- May 25, 2006
- Reaction score
LinkThe Globe said:Waterfront luring eateries
Ventures hope to snag clients with gimmicks, ties to famous chefs
By Kim-Mai Cutler, Globe Correspondent | June 16, 2006
First came office space, then a hotel, followed by a mammoth convention center on the rejuvenated South Boston Waterfront. But try finding a place to eat.
??Unless you?re into seafood, you?re in trouble,?? said financial analyst Tim Kirwan, sitting near the World Trade Center last week as he ate a sandwich from home. ??Anything would be an improvement.??
There aren?t many restaurants in the developing Seaport District, but a batch of new eateries are finally coming. To thrive, the restaurants seem in need of a famous chef, a big chain to back them up, or a gimmick to lure patrons to an area where parking spaces outnumber pedestrians.
The latest offshoot of the Legal Sea Foods empire, LTK Bar and Kitchen, opened this week. It boasts features none of the other Legals have: touch-screen computerized menus and a place to dock your iPod.
Sauciety, opening next week at the new Westin Boston Waterfront, will let guests choose gourmet sauces to go with cuts of meat and fish.
x And when the new Institute of Contemporary Art opens in September, it will have The Water Cafe, from celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck.
Adjacent to the South Boston Waterfront, the new InterContinental Boston hotel is planning a 24-hour French brasserie, with help from two-star Michelin chef Jacques Chibois. The hotel will also open Sushi Teq, where salsa dancers serve sushi and tequila.
??You have to be a little unique. You have to have a little something to get people over here,?? said Pasquale Presa, executive chef at Sauciety and the Westin. ??We?re starting from an area that has nothing.??
Other restaurateurs may also dive in. Chef Barbara Lynch of No. 9 Park and B&G Oysters fame has looked at space in the area. The Italian food chain Sal?s Pizza is also hunting for a spot.
??A lot of people are dancing around it,?? said Legal Sea Foods? chief executive, Roger Berkowitz, referring to restaurateurs? interest in the waterfront. ??They?re very curious, but I?m not sure a lot of people are committed.??
Without a critical mass of people and attractions on the waterfront, restaurant owners said, it is difficult to decide when to jump in. Berkowitz sees a chicken-and-egg problem: Who should move in first? The people or the restaurants?
The seaport has long been heralded as Boston?s next big neighborhood, but development has been slow. In the 1990s, city officials and developers envisioned turning 1,000 acres into a thriving district with glitzy hotels, upscale apartments, shops, and cafes. But disputes between city officials, property owners, and developers, plus a cumbersome permitting process, have dashed many plans. Construction is picking up, but dining options have been limited to about a dozen or so restaurants, most notably Anthony?s Pier 4, The Barking Crab, and Aura Restaurant & Bar.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino pitched the waterfront to restaurants and retailers last month at a Las Vegas shopping center convention. One incentive: The area is a federally designated ??empowerment zone,?? making a business eligible for up to $3,000 in tax credits for every local employee it hires.
??I don?t think it?s a gamble any longer,?? Menino said. ??People see a potential for the waterfront they didn?t see before.??
??Restaurants can be part of a general revival in attracting outside traffic,?? said Stephan Weiler, an economist for the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City, Mo. But he added that bringing in residents rather than visitors would be more viable in the long run.
For now, restaurateurs are betting their concepts will drum up much-needed attention for the area. If Sauciety succeeds, the Westin may use the concept elsewhere as its own restaurant ??mini-brand,?? said Brian Abel, director of food and beverage.
Bigger chains like Legal see the waterfront as a chance to reinvent themselves. LTK, which stands for Legal?s Test Kitchen, is a bid for a younger, tech-savvy clientele with tapas-style plates and a twist on Boston classics. For example: a lobster roll on grilled flatbread instead of on hot dog buns, with bacon and avocado.
??There?s a generally pretty large workforce, whether it?s at the Design Center or the World Trade Center,?? Berkowitz said. ??And there?s a number of people out there in their 20s and 30s that are eating a little differently and are a little more adventurous.??
Some worry the new high-end restaurants will price out the more affordable cafes. The Boston Harbor Association?s executive director, Vivien Li, whose group pushes for a clean and accessible harbor, said the district needs more everyday food and retail outlets.
??At lunchtime, people want places where they can get quick food,?? she said. ??They only go to fancy restaurants for special occasions or if it?s on the business account.??
Kim-Mai Cutler can be reached at email@example.com.