Chef-driven eating places are popping up on the North Shore as Boston turns into ever costlier

Chef-driven eating places are popping up on the North Shore as Boston turns into ever costlier

The couple’s spirit of adventure is part of a wave of new and revitalized North Shore restaurants, some in unusual towns and communities such as Lynn, Swampscott and Revere.

Get the big job

The model for young chefs was once to find a small spot in an up-and-coming neighborhood in Boston or Cambridge, add sweat, equity and dreams, and build a business. But as Boston became more commercial and real estate — let alone liquor licenses — became more expensive, finding that first tiny restaurant space became more difficult. Initially, chefs moved west to the restaurant-rich suburbs of Newton and beyond. Now the exodus has moved north, where chefs and independent restaurateurs are finding community support.

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Chef and owner Aaron Chambers at Settler in Salem.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

At Nightshade Noodle Bar, chef Rachel Miller draws a regular clientele to her small eatery off a Lynn side street. It serves langoustines imported from Norway, live sea urchins and foie gras, among other items, with 95 percent of diners ordering a 7- to 14-course tasting menu for dishes like fried circle of bone marrow with snow peas, smoked raisins and black vinegar and butter sauce.

As Miller explains, she could have stayed in Boston, but it would have been “a whole different ballgame” and not the intimate, chef-driven concept she envisioned. “Maybe I would have been stuck in a $5 million sports bar for the rest of my life,” she says, but it wouldn’t have been hers.

Chef and owner Rachel Miller of Nightshade Noodle Bar in Lynn.Barry Chin / Globe contributor

“Nobody invested in this tattooed, openly gay, Jewish chef,” she says, so she decided to move to a place where the rent is a fraction of what it would cost in Boston, and the city government supports her , and she’s in control.

Not all changes will affect new restaurants or new chefs. The Landing on Marblehead Harbor turns 50 next month, but the pandemic dictated a change. Robert Simonelli, general manager and owner, says that while the restaurant had customers, an enviable view, and a recent renovation, they knew they had to work on the food.

By a happy accident he met Alex Pineda, the son of the famous chef Lydia Shire, who had moved to Marblehead with his wife.

General Manager/Partner Robert Simonelli, Executive Chef Alex Pineda and Executive Chef Noe Ortega at The Landing in Marblehead.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

“I was the chef of [Shire’s] Scampo,” said Pineda, 32, who was educated in Europe and the United States before running his mother’s restaurant. “I could have taken over my mother’s empire – or part of it – but it would never be mine,” says Pineda. When the gastronomy was closed in March 2020, he was suddenly free and began to reevaluate.

Eventually, Pineda agreed to serve as executive chef at The Landing when it reopened to guests in 2021, bringing with him his co-chef Noe Ortega, who had worked at Scampo and Encore.

To the lineup of staid Yankee classics, they added their own innovative dishes. A new bucatini with clams was reminiscent of shire and scampo; The grilled oysters are a customer favorite, and the yucca fritters come from Pineda’s Colombian heritage on her father’s side. The guests react, says Simonelli. Where the ocean view used to be the draw, now people come for the food too.

Pastrami Ruben at Frank’s in Beverly. Lane Turner/Globe Staff

At L’Espalier in Back Bay, Frank McClelland has long held a respected place as one of Boston’s finest chefs. But when he closed the restaurant in December 2018, he knew he wanted something different. “I saw the exodus from the city before the pandemic,” says McClelland. He lived in Essex and wanted access to small farms in his area. He eventually decided to open Frank in Beverly.

“Of course the rents aren’t nearly as high,” he says, and it’s 15 minutes from home instead of an hour or more. Frank is large with 180 seats including a terrace, is open daily for lunch, dinner and brunch and has a lively market with takeaway food, cheese and wines.

Frank McClelland in the dining room at his Frank restaurant in Beverly.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Although he didn’t initially think Frank was a special occasion restaurant, he’s found that many customers come for it. But the biggest demographic for its dishes — which include duck confit with Sichuan mashed carrots and the Frank burger with bacon jam and hand-cut fries — are diners in their late 20s to early 40s.

As cities and communities like Beverly and Lynn add more high-end apartment complexes and condos, clientele for new restaurants is growing.

The long years of COVID have helped, several chefs say, with many people working from home or choosing to live out of town. Frank opened in November 2019 and McClelland credits his in-restaurant market and takeaway with helping it weather the 2020 closures.

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Shrimp noodles at Settler in Salem. Lane Turner/Globe Staff

COVID also played a role in Don Golden’s decision to open the Nordic-inspired Njord Haven across from the beach in Swampscott in early March. The South Boston native, who had a long career as a company chef but wanted to have his own restaurant, decided “the numbers are easier to manage because of lower rents,” and he “felt he’d have more support if it became one.” revival would come”. from COVID. Golden’s Small Plates menu features lamb chops with rosemary glaze and Lingon vinegar gel, as well as Southeast Asian dishes, including Thai som tom salad with green papaya, dried shrimp and tomatoes. There will also be outdoor seating at Njord Haven in May.

Grilled swordfish at The Landing in Marblehead. Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Zestfriendz down the road, a bakery by day and cocktail bar by night, also recently opened. Longtime friends Trudi Fagerlund and Margie Peterson worked in biotechnology and finance, respectively. But as Fagerlund says, “Margie had a dream of opening her own bakery, and I wanted a bar.” After buying the building that housed another restaurant, they opened Zestfriendz in a light-filled space last October , which they remodeled themselves and did everything except the electrical and plumbing work.

Peterson and another baker work during the day, and Fagerlund, who kept her job during the day, runs the bar and small plate operations at night. It’s more work than ever, they both say, but Peterson’s scones and Fagerlund’s cocktails are drawing customers.

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The view was one of the reasons Michael Aldi, who had owned restaurants in Boston, took a chance on Revere Beach and located Dryft on the second floor of a new apartment building overlooking the ocean. Aldi says it was initially skeptical about bringing a “creative” restaurant to an area that lacked a food scene. But with the city’s encouragement, it opened in 2019 with 138 seats inside and 100 outside. Then, in 2020, he opened Fine Line, a gourmet pizzeria, with his chef Adriano Silva, who used to work at Barbara Lynch’s restaurants, and last summer, a steakhouse further up the beach, Cut 21.

Aldi is now fully focused on the north coast, building an outdoor bar and lounge at Dryft. “Being able to have an outdoor bar” with a sea view is key, he says. And as Pineda of The Landing puts it, “The lifestyle and quality of life is just so much better.”

A Mediterranean table at Settler in Salem. Lane Turner/Globe Staff