In Boston, it’s often the buzzy new restaurants that get long lines outside the door and are able to quickly build up cult followings. There are plenty of old stalwarts, sure, but they’re less likely to have a two-hour wait on a Saturday night than the newest hotspots in town. Attention spans are short, and diners are hungry for the newest thing. In the suburbs of southeastern Massachusetts, though, the opposite tends to be true: A restaurant needs to have decades of experience to earn those long lines and obsessed followers.
But the Farmer’s Daughter flips the script. The breakfast- and brunch-focused restaurant arrived on Easton’s sleepy Main Street just under five years ago and was able to rapidly build up a fanbase eager to try its farm-to-table cuisine and willing to endure long waits in order to do so.
That devotion is sure to carry over to owner Chandra Gouldrup’s long-awaited sequel, Towneship, opening a few doors down on April 17, 2018, after three years in the making. Where the cozy Farmer’s Daughter is known especially for its morning and afternoon options — although there is dinner service several nights a week — Towneship will be a dinner destination, and a gigantic one at that, complete with outdoor dining, private event space, a chef’s table, a bar, and impressive architecture. It’s built in a 150-year-old Swedish church that also served as a sheet music storage facility for a time; when Gouldrup and her team, including partner David Howe, took it over, it was filled with both pews and filing cabinets.
“I’m really trying to bring a dining experience that you would get in a major city to the suburbs,” Gouldrup said. Her Farmer’s Daughter pitch has always been simple — “we serve real food” — and that will carry over to Towneship, with the added bonus of a truly unique ambiance. “To me, the food’s the easy part,” she said. “Cook local and seasonal; I just like to showcase that on the plate.” She’s hoping that that philosophy, which works so well at Farmer’s Daughter, will be a winning combination when paired with the experience of eating in a big old church that features multiple levels of dining, vaulted ceilings, lush greenery (including a couple of towering black olive trees), and a fireplace.
Not just a sequel and neighbor, Towneship is really an evolution of what Gouldrup and her team have been doing at Farmer’s Daughter, Gouldrup said, and an answer to customers’ requests for dinner that goes beyond Farmer’s Daughter’s “TFD After Dark” (yep, that’s a 90210 reference) on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. That’ll continue after the opening of Towneship — probably with some menu tweaks so that the two dinner experiences aren’t too similar.
“We’re here today because they asked for it, so we built it,” she said, and it’s another piece of the puzzle to bring new life to Main Street.
“When I opened my doors five years ago at Farmer’s Daughter, the town was trying to revitalize this area, and the main street had kind of fallen asleep, which was sad,” she said. “It was tumbleweeds through here. My husband grew up in this area, and it’s now a home for me. It had that New England main street feel, and when you go to a lot of the surrounding downtowns, they have that quaint downtown, and Easton had nothing. It didn’t seem right to me. So with the natural movement from the Father’s Daughter and this area really craving more — I like to think I’m bringing it to them.”
With executive chef Cory Williams (Pastoral, Met Restaurant Group) in the kitchen, Towneship will be serving everything from comforting seafood snacks — think lobster corn dogs and crab beignets — to beautifully plated small and large dishes, such as a seafood potage with a chowder broth poured tableside, a plate of beets that looks like artwork, and a massive ribeye for two.
Here’s the opening menu:
Right by the kitchen, a round chef’s table that can comfortably seat six is the spot to reserve for special occasions or just a fun night out — Gouldrup intends for it to be a customizable experience. “I don’t want [customers] to think [of it as only] stuffy, formal, tiny plates,” she said. “If that’s what they’re looking for, great; we can push that envelope. If they want to have a super local and seasonal experience, we can showcase that. If they just want us to plate up a bunch of great food and serve it family-style...it can really be tailored to their needs. I don’t want it to be just a special occasion type of thing.”
While the opening of Towneship is the culmination of several years of work and anticipation, it’s not the end of the road for Gouldrup and Howe. “We do have a lot of plans,” Gouldrup said. “We’re trying to bring life back to Main Street, so we’ve got a couple other concepts [in mind], like an open market bakery and cafe, which would blend very well with what we do at Farmer’s Daughter. We just don’t have the space right now, so I can’t offer my guests [the opportunity] to sit down, have a cup of coffee, and read the newspaper...for people who still read a newspaper. I think they’re out there somewhere.”
A cookbook could also happen at some point. Plus, they’ve got a farm now — not an active farm yet, “basically a horse farm,” said Gouldrup, but making something of it in the future would be “really true to [the Farmer’s Daughter] brand.”
And yes, there could be another Farmer’s Daughter “in the near future.”
“It has to be a truly perfect location,” said Gouldrup, “because it’s not something that I see doing a lot of. It’ll lose what it is, but I could see one or two other locations in the right area. We’re always scouting. I get people pitching to me all the time, but most places haven’t really spoken to me — it’s so personal and it’s so me, and it has to be somewhere where I can be present. Otherwise it can’t be what it is. I don’t want to just slap my name on something.”
In the meantime, visit the original Farmer’s Daughter — open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday for TFD After Dark — or the brand new Towneship, once it opens next week, starting at 4:30 p.m. daily.