Details on Merrill & Co., Bringing Seafood and Sherry to the South End
The seafood-centric dining options in Boston have been getting a refresh as of late, with last week’s opening of Row 34 from the Island Creek Oyster Bar team and Monday’s opening of Ostra, a swankified seafood spot from chef Jamie Mammano of Mistral and Sorellina. And come spring, there will be one more: Merrill & Co., a seafood-focused venture from the BiNA Hospitality Group (Bin 26, Lala Rokh, and JM Curley).
In a newsletter earlier this month, the BiNA group (behind wine bar Bin 26, Persian specialist Lala Rohk, and popular downtown hangout JM Curley) hinted to a new restaurant called Merrill & Co. with a mysterious logo and cryptic “Coming Spring 2014” message. We recently spoke with owner Babak Bina, who confirmed that the restaurant, named for JM Curley (and Merrill & Co.) co-owner Andy Cartin’s grandfather, is indeed on its way, and will be opening in the former 28 Degrees space on Appleton Street in the South End.
The concept, Bina says, will be anchored by “classic, New England-inspired seafood,” brick oven pizzas, and an exposed raw bar. “It’s taking JM Curley’s feel, and having the menu be seafood,” he says. A familiar name will be helming the kitchen: chef Jason Cheek, who worked at KO Prime and Toro before taking an executive chef gig at Willow Road in New York, will be returning to Boston to run the show. In addition to raw bar items and brick oven pies, Bina says to expect fresh grilled fish, and more-casual from-the-sea fare like fish tacos and fried calamari. And, fans of JM Curley’s epic burger can get excited, because that will be on the menu, too.
JM Curley bar manager Kevin Mabry will become beverage director for both restaurants, and has exciting things in store for the new spot. There will be about 12 oft-rotating draft lines, with a visible, glassed-in keg room behind the bar. There will also be a large focus on sherry, with about six by-the-glass options and 20 available by the bottle. “I want to emphasize pairings of oysters and sherry,” Mabry says. “They work so well together.” Since the restaurant is seafood-focused, diners can expect an emphasis on clear spirits and lots of Champagne cocktails and Collins-style drinks. And, we saved the best for last: there will be large-format punches and a slushie machine.
Space-wise, Bina says to expect drastic changes from the super-slick, loungey vibe at the restaurant’s predecessor, with elements like exposed-brick walls, a stone-topped raw bar, subway tiling, and retro diner-style seating.What you might not remember about 28 Degrees (we know you remember the crazy, waterfall-topped, glass-ceilinged bathrooms) is that it was quite large. This translates to 170 seats inside for Merrill & Co., with an additional 30 seats outside for a biergarten-inspired patio area.
Bina says that for now, Merrill & Co. is slated for an early March opening.