. We are on the upswing now: Days are getting longer; less sleep; less time off. It’s all part of it. I understand that, but it’s hard for the kids sometimes. Sometimes it’s cool, but sometimes it kinda sucks. We are in the “kinda sucks” phase now.

So what’s going on? It’s now official: I’m not really a structural engineer. Zoning isn’t my forte. Deciphering architectural plans? Also not excelling at that. I’m feeling like everything I’m doing lately is kinda subpar. I think a lot of people who read this and are in the business, or really any business, can relate to that. I just always think, things can be better. Maybe that’s a gift, maybe a fault. But I’m never satisfied; there is always more to do.

My first sous chef ever, the legendary John Paine of the wonderful Brewer’s Fork in Chaahhlstown, said, “You should always be doing something.” I remember that (he probably doesn’t) and have taken that as my mantra.

Sometimes you gotta slow down. I mean, this isn’t the time for that, but I know it’s gotta be an ebb and flow. This business is tough; it will chew you up and spit you out. To have legs in this industry, you need balance. And luck.

So what else? Remember when I said last time that Davis has good bones? Well, I was right. Apparently its bones are old glass bottles. Great if you love to collect old shit, not great if you are supporting a building. Those were cool, but it really sucks. See? Ebb and flow.

The “bones” of Revival Davis

Went to see the millworkers out in Stoughton; that was cool. They are building some cool stuff for us. It’s quite a process. I think I called it woodworking earlier, but I think millwork is a more righteous name for what they do. These guys are serious craftsman, and it was an impressive shop.

Then, since we were in Stoughton and we are opening a bunch of cafes, we went to IKEA. I don’t really like IKEA, but water glasses are, like, 70 cents, so if we want the beautiful millwork, we might have to get the IKEA glasses. We didn’t buy anything, and I’m still kicking myself for not getting an ice cream cone. Fat Nookie would have definitely gotten one.

Oh yeah, I also dug around in an old abandoned mill in Fitchburg, in the basement, of course. Big, huge, old mill, right on the river. Gorgeous architecture. Amazing doors. Huge old gears and mill thingies. Dripping with patina. It was cool as shit. The basement had, like, 30-foot ceilings. It was also filled with used restaurant equipment. The places this life takes me...

Big couple of weeks coming up. Walls are up in Alewife. Millwork is set to be delivered next week. The mural with Chloe Rubenstein is coming along nicely. We have some crazy idea that I can’t wait to see come to fruition. That one I’m not showing until it’s done.

Been thinking a lot about straws lately. Could we be a cafe that doesn’t have straws? Is that possible? We got these ribbed coffee cups that don’t need sleeves for hot beverages; that’s good, I think. But no straws? I don’t know; I need to keep noodling that one.

Ok, time’s up. One hour. That’s it. Trying to keep my life a little more scheduled. See you in a couple weeks.

revival cafe

Revival (Davis Square)

197 Elm St., Somerville, MA 02144

Revival (Alewife)

125 Cambridgepark Dr., Cambridge, MA 02140 Visit Website