The Blue Ribbon team has been in the late-night business for 30 years now, with the group’s restaurants a service industry staple among staff looking for bites like fried chicken and oysters once their shift ends hours after a usual dinner time.
This works in New York, the so-called city that never sleeps and where the Bromberg brothers opened their first brasserie in SoHo that closed at 4 a.m.
But how will their late-night dining experience translate to Boston, where residents often complain of a lackluster nightlife?
“We want to revitalize that late-night experience,” said Bruce Bromberg, co-owner and co-chef of Blue Ribbon Restaurants alongside brother Eric. “We know there’s people out there — there’s no question that there’s people out there — there just haven’t been a lot of choices.”
The brothers are aware of what they’re up against. The serious lack of late-night eateries in Boston is a catch-22: people aren’t tempted to stay out when there is nowhere to go, therefore businesses refuse to stay open late if there is no one to serve.
The Brombergs are already familiar with Boston; they own two more restaurants in Hotel Commonwealth, Pescador and Blue Ribbon Sushi.The former recently extended its hours to 11 p.m.
But one week after opening their newest restaurant, where the kitchen closes at midnight and the bar at 1 a.m., it turns out there is strong interest in dining out after hours.
“The first night we were open, we were full until closing at the bar,” Eric said. “We’re just super encouraged by that.”
Blue Ribbon isn’t just an addition to Boston’s limited options when it comes to late-night bites. The extensive menu, complete with casual dishes and higher-end eats, is different from the current after-hour dining options. One would be hard pressed to find a place that serves fried chicken, caviar, beef marrow and oxtail marmalade, and matzoh ball soup under one roof until 1 a.m.
The menu is also incredibly personal to the brothers. Eric spent time in New Orleans for college, which is why you’ll find New Orleans shrimp at the glitzy raw bar, heads and tails included.
They grew up in New Jersey eating Chinese takeout, so there’s a twist on the pupu platter on their menu.
There are also a few brasserie staple dishes, along with plenty of seafood as a nod to their time spent in New England.
“When we wrote this menu, Eric and I literally sat at a table like this, and said, ‘What was your favorite birthday meal? What was the coolest thing we had at camp? What was the best thing Grandma made?’” Bruce recalled.
‘Creating a community center’
The restaurant’s relaxed yet bustling vibe is inspired by brasseries in France, where both chefs trained. Every corner of the 260-seat restaurant has a different feel to it. You could find yourself settled in a warm, intimate banquette that gives diners some privacy. Or, there’s the section of the restaurant that is possibly a favorite of the brothers: a solarium that makes diners feel part of the busy Kenmore Square area.
And whether you’re seated behind a booth or out in the open in a bistro chair, the space is still loud with music, conversations, and staff moving around the brasserie, the Brombergs said.
The brothers hope the space will invite not just the service industry in Boston — much like the NYC location — but all walks of life that traverse Fenway-Kenmore. There may be Berklee music students sharing apps in a booth, a professor grading papers with a drink at the bar, or a visiting family taking in the sights who want a taste of New England seafood from the raw bar.
“It was really our inspiration of creating a community center, in a sense,” Bruce said. “It’s a restaurant, but it’s also something for the community that everyone can use all the time.”
Blue Ribbon Brasserie is now open from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., seven days a week, at 528 Commonwealth Avenue. Catch the restaurant’s late-night social hour from 10 p.m. to midnight for half-priced burgers and oysters. Reservations can be made on the restaurant’s website.
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