After finding one’s way into East Boston’s newest cocktail bar Next Door once it opens on March 24, 2022, one is likely to spot beverage director Josue Castillo setting a garnish on fire or carefully placing a flavor-packed smoke bubble atop a drink. Everything feels theatrical at Next Door, from the presentation of each cocktail to the heavy gilded curtain blocking passerbys’ views inside.
There are lots of little bits of whimsy, starting with just figuring out how to get into the place. (In order to preserve the fun, you’re on your own there.) There’s a cocktail that arrives in a locked treasure chest. There are the aforementioned smoke bubbles. It would be easy for a place like this to sway too gimmicky, but Next Door strikes the right balance: This is a serious cocktail bar with real care behind the menu. Castillo and the team are making all sorts of interesting syrups, bitters, clear ice, and other accoutrements in-house and really focusing on highlighting smaller labels, not the big-name liquor brands.
Billed as a “speakeasy and raw bar,” Next Door has a concise food menu owners Raffaele Scalzi and Mivan Spencer developed in conjunction with executive chef Stephen Ennamorati that focuses almost entirely on seafood: tartare, crudo, and ceviche; oysters and other raw bar items; caviar; and such. Beyond seafood, there’s a charcuterie board and steak tartare, plus a few desserts.
As Scalzi told Eater in fall 2021 when the team first announced the project, the food menu is meant to be complementary to the cocktails; this is a cocktail bar with food, not a restaurant with cocktails. But all involved are quick to point out that it’s been a very collaborative project and team effort, with plans for the dishes and the drinks playing off of one another. Consider the Take Your Time cocktail, for example, which is Next Door’s take on an Old Fashioned. One ingredient is a toasted sesame seed maple syrup, which is meant to match the ahi tuna tacos served on toasted sesame wonton shells.
Scalzi and Spencer opened Italian restaurant Pazza on Porter in East Boston in fall 2019; Scalzi is cofounder of the Boston Pizza Festival and co-owner of Casa Mia in Marblehead, and Spencer owns Caffe Dello Sport in Boston’s North End. When they found out that the space next door to Pazza was available, they decided to turn it into a bar, and thus the idea for Next Door was born. The goal was a speakeasy-inspired venue, at least in terms of the secretive entry and exclusive vibes, but the team didn’t want a bar that looked like an actual dark and gloomy Prohibition-era speakeasy. Designed by Boston-based Hacin + Associates, Next Door has lush blue banquettes and seats, marble surfaces, gold accents, and intricate lighting fixtures. More date night, less hiding from Prohibition agents.
Next Door opens at 103 Porter Street, East Boston, on March 24; it will operate from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday through Sunday. Find notes on the dress code and other pertinent details here and make a reservation here. Enter through Pazza on Porter at 107 Porter Street.