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Boston Restaurants Are Expanding to the Suburbs as the Pandemic Continues

The narrative of the pandemic emptying out US cities may be overblown, but at least a few local restaurateurs are finding opportunities for expansion beyond Boston

Several pieces of fried chicken sit in a high-rimmed white bowl on a table with a vase of red flowers visible in the background. Plush red booth seating is also visible.
Fried chicken from Buttermilk & Bourbon, which is expanding to Watertown in 2021
Maria DeNapoli

It’s become a common pandemic-era narrative: City dwellers around the United States are supposedly fleeing to the suburbs, or at least searching real estate sites for suburban homes at a slightly higher rate than before. The narrative is overblown, says Curbed: Housing-market data just doesn’t support it. Still, there’s something to be said for dreaming of more space at a time like this. Who doesn’t want to have a backyard in which to lounge, unmasked? What city restaurant owner hasn’t been wishing for more — or any — outdoor dining space over the past few months?

Suburban flight might not be a real consequence of the pandemic, but anecdotally speaking, a few local restaurateurs are indeed signing deals to bring their existing restaurants or new ones outside of the city. Here’s a rundown on a few beyond-Boston projects coming down the pipeline.

Buttermilk & Bourbon in Watertown

Jason Santos’ New Orleans-inspired restaurant Buttermilk & Bourbon, which opened in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood in early 2017, is slated to expand to Watertown’s Arsenal Yards development in early 2021, representatives for the development announced this week. It will take up 3,000 square feet of space at the development, which will ultimately fill one million square feet with retail, apartments, a hotel, and life science space.

At the original location of the restaurant, customers are particularly fond of dishes such as the fried chicken (try it Nashville hot) and the honey-glazed biscuits. There is also a substantial bourbon selection.

Arsenal Yards construction is on track for fall 2021 completion, although parts of it have already been up and running for a while, including a few dining options: New Haven pizzeria chain Frank Pepe, City Works Eatery and Pour House (a small national chain), and larger chains Shake Shack, Chipotle, and Ben & Jerry’s. Coming up in 2021: a conveyor-belt sushi chain, poke, yakitori, and more.

Boston restaurant the Gallows and its sibling Blackbird Doughnuts were also supposed to expand to Arsenal Yards, as reported in late 2019, but that expansion is currently on hold. “With the uncertainty and the stress of the last eight months in the restaurant business, the Gallows has been paused in moving forward, but we expect them to resume their plans sometime in the future,” said Bill McQuillan, principal at Boylston Properties, which is a co-developer of Arsenal Yards with Wilder.

The upcoming expansion of Buttermilk & Bourbon to Watertown isn’t Jason Santos’ only suburban expansion. The restaurateur, who is also behind two other Boston proper restaurants (Citrus & Salt and Abby Lane), opened B & B Fish up in Marblehead just a few weeks ago. The counter-service restaurant blends New England shoreline cuisine with Southern influences, and some hints of Buttermilk & Bourbon are on the menu, including the fried chicken and biscuits, beignets, and soft-serve ice cream.

Something from the Mida team in Newton

Chef Douglass Williams and partners Brian Lesser and Seth Gerber, from the Italian gem Mida in Boston’s South End, announced in September that they’d be opening a new restaurant at a Newton mixed-use development, Trio Newton, around spring 2021.

Like Mida, the new restaurant will serve Italian food; it will have a bar and patio and will serve lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch.

The overall development will have 42,000 square feet of retail and dining space, as well as 140 apartments. Local vegetarian chain Clover Food Lab is also slated to open there in 2021.

Nomai, from the Shōjō team, in Hingham

Brian Moy, executive chef Mike Stark, and the rest of the team behind popular Chinatown spots Shōjō and Ruckus have a new restaurant in the works out in Hingham, Nomai, they announced this week. It will be located at Hingham’s Derby Street Shops, with an opening planned for spring 2021. No word on the menu yet, but Shōjō and Ruckus both lean in the modern pan-Asian direction, with a focus on small plates and cocktails at the former and fast-casual noodles at the latter. Interested fans can follow along on Instagram for updates.

Derby Street Shops’ existing dining lineup includes Bertucci’s, Burtons Grill, Cava, Legal C Bar, Gelato & Chill, and a few other spots.

Achilito’s Taqueria in Foxborough

Margaret Pimentel’s Jamaica Plain taqueria, which has been open for a couple years, is expanding to Patriot Place (home of Gillette Stadium), opening this December for indoor dining and takeout and joining a long list of restaurants at the development. (Achilito’s will be located near Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop and Tavolino.)

On the menu at the counter-service restaurant: Baja shrimp tacos, chicharron pupusas, Buffalo chicken quesadillas, brisket and mole enchiladas, al pastor tostadas, carnitas nachos, churros, and lots more.

Northern Spy, from the Loyal Nine team, in Canton

This was already in the works way before the pandemic began, but the team behind Cambridge’s Loyal Nine has a spacious restaurant coming soon to an old copper mill at the Paul Revere Heritage site in Canton. Centered around an open kitchen with a wood-fired hearth, Northern Spy will serve “the soul of New England comfort food” — early communications from the team mentioned dishes like prime rib, hot buttered crab on Parker House rolls, and chowder — with plenty of kid-friendly options. Follow along on Instagram for sneak peeks.

Back in August, co-owner Daniel Myers told Eater that the restaurant would have been open already had it not been for COVID-related construction and sourcing delays, but he was hopeful for a fall 2020 opening, pending the status of the pandemic. He also noted that there would be “a strong takeout presence” and delivery available, as well as outdoor dining space.

Update, November 20, 2020: This piece has been updated to include a note on the status of the planned expansion of the Gallows to Arsenal Yards.

Achilito's Taqueria

38 Hyde Park Ave., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130 Visit Website

Loyal Nine

660 Cambridge Street, , MA 02141 (617) 945-2576 Visit Website

MIDA

782 Tremont Street, , MA 02118 (617) 936-3490 Visit Website

Shojo

9 Tyler Street, , MA 02111 (617) 423-7888 Visit Website

Buttermilk & Bourbon (Back Bay)

160 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02116 (617) 266-1122 Visit Website

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