For the past several years, wife-and-husband duo Kim Vo and Lukas Dow have been executing Asian-inspired barbecue pop-ups in the Boston area in an effort to raise money to open a permanent restaurant. All that work has finally paid off, and now Vo and Dow are on the verge of opening Judy’s Bay, a New England-inspired izakaya, in the former Bondir space in Area Four in Cambridge. Dow, a lifelong Cambridge resident, says it’s “a little surreal” to be opening a restaurant in the city in which he grew up. “10 years ago, I never would have dreamed this was possible.”
The menu at Judy’s Bay will be centered around local seafood, featuring Japanese-inspired takes on old New England classics like baked, stuffed lobster; clams casino; and stuffed quahogs (colloquially known simply as “stuffies”).
“I’m very excited to be working with and sharing my love of the products that come out of our local ports,” says Dow. In addition to meant-to-be-shared bites, Judy’s Bay will have a full liquor license. The bar menu will place an emphasis on sake and soju, though there will be cocktails, beer, cider, and wine as well.
Dow’s love of local seafood comes from his grandparents, Judy (for whom the restaurant is named) and Anthony, who opened a Chinese-American restaurant on the South Shore in 1961 and spent countless days teaching him how to fish. Dow says that his grandparents retired young, and that he was their first grandson, so they spent a lot of time and energy teaching him what they knew about seafood.
“We’d wake up at 4:30 or 5 in the morning to go fishing,” he says. “They were all about ‘if you want to do something, you need to learn how to do it yourself.’ So there was three-year-old me putting worms on hooks, four-year-old me taking spiky fish off hooks and getting jabbed by their fins. By five years old, I was scaling and gutting fish.” By the time he was six, his grandmother was teaching him how to julienne ginger with a big cleaver. And by the time he was seven, Dow says he was a pretty accomplished sous chef, able to do everything from chopping scallions to preparing a whole fish for cooking.
The Judy’s Bay team eventually arrived at the Bondir space in an “extremely serendipitous” manner, according to Dow. They had initially planned to open a more permanent version of their pop-up out of a shared kitchen space in Everett, but that plan was nixed when the city’s health inspector determined they couldn’t safely share the space as a result of the pandemic.
Eventually, a series of Google searches pointed Dow and Vo in the direction of Bondir (which owner Jason Bond plans to reopen in a larger space). They immediately fell in love with the space, which Dow describes as “cozy and warm.” And according to a post on the Judy’s Bay Instagram account, Dow and Vo have formed a relationship with Bond during the process.
The post reads, in part:
So grateful and blessed to be taking over this historic restaurant space. The BIGGEST thank you to chef/owner @jwadebond for everything he has done for us! We never expected to have such a kind and supportive soul guiding us through this transition and, over the last five months, Jason has continually provided us with unsolicited connections, advice and expertise. What started as a mere business deal has grown into a beautiful example of supportive mentorship and what we hope will be a lasting relationship in an often cutthroat industry.
Judy’s Bay is planning a couple of pop-up-style preview events for late September and will open its doors in an official capacity sometime in October.
• Bond Pleased to Shutter Bondir for a Larger Space if Judy’s Bay Gets to Move in With Unique Izakaya [CD]
• Judy’s Bay [Official Site]
• Judy’s Bay [IG]