Loyal Nine Set to Open in East Cambridge

Chef Marc Sheehan's forthcoming restaurant, set to open this week, will elevate forgotten East Coast classics.

loyal 9

Lobster with Shagbark Hickory Nuts. Photo by Nora Belal

Restaurants are as much the stories and people behind the concept as they are the food, which is what makes Loyal Nine—chef Marc Sheehan’s (Menton, Bondir) historical New England-inspired East Cambridge restaurant (slated to debut later this week)—one of the most intriguing openings of the year. The 96-seat eatery (a patio will seat an additional 30 guests come warmer weather) at 660 Cambridge Street, a partnership with hospitality pros Daniel Myers (State Bird Provisions in San Francisco), Rebecca Theris (Hungry Mother), and David Beller (Atwood’s Tavern, Puritan & Company), will delve into what they’re calling “East Coast Revival” cuisine, something, as Sheehan will tell you, goes well beyond lobster rolls, chowders, and Boston baked beans.

As a history major at Holy Cross, Sheehan developed an early fascination with the dietary habits and philosophies of colonial New England. After attending culinary school, the chef continued to amass vintage cookbooks and study pre-20th century texts at the Schlesinger and Boston Public libraries. That research was partly responsible for his Brasstacks pop-up supper club, which he launched in 2011 with Brick & Mortar’s Matt Schrage. Many of those early flavors and dishes, such as Sheehan’s Aroostook savory supper (layers of potato, salt pork, onions, and a poached farm egg) and Harvard beets with cultured cream and barley, are things you’ll now find on Loyal Nine’s dinner menu.

“These are recipes that have been in my head for quite a long time, and through Brasstacks I was finally able to cook them for guests in a trial and error process,” Sheehan says. “A lot of this food, when you go further back, the flavors are really interesting and a little out there. They’re actually really consistent with what food trends are going on right now. I’ve found books about the public markets in Boston in the early 19th century that were selling kohlrabi. I don’t think many people would associate kohlrabi with New England, they would look at it as something that just came on the scene 10 years ago. There’s also a lot of funkier, longer-to-develop flavors that came about through natural processes.”

Seminal texts like Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book and Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, as well as newer works like Sandra Oliver’s Saltwater Foodways, became a foundation for Sheehan’s approach to classic New England cuisine, albeit with modern techniques and ingredients. These long gestating ideas and theories have manifested themselves in dishes like Loyal Nine’s grilled pork ribs with chestnuts and molasses; Atlantic red crab with sauerkraut and mayonnaise; and a fried clam and pig ear roll with bitter green relish.

That adherence to an authentic regional perspective also extends to pastry chef Adam Ross’ (formerly of Hi-Rise Bread Company) bread-making program. As Sheehan says, “There was a lot more to the bread culture here than Anadama.” That’s why you’ll find house-made Boston brown bread served with soused Grey Mullet, and Scituate periwinkles paired with a Dulse seaweed sourdough. And that’s just a fraction of what you’ll find, not only on the everyday menu, but the attached cafe serving a range of breads, pastries, teas, breakfast sandwiches, and specialty coffees brewed with beans from Chicago-based roaster, Dark Matter Coffee.

Loyal Nine

Chilled Shrimp with Salted Herbs. Photo by Nora Belal

“My partner Dan Myers has always had the dream of owning his own cafe,” Sheehan says. “So when we started to look at places, one of his thoughts was to be able to have a coffee shop where people could actually be exposed to how a restaurant operates; they could come in in the morning, watch the process going on, and maybe it would make them comfortable enough to want to come in for dinner. When we found this space [a former car dealership] with a side room, it allowed us to execute that vision but in a cleaner, more exciting manner.”

Divided into four categories (“On the Ice,” “With Hands,” “Trenchers,” and “Roasts”), Loyal Nine’s menu touches upon a variety of lesser known shellfish, vegetables, and meats. Examples of these include a salt-crusted lamb shoulder with creamed watercress; braised mutton with yellow beets and anchovy; and braised whelks, or sea snails, layered on toast with salt pork and mushroom ketchup.

“We’re being very conscious about the ingredients that we’re choosing, the flavors that we’re trying to put together, the way that we’re serving food, and what it even means to eat and drink in Cambridge,” Sheehan says. “We want Loyal Nine to be a very cohesive, coherent dining experience.”

Overseen by Rebecca Theris, the wine program will focus solely on bottles crafted by grower-producers, all priced at three distinct tiers: $40, $60, and Down Cellar, or $60-plus. A culled by-the-glass selection will also be offered by the carafe. The cider and beer program will feature unique domestic brands, eight of which will be on draft, with several more available in cans and large format bottles. Bryn Tattan (Merrill & Co., Backbar) heads up a bar program with a heavy rum and brandy focus.

Loyal Nine’s dining room will will be open Monday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. The seven-seat bar will be open Monday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight (1 a.m. on Saturday). Sunday brunch service will begin at 10 a.m. and last until 2 p.m. The cafe will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Loyal Nine

Red Fife Sourdough Bread. Photo by Nora Belal.

660 Cambridge St., Cambridge; 617-945-2576 or facebook.com/loyalnineeastcambridge.com