In the final days before its opening, Blue Ribbon Brasserie in Kenmore Square bustled with activity. Staff members carefully stocked the whiskey-heavy bar and placed festive holiday decorations in between the bistro seating areas. Chef and co-owner Eric Bromberg hustled in and out of the kitchen, bringing spoonfuls of sweet and spicy catfish and steak tartare to his brother, fellow chef, and co-owner Bruce Bromberg to sample.
The Brombergs are best known for Blue Ribbon Brasserie in New York City, a late-night industry favorite that’s been dishing up oysters and bone marrow for 31 years. What’s less known is that many of the items on the menu were inspired by the Bromberg brothers’ childhood travels to Boston and New England. The siblings are now experiencing a bit of a full circle moment with the opening of Blue Ribbon Brasserie in Boston on December 5, complete with a menu that reflects those seafood-soaked adventures.
“We created a menu from our memories as a kid,” says Bruce Bromberg. “And some of those memories included driving through Boston and driving through New England on trips up to Maine and the lobster rolls and the chowders, and that’s what’s been on the menu at Blue Ribbon for 31 years.”
When Blue Ribbon Brasserie New York reopened after the pandemic shutdowns, the menu had been trimmed down out of necessity. At the Boston restaurant, a lot of the old favorite dishes that were cut will be reborn, like soft, savory pierogies and a pupu platter with ribs, chicken wings, shrimp, and other items that guests will roast over their own tableside fire.
There are several completely new dishes on the Boston menu as well including a black back flounder from local supplier Wulf’s Fish that will be steamed and served whole with ginger, scallion, chilies, and other aromatics.
“We’ve kind of challenged all the seafood purveyors to bring us the coolest items they can find, things nobody else wants,” says Bromberg. “There’ll be everything from various hardshell crabs to uni and local things, even whelks, all different types of interesting sea creatures.”
The Blue Ribbon Brasserie concept was inspired by Au Pied de Cochon, a 24-hour restaurant and oyster bar in Paris that the Bromberg brothers have loved since childhood. Blue Ribbon isn’t a replica of that by any means — Bromberg wouldn’t even categorize it as a French restaurant — but it channels a similar camaraderie among neighborhood locals.
Eastern Standard, the former occupant of the space, had a similar identity as a late-night meeting ground for industry folks. They’re now operating down the block in the Bower apartment complex. In the 260-seat restaurant, the Brombergs can explore their brasserie concept on an even grander scale. Diners can order classic cocktails from a 70-foot white Carrera marble bar, and peruse the menu in intimate booths lined with leather banquets moodily lit by shaded table lamps.
The Parisian bistro inspiration comes through in the oyster bar at the front of the restaurant, stocked with Island Creeks and other local varieties, and in the solarium, an indoor-outdoor patio right on Commonwealth Avenue overlooking Kenmore Square.
Blue Ribbon Brasserie is the final of three Blue Ribbon concepts on the block, including Blue Ribbon Sushi and Pescador in the Hotel Commonwealth. Because the team has been working on the block for three years already, they had a lot of time to chat with folks in the neighborhood and hear their feedback. It turns out Kenmore Square locals were having a hard time finding Guinness, Bromberg says. He acted accordingly.
“We have a dedicated tap just for the Guinness,” Bromberg laughs. “We’re giving the people what they need.”
Blue Ribbon Brasserie is located at 528 Commonwealth Avenue. It is open seven days per week, from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. (Kitchen stays open until midnight). Reservations are available here.