When Ellen “Elli” Kaplansky was a Newton North senior working at the long-gone Academy Twin Cinemas in Newton Center, she never dreamed that she’d be the creative force behind a restaurant in the exact same location.
Yet when she and her husband Ely chose to close their popular Pie Bakery and Café in November of 2010 and open, it was not so much the end of an era as a realization of their longtime dream.
“I had originally wanted to do a supper club, like this,” says Elli. “A little neighborhood place with a little style. I had the name picked out, and we’d found a location in the South End but that fell through.”
, the re-vamped, re-styled and re-invented location opened its doors for the first time last week.
Elli had started her culinary career owning and doing the baking at the Downstairs Café in East Cambridge in the early 90s. By 1996, though, she decided that she wanted to expand beyond the “breakfast and lunch crowd” and went through the intensive one-year chef program at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. After graduation in 1997, Elli worked for almost 10 years as a pastry chef for a number of well-known Boston chefs including Jodi Adams and Todd English.
And while you might think that Pie Bakery was best known as a spot to stop for dessert, Elli says their busiest time was lunch.
“The pies were always there,” Elli states matter-of-factly, “but that wasn’t what sustained us. It was like a modern soda shop, and I just liked that familiar neighborhood feeling.”
Because of this, the Kaplanskys wanted to be respectful of Pie’s roots and its loyal customers who will still be coming through the door. Some favorites from the old menu – the multigrain focaccia, the chicken salad and, of course, the apple pie – remain a part of the B Street fare.
But Elli and her chef, Simon Robinson, want the nostalgia to end there.
“He just gets it,” says Elli of Robinson. “We wanted something familiar but original. The way he prepares and layers…he’s just brilliant.”
Originally from Ireland, Robinson has trained and cooked all over Europe and in some of the finest Boston area restaurants. He and Elli crafted the current menu, which will change four times a year as fresh ingredients become available seasonally.
Bartender Lauren Behning is particularly excited about the drink menu’s nod to B Street’s Newton home.
“The most popular drink has been the Manhattan,” says Behning of the beverage that is actually called the “Newton Center Manhattan. “We make it with Woodford Reserve (bourbon). It’s really good!”
In fact, a liquor license is a big part of the reason B Street came to be. The Kaplanskys wanted to provide for their customers a full dining experience, and even with beer and wine served at Pie, it just wasn’t enough.
Now they are not only able to offer a full range of unique libations but they have a bar menu that, “combined with a salad and a glass of wine - you’ve got dinner!” enthuses Elli.
Another feature unusual to Newton is B Street's extended weekend brunch hours. Originally envisioned as available just until 2:00PM, the brunch menu – which now includes sandwiches and other lunch items, as well as traditional favorites like frittata, challah French toast and a brunch flatbread – will be available from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
With its rusty burgundy interior, gorgeous pink light fixtures, and rich dark wood bar, B Street is also an ideal spot for an intimate dinner, an atmosphere the Kaplanskys were looking to create when they collaborated with designer Mark Fisher of CCI in Needham and architect Donald Lang of DLA in Newton.
But for those of you who miss the homey décor of Pie, never fear: Nettie the “pie lady” still adorns the restroom wall -- a reminder that, as Elli says, “It’s still us, it’s still me. We still want to bring great food and a great experience.”