As I sit at my desk in our new place The Citizen Pub, watching the first snow storm of 2011 and staring across at our other new place, a foray into “fast-food”, Tasty Burger, I find myself reflecting on the State of the Restaurant Scene in Boston these days. When Mo and I first opened Franklin Cafe in 1996 we were part of the third-wave of openings in a prolific and explosive run of new Boston eating establishments. Boston seemed to be coming into its own as a “Food City” and it was very exciting for two local people like us to build a place that would cater too, yes the neighborhood we lived in, but also the professionals in this expanding vibrant industry. My Father was a New Yorker and always (ribbing me because he knew how “patriotic” I was about Boston) called Boston an “One Horse Town.” I got it, as he was coming from a place where he could get the worlds best corned beef sandwich or caviar at 3am…delivered. That said, when the dining hours discussion between Mo and I came up, sitting in a shell of space soon to become the Franklin Cafe, I said “as late as possible!” We decided to serve the full menu until 1:30 am every night and still do to this day at both Boston Franklins. Contrary to popular belief, however, the first six months were very slow (I would let the other Chef go home and cook by myself). Boston was used to having no options other than China Town, the Blue Diner and Buzzy’s Roast Beef. Than a switch flipped and we were packed every late-night. We shortly became known as an industry place and frankly, could not have been prouder to serve our peers. It was an exciting time for us and Boston’s food industry. It was great for us to see it first hand from the point of view of the industry professionals that drove it; Servers, Chefs, Managers, Bartenders and the like.
Now it is 2011. Boston has constant representation on Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, Masters and the like. Boston Chefs are multimillionaires, famous and treated like movie stars. The bar in Boston has been set much, much higher. Bostonians are among some of the most cosmopolitan eaters in the world now. The caliber of cooking is so much higher across the board. The Boston restaurant scene has Michelin Starred Chefs, eight million dollar restaurants, Ming has an Emmy in the middle of his restaurant [deservedly so] and many New York Chefs and Chefs from around the world have turned their eyes to Boston for the next venture.
Like 1996, new restaurants are opening every month. Unlike 1996, it is despite a tragic and uncertain economy. Cities like San Francisco and New York have devastated restaurant markets while Boston still hangs on. We are happy to have the opportunity to be a part of this and despite the fears that the Boston Scene is getting diluted, or is becoming cookie cutter. Despite what a friend of mine in the industry said to me the other day; we do not take risks like in other Cities and it can make us unoriginal. Seth Woods, Owner of Aquitaine Group and a brilliant Restauranteur, once told me a few years back that he felt the scale had tipped and now there were too many seats compared to Patrons in Boston. Although he was probably right, I believe our places are better because of the competition and will just get stronger. Lets face it, the increased competition is always better for the Patrons. You already demand higher standards than you did when I first opened…and you get them.
This is your Boston, of your making. Keep supporting your local places and we can all look forward to what’s around the corner.
S I guess I will leave that for you, the Diners of Boston, to decide.