Boston, in many ways, is a city that lives and dies by its traditions — whether that’s in sports, schools, or even architecture. But when it comes to restaurants, the city’s chefs are pushing more boundaries than ever, cooking to reflect a growing population of open-minded and experienced diners.
Thanks to the large concentration of colleges and universities, the city is home to enormously diverse communities of people “from different countries, and different backgrounds, who are more willing to try new things,” says Jen Fields, General Manager of Alden & Harlow. “I see a lot of people who view food as an academic exercise — and that gives us the ability to sell dishes you wouldn’t be able to sell in other cities.” And, adds Bergamot owner Servio Garcia, because of the universities, “we have 200 to 300 thousand people constantly interchanging, coming and going from all over the world,” he says, so there’s always a new audience coming in that’s eager to explore the restaurant scene.
The Boston restaurant community is also one of the more tight-knit groups. “Everybody knows everybody,” Garcia says. “There is no real belief in competition or rivalry. It’s more like, let’s help each other make Boston a better dining destination.”
Chris Yorty, co-owner of Puritan & Company, references a recent time when a fire in Cambridge displaced several of his restaurant’s neighbors. “We threw a fundraiser, and it was so easy to get 15 chefs from across the city to come and donate their time and food,” he says. “If someone gets in trouble, the chefs here will always band together for the good of the city. It’s not like that in other places.”
Being a coastal city, Boston’s access to great ingredients certainly doesn’t hurt, either. As New England cuisine grows in popularity, according to Yorty, Boston is known for having one of the largest concentrations of excellent New England-style spots, as there are so many local producers and farmers who have set up shop in the city. “You can actually develop a relationship with the fishermen themselves, and not just a middleman distributor,” he says.
Indeed, Boston is not old-world at all — it’s an evolving dining arena with a captive audience. “The people here are dedicated, smart, and they know quality,” Garcia says. “They are used to going out and dining not just in Boston, but all over the world.” [Read more…]