Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >
Jul 15, 2011 08:33 PM

Jasper White on Boston dining

He was on WBUR this afternoon, largely to promote his latest cookbook, but when the discussion veered to the changes in the Boston dining scene over the years, he voiced the prediction that there are now too many fine dining options for the Boston market to support. He certainly has ample standing to make that judgment, but let's hope he's wrong..

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. i don't wish anybody to go out of business. however, the popularity of "mid-priced" places like eastern standard, foundry on elm and coppa shows where the demand is. too many still feel too badly burned by the economy to be blowing dough at the top tier but for special occasions.

    16 Replies
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        Didn't Towne greatly overestimate demand when it first opened, and then scaled back its menu and service hours significantly? I don't know how well it's doing now -- I like it, but consider it rather overpriced in the way that many Back Bay restaurants are -- but White might be stinging a bit still from his own outsized expectations for that place.

        1. re: MC Slim JB

          slim, awhile ago when i did a thread abut women chef/owners in boston, you (yes?)stated that lydia is not a co owner at Towne, but the globe had a recent photo of her w/ patrick lyons was it? and a snazzy car at a promo event, crediting her as chef/owner of Towne. i have no inside knowledge here as to who is correct, but might you have been wrong?

          1. re: opinionatedchef

            A: No, it wasn't Slim who stated that in the other thread.

            B: No, the Globe didn't credit her as co-owner in the recent item: "Boston-based Zipcar recently went public and to celebrate the company hosted a dinner at Towne Stove and Spirit. Guests included Towne owner Patrick Lyons, chef Lydia Shire...."

            1. re: Allstonian

              1) thanx for the hotoy outing.
              2) i saw it so noted in the caption of the photo in the G section, not the text. thnx anyway.

              1. re: opinionatedchef

                Maybe it's me, but I'm thinking after 2), a 3) is deseved (yes?) in this case.

                3) Sorry Slim for calling you out on something you had no part of :(

                1. re: opinionatedchef

                  being friendly with principals in all the projects in mcslim's list below, as well as quite a few other establishments, i don't understand the negative blowback i'm getting for offering correct info.

                  most chefs who go into high-profile projects, bring their name and skillz, but rarely money. that's what investors are for. after a certain contractually-decided amount of time that coincides with black ink, the chef then gets a portion of the profit. it can often be several years, especially in super-expensive endeavors like towne.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    No negativity on my part: I'd just like to know the correct information.

                    Are you saying that none of the celeb chefs I mentioned has any ownership stake in those Lyons Group restaurants?


                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      their ownership stake is based on future potential. it's in their best interest to make these ventures pay off because that's when they start to get a piece, vs. just a salary. other investors receive their payback plus interest first too. by now oringer has a percentage of la verdad as does jasper with summer shack.

                      it's the rare exception for chefs to put up their own money, simply because their pockets are not deep and a failed endeavor could utterly wipe them out. those who invest in restaurants can "afford" to lose the money and/or write it off.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        So their interest is structured like a piece of the back-end profits in a Hollywood movie deal? Very interesting! I had no idea.


                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          exactly! excellent analogy. thanks for that.

                          you weren't the one crowing about "outing" me. i really don't get that.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            Sorry for my part in that - I was puzzled as well by "outing." I had thought of it as correcting the attribution of a comment, that's all.

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              i certainly meant no offense. i thought 'outing' meant 'revealing the i.d. of a previously unknown person.' I had asked if the attribution belonged to slim; allstonian showed that it was you. i am completely clueless as to how that could be interpreted as negative blowback, but if it was, i do apologize.

                              and thank you for that articulate explanation of the world of finance and chefs as owners.

                      2. re: hotoynoodle

                        My impression for many restaurants, though perhaps not this group, was that the chefs do not provide cash, but with "sweat equity" were eventually vested with a portion of ownership of their restaurants.

                  2. re: opinionatedchef

                    Lyons owns a number of restaurants (and handles most of the operational aspects of them) with celebrity chefs as partners, including all the Summer Shacks (White), Scampo (Shire), Towne (White and Shire), and La Verdad (Oringer).

                    I don't know what percentage of ownership each of these partnerships involve, but I always believed the chefs own a piece of those places. Maybe Shire is an exception; I don't really know. It certainly seems like she drives a lot more of the menu than White at Towne.


                    Summer Shack
                    310 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210

                    La Verdad
                    1 Lansdowne St, Boston, MA 02215

                    215 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114

                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      I wonder if Jasper addressed my "pet peeve" about new Boston restaurants - why soooooo many new steakhouses when Boston in right ON the ocean? I mean, there is a new Legal's that just opened, but didn't Del Frisco's ALSO open right near that (and Morton's is aready at the Seaport District)? I'd LOVE so see another seafood based restaurant in Boson (besides yet another Legal's), but I gotta give Legal's credit for opening on the water.

              2. This was a brief comment, If you want to hear it, click on listen now at this page. It is after the recipe about 5:45 into the piece. He also has a lot of good things to say about the restaurant scene.


                1. Back to the original point... I would agree with Jasper. Boston is super saturated with restaurants in general, and fine dining restaurants in particular. There aren't enough customers, nor staff, really, to support them all. It's mind boggling to see more and more open without many closing, and the industry is getting killed.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: almansa

                    the shallow pool for service staff is especially troubling. i've gotten really horrendous service at some of the city's newer and high-end joints. lapses and amateurism i find totally unacceptable at these price points. at mid- to lower-priced places i can easily dial down my expectations, but with cocktails above $15 and entrees mostly north of $30, i can't accept the bumbling.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      Your reaction is most valid. i hope you are communicating to the GM when your displeasure is that high. Many people shrug and say 'what good would it do?' but I am a fervent believer in giving authentic feedback, especially in an industry where there is so little of it. GMs and chefs so rarely ever get a chance to learn from their mistakes because they don't hear about the mistakes, just as they also don't hear/get to feel pride in - the successes.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        I feel like there are so many places where I can eat very well, have a couple drinks, feel welcome, and get out for around $60 pp (Bondir, Hungry Mother, Rendezvous, Coppa, Island Creek, Gallows, etc.) that there's little incentive to venture above that price point.

                        1. re: robwat36

                          recently had 2 very good meals at evoo, also at this price point. bartenders could use a little cattle prodding for utterly lacking urgency or forethought. (oh! soup gets a spoon?) fairly minor quibble since they were certainy friendly.

                          1. re: robwat36

                            That's a great point. When I moved to the Boston area (1996), there were virtually no restaurants with "creative" or "upscale" (read: chef-driven) cuisine for lower prices. One thing that's changed: chefs are using less expensive cuts of proteins allowing them to charge smaller prices, and their culinary audience is allowing them to do it. In '96, chef's were expected to serve filet mignon for beef. rack chops for veal, racks for lamb. Not any more. Nobody around here was about to buy a flatiron or a hanger steak at any restaurant, regardless of price. Nobody back then ate pork. Now a chef can have a fifty or sixty seat restaurant and translate a fine dining approach in the kitchen into a more casual and less expensive concept.

                            Another change in the scene is the proliferation of decent restaurants in the burbs. Why fight traffic and pay a valet if you can eat at a spot like Parson's Table?

                          2. re: hotoynoodle

                            Yep. It's a little sad that the few times the service shines all I can think of is "oh, this is NYC-like service!" Lousy, or even simply decent service at expensive restaurants give off the feeling that the restaurant is just "playing grown-up." They're imitating, but not understanding.

                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                I'm wary of any Chowhound post that doesn't mention at least one specific restaurant name.

                                "Boston service" is not a thing.