Jan 13, 2022

Garrett Harker, of Eastern Standard fame, coming back to the Fenway with four new restaurants

Reaches deal to launch in new apartment building along Beacon Street, with restaurants set to open next year

Garrett Harker, pictured here in his former restaurant Eastern Standard a few months after it closed after COVID-19 hit in March 2020, is set to open new restaurants in the Bower building on Beacon Street, just outside Kenmore Square. BARRY CHIN/GLOBE STAFF

When local hospitality legend Garrett Harker was forced to close his three celebrated restaurants last year — Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks, The Hawthorne, and Island Creek Oyster Bar — it was clear that he left a piece of his heart in Kenmore Square.

Now he’s planning a triumphant return.

Harker has reached a deal to open four restaurants in the Bower apartment building in the Fenway Center development, a luxury mixed-use project on Beacon Street, just a five-minute stroll from his old stomping grounds at the Hotel Commonwealth. The restaurants will open in early 2023.

Harker plans to carve up 20,000-square-feet in the Bower’s street-level retail space and make full use of the center’s plaza, where he’ll have a sea of outdoor seating. The two-building apartment complex, which opened in 2020, is the first phase of the long-planned Fenway Center project; phase two — which includes a 22-story office tower to be built on a deck atop the Massachusetts Turnpike — launched last year.

Now the project will have a big-name restaurant anchoring its ground floor just outside Kenmore Square.

“While there have been dark clouds in our industry for the past two years, I’m as excited as ever to roll up my sleeves and dig in,” Harker said in a statement. “I’m grateful to the team at Bower for giving me the opportunity to once again be a part of creating an entirely new neighborhood just a short five-minute walk from my home of 15 years.”

Harker has long played an outsized role in Boston’s hospitality industry. After opening the award-winning No. 9 Park with chef Barbara Lynch, he then went on to build B&G Oysters and The Butcher Shop in the South End. He struck out on his own with Eastern Standard in 2005, creating a brasserie whose long marble bar became a home base of a different sort for the entire Fenway neighborhood. Over the next 15 years, he was often credited with kickstarting the transformation of Kenmore Square, establishing the corner of the city as a dining destination that was so closely associated with him that many dubbed it “Harkertown.”

So last year, after a protracted battle with his former landlord, Urban Meritage, forced him to shut down his restaurants, the looming question was not just if Harker could stage a return, but when and where. Harker had a noncompete agreement with Urban Meritage that said he could not open a new restaurant within two miles of the hotel for two years after the restaurants’ closure.

But given the booming new development underway in and around Kenmore Square, there was no shortage of suitors willing to work with him. And ultimately developer John Rosenthal, whose Meredith Management built the Bower in partnership with The Green Cities Company and Nuveen Real Estate, wooed Harker to the Bower.

“We can’t wait to bring Garrett back home to the Kenmore Square/Fenway neighborhood and Greater Boston,” Rosenthal said. (Harker also owns the Branch Line restaurant in Watertown, and Eastern Standard Provisions Co., a company that sells gourmet pretzels and snacks.) “Garrett has been sorely missed by our neighbors, and frankly, Boston’s entire restaurant scene. He is the perfect hospitality partner for this remarkable new destination.”

Harker is being mum on what the makeup of the four restaurants will be, but there are clues: Mixologist Jackson Cannon, his longtime business partner who helmed The Hawthorne bar, will be overseeing the beverages. And chef Nemo Bolin, who served as executive chef at Eastern Standard until it closed, will be mapping out the menus at all four spots. New York-based design firm Parts & Labor, which has bagged hospitality design awards for their projects like the The Grey in Savannah, will be sketching out the space.

More details will emerge later in 2022.

Until then, the neighborhood can take some comfort in knowing that Harker will soon be coming home.

By: Janell Nanos, Globe Staff, Published by Boston Globe on January 13, 2022

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