Regional Greek food in America has yet to see its heyday, but a local Greek restaurant group is aiming to change the cuisine’s trajectory. Starting this week, Boston will be home to what may be the first restaurant in the U.S. to celebrate the food of the Vlachs, an ethnic group of nomadic shepherds in northern and central Greece. “It’s kind of the Greece that’s a little off the beaten track,” says culinary director Brendan Pelley.
In the mountainous areas where the restaurant draws its inspiration, spit-roasted meats, braised dishes, and foraged foods are markers of the cuisine. At Bar Vlaha in Brookline, that translates into a menu that highlights rustic, homey, stick-to-your-ribs country cooking. Beef cheeks, chickpeas, and wild boar shoulder are all found on a section of the menu dedicated to traditional braised fare, based on village dishes that would typically be baked in a clay pot in a communal oven. The savory pitas are stuffed with foraged fare like mushrooms and spring onions. Diners are encouraged to dig into juicy slabs of roasted lamb with their hands. This is not a small plates affair: The braised and roasted meats and dense and buttery pies could each be the star of their own show. “We want you to feel you’re eating food that has a lot of love in it,” Pelley says.
Similar to the group’s other runaway hits — including Greek restaurant and wine bar Krasi and its subterranean cocktail bar Hecate in Back Bay — the environment at Bar Vlaha feels like it could spark an impromptu party at any moment. It’s the sort of place to bring a big group of people and share everything on the table, or keep coming back to work your way through the menu. “There’s a lot of hearty dishes here but they are meant to be passed around the table and shared with one another,” Pelley says. “And the idea is that you come to Bar Vlaha and you try a few things, and then you come back — like later that week — and there’s always more stuff to try.”
Nearby diners are already gearing up for that idea. During a recent trial run for dinner service, a pair of passersby poked their heads into the restaurant while the night was in full swing. “Is it open yet?” they asked. “Can we come in?” They’ve been eagerly waiting for the public unveiling from their home three blocks away.
Now, the wait is over. Take a look around Bar Vlaha ahead of its opening on March 23.
Bar Vlaha is located in Brookline at 1653 Beacon Street. Reservations are available here.