Many successful restaurants tend to fall into one of two camps: They’re either classic, comfortable mainstays with a solid neighborhood fan base or they’re daring and weird, pulling in food enthusiasts from all over and snapping up breathless press coverage and acclaim locally and beyond. Strip-T’s, somehow, has been both of those things. Now it is closing, the Globe reports, and that’s a huge shame.
The quick Strip-T’s history: Paul Maslow opened the Watertown restaurant in 1986 as a casual neighborhood lunch joint full of sandwiches and soups (dinner came later) and “customer abuse” Fridays, where the servers would get lovably snarky. For around a quarter of a century, this was Strip-T’s, and it worked.
In 2011, Maslow’s son Tim came back from working within David Chang’s Momofuku empire in New York and changed everything. The cozy neighborhood spot started to draw in people from farther away, critics began to obsess, food nerd forums like Chowhound were buzzing. MC Slim JB — who is now the critic for The Improper Bostonian but in those days was writing for the Phoenix, Stuff, and beyond — took notice in his year-end dining awards for 2011, granting Tim Maslow the “How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm? Award,” writing:
To a solid but dull American menu (most popular entrée: plain grilled salmon), Maslow has added a range of far more innovative fare, like charred baby octopus in smoked-tomato / wasabi sauce, and grilled romaine with oxtail and poached egg. Turns out that Maslow Fils just came off a five-year stint in Manhattan superstar David Chang’s restaurant empire, most recently as chef de cuisine at Momofuku Ssäm Bar. Who could do just turkey tips, tuna subs, and quesadillas after that experience? Expect this extravagantly talented young man to get offers at bigger, shinier spaces in Boston very soon.
Indeed, Tim Maslow opened his own place, Ribelle, in Brookline in 2013 — that’s its own story, but it closed in mid-2016 — before spending some time at Tiger Mama in Fenway, consulting at Mida in Brookline, and helping to open a couple restaurants in Camden, Maine. Now he’s got a new Japanese restaurant in the works in Boston’s South End, slated to open later this year.
With Tim Maslow focusing on his own projects a couple years after he began the evolution of Strip-T’s, Paul Maslow made a few other concept and personnel changes over the restaurant’s later years. In late 2014, he simplified the focus, turning back toward the restaurant’s earlier days with casual sandwiches and salads, later adding in an izakaya-style dinner menu for a while, getting back into the vein of what Tim Maslow had been serving.
That later morphed into “modern American, globally influenced, comfort food.” There was light weekday breakfast service for a bit. A popular hamburger and ramen persisted through many of the changes. Just a few months ago, chefs Peter and Mareena McKenzie — both alums of Ribelle and Shepard — came onboard to shake things up again, with Peter adding dishes like a grilled octopus dog (the “octo-dog”) and a fried chicken sandwich with an egg yolk sauce (the “mother and daughter sandwich”) and McKenzie baking up doughnuts and lots of other treats. They relaunched brunch service recently, but now it’s over: Mother’s Day brunch was the final one.
So now, after more than three decades, Strip-T’s is at the end of the line. Paul Maslow hasn’t announced a closing date yet, but he told the Globe that it’s on the market, and he’s no longer taking reservations, per Boston Magazine.
“Business is just not consistent,” Maslow told the Globe. “It’s kind of impossible to know why. Everybody has theories.”