Welcome back to AM Intel, a round-up of mini news bites to kick off the week.
Takeout and delivery alone won’t save restaurants. Neither will the addition of a few patio seats, now that outdoor dining is allowed again (with a long list of restrictions). While waiting for relief bills to pass and full service to resume, restaurants continue to reinvent themselves, adding groceries, virtual dinners, and more as a way to keep some staff employed and a bit of money coming in during the pandemic.
Here’s a rundown on some recent and upcoming changes at a number of local restaurants and food businesses:
- Brassica Kitchen & Cafe (3710 Washington St., Jamaica Plain, Boston): Brassica is temporarily closed as of today, June 15, for renovations, with an eye toward reopening in mid-July. Some of the improvements will help with pandemic business, such as building a patio and adding a provisions store onsite, selling bread, ice cream pints, butter, ferments, and more. There are some general improvements planned, too, like redesigning the menus, painting, extending the bar, and beginning an open-book format for staff. Stay tuned for an exact reopening date.
- Cafe du Pays (233 Cardinal Medeiros Ave., Cambridge): The French-Canadian/New England restaurant is taking a break for the pandemic, converting instead into a specialty grocery store, Vincent’s Corner Grocery, selling prepared cafe items, wine, pantry staples, and more (not to mention used records). Online ordering is available. The name is a throwback to a previous occupant of the space — the original Vincent’s Corner Grocery opened in 1916, and the Vincent’s name remained, under various owners and concepts, until the 1970s.
- In Season Food Shop at Bow Market (1 Bow Market Way, Somerville): What started as a shop offering hot meals made with seasonal produce, as well as a small selection of local provisions, has rebranded into Picnic & Pantry, now focusing on (and expanding) the retail aspect of the original plan. “We are so happy to be a store where you can find everything from Prufrock cheese and Red Fire Farm strawberries to Abracadabra cold brew and Luce Farm CBD,” owner Bobby MacLean tells Eater. The shop’s online store is up and running, offering pickup and same-day delivery around Cambridge and Somerville. For the month of June, Picnic & Pantry is donating 20% of sales to the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition. The former In Season Food Shop’s prepared food days aren’t entirely behind it, though: The Biscuit, a longtime Somerville cafe that closed its Washington Street location at the end of 2019, is onsite baking up breads, pastries, and more. For now, pre-ordering is a must.
- Parlor Sports (1 Beacon St., Somerville): The Trina’s Starlite Lounge sibling/neighbor is taking an “intermission,” transforming, for now, into Startlite Snack Shack, a casual purveyor of soft-serve ice cream, hot dogs, burgers, and the like. Stay tuned for an opening in the coming days.
- Steel & Rye (95 Eliot St., Milton): In Milton, on the edge of Dorchester, Steel & Rye has recently opened a full bakery within the spacious restaurant. It’s something that was actually in the works for the past year, but for now, it’s an added boost to Steel & Rye’s takeout options (and hours) and parking lot patio. When things get back to normal, it’ll operate like a cafe during the day, laptops welcome. The menu includes breads baked onsite, sandwiches made with those breads, grain bowls, salads, and more.
- Taranta (210 Hanover St., North End, Boston): Chef Jose Duarte’s Peruvian-meets-Italian gem is serving a limited menu on a small patio, but the restaurant has also launched a casual takeout menu under the name of Taqueria La Reina: tacos, pupusas, burritos, and more.
- Tasting Counter (14 Tyler St., Somerville): Chef Peter Ungár’s Somerville fine-dining restaurant hasn’t offered takeout or delivery during the pandemic but is now “reopening” with a two-hour virtual interactive dining experience, TC@Home, on Friday and Saturday nights. Customers receive pre-portioned ingredients for a three-course meal (delivery and pickup available) and then tune into a Zoom call where Ungár walks everyone through the preparation and plating of the meal. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage pairings are also available to purchase, as well as Tasting Counter’s line of preserves, hot sauces, and vinegars.
In Other News...
- As Boston-area restaurants make changes, so too do restaurants elsewhere in the region (and beyond). Here’s a look at Maine’s famous Lost Kitchen — one of the most difficult reservations to get during a normal season — and what founder Erin French is doing to keep the restaurant alive.
- Since launching in March, Project Paulie has grown from founder Nicky Bandera dropping off trays of lasagna to out-of-work service industry friends to “raising money for the service industry through the spreading of lasagna and joy” with a network of helpers and corporate sponsorship. The focus has shifted in June: Now the general public can order lasagna online, for local delivery or pickup, with 100% of the proceeds going to The Loveland Foundation and Color of Change.
- As restrictions and curfews begin to lift around the world, here’s a look at the dining scenes in 17 international cities on June 2, 2020.
- Just like restaurants, culinary schools and their students are in limbo.
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