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New on the menu: More restaurants in Quincy Center

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October 13, 2015
The unlikely block between Hancock and Chestnut streets has become a hotspot for restaurateurs.
QUINCY – Cottage Avenue in Quincy Center is a narrow, dingy and seemingly forgotten street, a place where most storefronts are marked with signs directing customers to entrances elsewhere. But it’s in that one-block stretch between Hancock and Chestnut streets that some prominent restaurateurs now see the beginning of a culinary destination akin to Cambridge’s Porter Square and Somerville’s Davis Square. At least three new restaurants are in the works on the tiny street, which is already bookended by popular spots from two of Quincy’s most notable restaurateurs, and several others have opened up nearby in recent months.

“There is now starting to be a critical mass of quality restaurants in downtown,” said Kyle Warwick, a partner with Gate Residential, which is building several thousands square feet of restaurant space in an adjacent development called West of Chestnut. “I think this is the beginning.”

Quincy Center has for some years been home to the creations of some of the city’s best-known restaurateurs – particularly Leo Keka of Alba and Jimmy Liang of Kama Lounge and Bistro Chi, situated on opposite ends of Cottage Avenue – but now the center is also drawing chefs, bar managers and restaurant moguls already well established in the Boston culinary scene.

That includes Barbara Lynch, creator of No. 9 Park and Drink, among others, who is partnering with her niece, Quincy resident Kerri Lynch-Delaney, to open a new restaurant on Cottage Avenue. Lynch-Delaney, owner of the popular Babycakes bakery in Wollaston, said the new venture will offer creative salads and pizza made “in a completely different way than anybody is used to around here.”

Quincy Center’s emerging restaurant scene also drew the attention of Devin Adams, a veteran of Boston’s Island Creek Oyster Bar and Eastern Standard restaurant who last month opened The Townshend, a “modern tavern” adjacent to Quincy College that offers craft beer, designer cocktails and dishes like roasted monkfish and beets with whipped ricotta. Adams is now looking to partner with Noel O’Connor, a longtime friend and bartender at The Townshend, on another restaurant, still in the early planning stages, that would be just down the street in Quincy Center.

And Adams isn’t the only one doubling down on Quincy Center. Leo Keka, the owner of Alba Restaurant, is planning to expand his Mediterranean-inspired steakhouse into an adjacent storefront, change up the menu and open a new Italian-oriented venture in a recently renovated space on the other side of Cottage Avenue. He’s still working to secure the space and hopes to start renovations early next year.

“The city is moving in the right direction and we want to be part of it,” said Keka, who opened Alba in Quincy Center 14 years ago.

Quincy Center will also soon gain additional dining options with the completion of the $60 million complex called West of Chestnut now rising above Hancock Street. In addition to 169 residential units, the development will include 12,500 square feet of retail space, much of it set aside for restaurants, a cafe and possibly a high-end grocery store.

Warwick, the partner at Gate Residential, said the firm is now in talks with restaurant developers interested in a 3,250-square-foot space being built on the corner of Chestnut and Cottage avenues and another 4,925 square feet that will face Hancock Street. The firm also hopes to bring in a high-end coffee shop serving an all-day menu and possibly an “urban market” selling fresh produce and grab-and-go prepared meals.
“It’s too early to announce anything, but the activity has been robust,” he said.

Warwick said he believes restaurateurs are increasingly turning to the area because they’ve been priced out of Boston’s hotter neighborhoods, where retail leases can be twice what they are in Quincy, and believe that Quincy’s downtown is on its way to becoming a restaurant destination on par with other urban centers along the Red Line.

With that vision in mind, many of the center’s restaurateurs are thrilled to have potential competitors moving in next door, particularly with well-known culinary names like Barabara Lynch ready to stake their flag here.

“You just want it to be that place where you’ve got several different choices,” said Sharon Driscoll, who last month opened the Iron Furnace restaurant in the former Stadium sports bar on Hancock Street across from Cottage Avenue. “You may have dinner here, or you may have drinks here and go to Alba or Barbara’s after.”
Neal Simpson, The Patriot Ledger