Welcome back to AM Intel, a round-up of mini news bites to kick off the day.
A Trio of Kenmore Square Icons Are Locked in Battle With Their Landlord
On May 27, esteemed restaurateur Garrett Harker posted a lengthy piece of nostalgia to the Eastern Standard Facebook page in celebration of the Kenmore Square icon’s 15th anniversary. It was bittersweet: Due to COVID-19, the restaurant had already been closed, temporarily, for over two months. Harker wrote of the celebratory party that would have taken place and of memories over the years, including his children growing up in the restaurant.
But buried within the post was something else — what sounded like a goodbye. “But ES is something else currently,” Harker wrote. “It’s a line item on a landlord’s balance sheet and chances are they lack the vision to imagine it as anything else. It’s feeble PPP money in a bank account that will have to [be] given back. Right now it’s a memory.”
There was no outright announcement of a closure in the weeks to follow, but rumors of a lease dispute swirled. Finally, a month later, Harker granted The Boston Globe an interview, confirming longtime fans’ fears: Eastern Standard was in trouble — along with its siblings and neighbors at the Hotel Commonwealth, seafood destination Island Creek Oyster Bar and craft cocktail gem the Hawthorne.
Harker has been negotiating with UrbanMeritage, which owns the hotel’s retail properties, for several years, the Globe reported, but those negotiations have grown “more contentious” during the pandemic. The landlords “don’t seem to acknowledge that there’s anything special about these restaurants,” Harker told the Globe. The trio — driving forces in the revitalization of Kenmore Square over the past 15 years — are award-winners that get immense amounts of local (and beyond) attention.
Harker and his partners have received notice that they have defaulted on the venues’ leases over the past several months, which under normal circumstances might have triggered immediate closure. “For now, the state has issued a temporary moratorium on evictions, so things remain in limbo,” reports the Globe. Meanwhile, the four landlords of Harker’s other properties in Boston and beyond have been working with him to renegotiate leases and have not sent letters of default.
For now, countless locals who have celebrated special occasions or just normal late nights or Sunday brunches at Eastern Standard over the years are waiting to see if a compromise can be met somewhere between what Harker believes is the current market rate for the neighborhood, $60 per square foot, and UrbanMeritage’s reported counteroffer of $90.
As the pandemic continues — and the list of permanent restaurant closures continues to grow — some new restaurants are also still managing to open. Here’s a look at a few that are coming down the pipeline:
- Like the Bergamot team planning to turn their Somerville space (118 Beacon St.) into a more casual gastropub, B2, the recently closed Table at Season to Taste (2447 Massachusetts Ave., North Cambridge) will also be converted into a gastropub by at least part of its old team, including owner Robert Harris. The new restaurant will be dubbed Season, and it could open as soon as July 15, featuring a 20-seat patio (groups get individual cabana-like spaces), with indoor seating coming in the early fall. During the pandemic, Harris pivoted his catering company, Season to Taste, into a home delivery and takeout operation called Season to Go. The new restaurant will serve items from Season to Go’s menu and more, including beer, wine, and eventually cocktails.
- Growing local Mexican chain Tenoch, known especially for its tortas, is expanding to Melrose, taking over the former Gabriella’s Italian Pizzeria space at 517 Main St. Tenoch currently has locations in Medford, Somerville’s Davis Square, and Boston’s North End, as well as several trucks (which are not operating at the moment, due to the pandemic). The Tenoch team has also been working on opening a full-service Mexican restaurant, El Tacuba Cocina & Tequila Bar, in Medford for the past two years.
- The Columbus Hospitality Group is converting its Burlington restaurant, L’Andana, into a new location of its Beacon Hill steakhouse, Mooo. L’Andana opened in 2007 and serves wood-grilled, Tuscan-inspired cuisine; Mooo serves upscale steaks. Renovations to the Burlington space (86 Cambridge St.) could begin later this summer, but for now, L’Andana remains open for patio dining. Once it transforms into Mooo, the menu might still include some L’Andana favorites.
- Ball Square pizzeria Eat at Jumbo’s (688 Broadway, Somerville), which was a fairly vegetarian-friendly takeout and delivery staple for Tufts students and other locals, transformed into the fully vegetarian Sassafras two years ago — but now Eat at Jumbo’s is reportedly returning. “We are about to make a comeback! Stay tuned,” notes a post on the Eat at Jumbo’s Facebook page, with a follow-up comment mentioning the possibility of a few Sassafras ticketed dinners “to say goodbye properly.”
In Other News...
- Leather District French restaurant Troquet on South is bringing back Boston’s legendary Speed’s Hot Dog, a now-closed Newmarket Square cart. Troquet owner Chris Campbell was friends with the cart’s late founder, Ezra “Speed” Anderson, whose widow gave him the go-ahead to revive the hot dog — a half-pound Pearl frank with a grilled bun, special sauce, onions, mustard, relish, and bean-free chili. It will be available on Troquet’s bar menu at lunchtime, but if diners ask for it in the dining room, they’ll be able to get it. Takeout also available.
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The World Famous Speed Dog | EST. 1975 - Reborn 2020 - The legendary Newmarket Square hot dog wagon is reborn at Troquet on South. We’ll be honoring the tradition and legacy of Ezra “Speed” Anderson with his ORIGINAL recipe’s. Available daily for take-out or dine-in service. : @seanfrederick - - 1/2 LB. Pearl All Beef Frank • Special Chili Sauce • Sweet Relish • Onions • Mustard • - #BostonSpeedDog #SpeedDog #HotDog #HotDogs # #WorldFamous #HotDogWagon #HotDiggityDog #LeatherDistrict #DowntownBoston #HotDogsofInstagram #HotDogsForDays #DogDays #HotDogStand #HotDogz #StreetFood #HotDogDay #InstaFood #AmericanFood #EaterBoston #Eater
- Protesters descended upon the Whole Foods location at River Street in Cambridge over the weekend in support of employees who were sent home for wearing Black Lives Matter face masks to work. Whole Foods is asserting its longstanding dress code, which prohibits “clothing with visible slogans, messages, logos or advertising that are not company-related,” but employees have released a statement outlining demands for change from the company, including allowing “freedom for all Whole Foods employees to explicitly support Black lives.” More protests are planned.
- “The only Massachusetts map that matters,” declares Universal Hub, sharing a map by Ari Ofsevit that tracks locations of Dunkin’ per capita throughout Massachusetts.
- The PPP loan deadline is tomorrow — with $130 billion still unspent.
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