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.
That hurt. I’m tired. I’m closer to 50 than my fellow cook is to 30. I’m glad I’m not really fat anymore, so there is that. If I was still fat, no way I would have survived that. Opening a restaurant/cafe is vicious. It’s hard. The stress. It’s massive. But it’s not only me. It’s everyone. I have a fairly high stress tolerance, but not everyone does. It’s hard. Everyone is on edge. Everyone is trying very hard. But you want to know what? It’s open. Like taking a huge dump, I feel much better.
We are open. Officially. Revival, 125 Cambridge Park Dr. at Alewife in Cambridge, a five-minute walk from the T or conveniently located right on the bike path. We are going to start kinda slow, Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and expand to the weekends after July 4.
It was a hairy opening to say the least. We have had refrigeration issues I’d care never to remember — electrical, ice machine, mixer, oven. We overflowed the sink once (my bad). That kinda sucked. I cleaned it up. And the menu is coming along.
It’s hard to set up a line and configure a space. Where do the garbages go? Where are the knives going? How is our bread stored? Where is the linen? We need a break table. Where are we wrapping up our sandwiches? What are we wrapping them in? How about salad to-go containers? Are we out of canola oil? Does anyone know where the cornstarch is?
It’s all fine. I mean, I’m always a little on the negative side, but I’ve heard some really great feedback so far. The mural by Chloe Rubenstein came out awesome and I love it. And the food is evolving. Big winners so far are all the pastries, especially the Danish. I love a good Danish. Our lamination is on point, so that is good. Croissants are finicky little fuckers. We are doing a kimchi bowl with brown rice and quinoa. I made a few kimchi to start us off, like rhubarb kimchi, and I have a carrot kimchi ready to go next. We are doing a smoked brisket, caramelized onion, and pimento grilled cheese on our own potato bread because, well, potato bread is the best. Did a fried mortadella breakfast sandwich that people seemed to like, so probably more stuff like that.
But, I don’t know. It’s all very surreal. I remember standing outside Commonwealth before friends and family and almost crying. I remember almost crying when my children were born. I almost cried when we opened and the first ticket came in at Revival. And then my wife and kids showed up. That was a great moment. But the fucked up part about it all is that however difficult it was to open, however much work it is to get it done, it’s really only just started. Now the real work starts. The grind. I’m a grinder. Been at this game for a while. It’s hard. Just keep your head down. Stay out of trouble. Treat people well. Serve a good product and hope for the best.
And then, after all that, there is Davis Square. ‘Cause this isn’t a one-and-done. For those of you following along at home, it’s a three-part process: Revival Alewife, then Revival Davis, and the Mothership at Alewife.
So we have to talk about Davis. How can I even think about it? It’s moving, though. We have held on to this space for two years now, and I was trying to get it to move faster, and now all I want to do is slow it down. But the place is cleaned out, gutted, with new supports, new floor, new storefront, and operable windows. All the framing is done. Rough plumbing and electrical next week. It’s moving. It’s gonna be gorgeous. It’s going to be extraordinarily challenging. It’s a quirky space, but I love it nonetheless.
Anyway, that’s all I got. Off to my cousin’s wedding, one of the three things I won’t be missing this year (cause FYI I’m missing everything else lately). I got home the other day at 6 p.m. and that felt like a day off to spend time with my family. Haven’t really seen them awake much lately. It’s only temporary. It’s open. Now I just need to figure out how it works.
Come see me — I’ll be under the EAT sign, probably muttering something like “how could I be so stupid again?” Smiles help and presents are even better. Speaking of presents, got a great one from Jennie [MacPherson] and the team at Commonwealth. Revival is pretty. Gorgeous blues and greens with a hint of yellow, but there is now one red seat, just like Fenway Park. Just like Commonwealth. And now, just like Revival. And I love that. And I love all of you, and thanks for reading, and to all of you out there who have helped, this is for all of you. Now, back to work.