During opening week, owner Bill Honeycutt really saw come to life at his brand new restaurant.
“There were three couples seated at the high tops,” he recounts, gesturing at the row of tall, two-seater tables that line the middle of the restaurant. “They stayed almost until close, and by the end of the night they had all become friends. When they left, they exchanged email addresses and phone numbers. That’s what I want!”
For Honeycutt, the designation “coalition” is about bringing things together.
The new Newtonville bar, , should be a place patrons come together and see as their neighborhood spot, he says.
Honeycutt also wants his staff to feel that they are being brought into the family that includes his other two John Brewer’s Tavern and Restaurants in and .
And he wants to bring together beer and food, “like a sommelier does with wine and food.”
That is why beginning this weekend, the tabletop buckets at Brewer’s Coalition will include menus that pair every single food item with a beer especially designed to highlight and enhance all of its ingredients (see .pdfs to the right).
Arriving at this perfect lineup of brews was a full, family effort.
“We were going out to dinner and trying various beers about two or three nights a week,” laughs Honeycutt. “It went on for a few months!”
These outings included Honeycutt’s wife Sue (who also works at Brewer’s Coalition), sons Brian and Dave (the former a senior at Johnson & Wales; the latter an employee of Putnam Investments, both of whom work at their parents’ restaurants) and managers Kevin Burke and Rebecca Harris.
Honeycutt is very proud that, of the 20 beers on tap that made the final cut, 14 are from New England.
He also is very excited about the fact that Brewer’s Coalition is offering a “beer browser,” like a wine flight where diners/drinkers can sample 5-ounce glasses of any four of the beers on tap for one low price.
“You can find out what you like, what you don’t like. You don’t really have to make a big commitment,” says Honeycutt.
But Honeycutt has made a big commitment to making the food at Brewer’s Coalition a reflection of his ideal of the restaurant becoming a neighborhood staple, a place where patrons can come several times a week and enjoy innovative yet familiar dishes.
Chef Nolber Saleuargo (who has worked with Honeycutt for 10 years) and Honeycutt worked together to create a menu that takes traditional dishes and puts a new spin on them – without remaking them to the point of being unfamiliar.
A perfect example is the Sweet Potato Haddock, which Honeycutt says is one of the most popular items in the restaurant’s opening week.
“We (the John Brewer’s locations) were known for our sweet potato fries,” Honeycutt explains. “So we built on that by crusting a great piece of fish with a mix of sweet potato and crumbs. It’s got a balsamic glaze- it’s really, really good.”
Other out-of-the-gate favorites include the fish tacos, the chicken potpie and “Elaine’s steak tips,” based on a recipe from Honeycutt’s 86-year-old mother, Elaine.
As the seasons change and the weather gets cooler, Honeycutt plans to shift to more comfort foods – beef stew, shepherd’s pie and pot roast will join the menu. To complement these, fall and winter beers will also be making an appearance.
“We are just looking to be a neighborhood destination,” says Honeycutt. “I envision the snow coming down through these big windows, and the neighborhood in here enjoying the space. That’s just what we’re trying to do.”