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40+ Boston Restaurant, Bar, and C

40+ Boston Restaurant, Bar, and Café Openings We Can’t Wait for in 2024

The restaurateur is chef-partner of Seamark Seafood & Cocktails, opening this spring at Encore Boston Harbor—and yes, he’s bringing back his famous Radius burger.

When Seamark Seafood & Cocktails debuts at Encore Boston Harbor this spring, it’ll bring “approachable” local seafood—albeit with a bit of decadence—to the glitzy lobby of the Everett casino and resort, says chef-partner Michael Schlow. The longtime Boston (and beyond) restaurateur—who was behind Radius and Via Matta, among other restaurants—has just announced his involvement in the forthcoming restaurant, partnered with Vegas-based group Carver Road Hospitality. But don’t dismiss this as an out-of-town project: Boston native Sean Christie owns Carver Road. This duo is as New England-y as they come, and they’ve got lots of classic seafood dishes—and other fun—planned for Seamark and its hidden cocktail bar, Old Wives’ Tale.

When Christie and Schlow first connected, Christie’s idea was simply to do “a great seafood restaurant,” as Schlow tells it. “That can mean lots of different things to different people,” Schlow says. Keeping in mind the casino location, the duo made a plan for a restaurant that would play to crowds that want classics and crowds that want something a little special, but all “very recognizable” dishes without a menu full of ingredients that require Googling. “It’s a balancing act of classic New England dishes and seafood [dishes] from around the world,” says Schlow, showcasing as much “beautiful local fish” as possible.

“This menu was fairly easy to write because this food just speaks to me,” says Schlow. “It’s about respecting these ingredients. The fish that we can get here in the Boston area is so amazing, and it doesn’t need a lot. Mother Nature’s done most of the work for us. Our job is to just gently coax it and make it great.”

The menu will offer everything from “quintessentially New England” dishes like lobster rolls and chowder to more elevated options. “I think for a lot of people coming to a casino, they’re coming to be entertained, have some fun, maybe splurge. You don’t have to splurge here, but you’ll have the opportunity. You can have a dish that has caviar, lobster, king crab, a lot of high-end things.”

There will be a seafood tower, he says—“they’re so celebratory”—and appetizers like an elegant tuna tartare with cucumber, caviar, and ponzu; an “extra-crunchy” shrimp tempura he serves at his Japanese restaurant Nama Ko in D.C.; and fried calamari, Rhode Island-style. The opening menu will include a few soups—traditional takes on lobster bisque (poured tableside) and French onion, plus a “decadent” double clam chowder. That’s double the clams and double the bacon, but not double the potatoes, because that would be too much, he explains with a laugh. “And we’re having little fun plays at the casino without going too kitschy—we do have clams casino on the menu.”

Another dish planned for the opening menu is a play on shrimp scampi. “During COVID, I really thought about how foods comfort us, and I sort of embraced a lot of the Italian American dishes because they brought me back to my childhood, and I know there’s demand for them,” he says. He decided to toy around with the classic shrimp dish, using “large, succulent, over-the-top” black tiger shrimp with a “France-meets-Italy sauce” infused with butter, garlic, chives, and white wine. “It’s almost like a beurre blanc but with some Italian feel to it,” he says, and it’s served with saffron rice, charred broccoli, and tomatoes. “It’s rich and gorgeous,” he promises.

While Seamark showcases seafood, there’ll be a variety of meat- and vegetable-focused dishes, too. On the meat front, let’s get to that burning question from the Bostonians already familiar with Schlow’s work: Yes, he’s bringing his “Schlow burger” back—the horseradish sauce, cheddar, and crispy onion-topped burger made famous at his now-closed Financial District restaurant Radius, the burger that ushered in Boston’s fancy burger era. The burger has made appearances at other Schlow restaurants over the years, but he’s not currently serving it anywhere, and Seamark feels like the right fit, he says. “It’s just so approachable. You’re sitting at the bar, you don’t feel like seafood—you’re going to get that burger.”

In addition to Seamark’s main bar, there will be Old Wives’ Tale, a hidden cocktail bar within the space, with its own food and drink. Beverage director Francesco Lafranconi is creating “a very exciting beverage program,” says Schlow. “Expect the unexpected. There’ll be all sorts of surprises and fun things.” (An earlier announcement from the company described the vibe as “whimsical” and “adorned with maritime elements,” noting that drinks would be inspired by different ports of call around the world and served in “oceanic glassware” with “creative garnishes resembling sea creatures.”)

Schlow is still developing the food menu for Old Wives’ Tale but teases that it’ll have symmetry with the cocktail list, featuring light dishes inspired by the same ports of call as the drinks. There’ll be other general snacks, too, like house-made potato chips with onion dip. “Snacks that when you read the menu you’ll think, ‘I wasn’t hungry, but maybe a little of this wouldn’t hurt.’”

Schlow—a restaurateur, cookbook author, and James Beard Award-winning chef—has operated numerous other restaurants in Boston and beyond over the years. Back Bay Italian restaurant Via Matta had a particularly notable run, and the original Alta Strada in Wellesley has been going strong for nearly two decades, now with several out-of-state offshoots. Aside from Alta Strada, his current Greater Boston projects are casual food-hall spots: Michael Schlow’s Italian Kitchen at Time Out Market Boston and Sauce Burgers at Hub Hall.

“I’m excited to do a new sit-down restaurant” in the area, he says, after facing a number of closures during the pandemic. “This is my home. I think some people thought I moved away,” he says, because he does a lot of business in D.C. and elsewhere. “My [Boston] restaurants closed for a plethora of reasons—we didn’t want to close them—and I’m really excited at this opportunity to open a really nice sit-down restaurant with Sean [Christie]. We’re gonna have some fun together.”

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