Pop Tins and Bottles This Spring at Haley.Henry Wine Bar

Smoked oysters; tinned octopus and a slick of garlicky butter on a roll; citrusy ceviche; and half carafes of wine will be part of a changing Downtown Crossing.

haley.henry wine bar

Some of the Portuguese and Spanish conservas haley.henry wine bar will carry. / Photos provided

In an area of Boston seeing sky-high development and rapid growth, Haley Fortier is creating a new kind of nightlife option. A tiny sliver of a wine bar, Haley.Henry will open in Downtown Crossing this spring with a streamlined, funky food and beverage menu showcasing a delicacy often overlooked in the United States: Tinned fish.

I love wine and snacking, more tapas, European-style,” says Fortier, who spent nearly eight years at Barbara Lynch’s Sportello. With respect to the on-hold Belly in Kendall Square and Davis Square’s Spoke, Boston lacks a dedicated wine bar, she says.

About nine years ago, she was in Spain and discovered preserved seafood. “Most Americans, we just relate tinned fish to sardines and tunafish, because it’s not the way we typically eat here,” Fortier says. “Obviously, [Haley.Henry] will have tuna and sardines, but I’m talking about mussels, clams, razor clams—there’s such a broad level of tinned seafood we just don’t know about it.”

Most of Haley.Henry’s seafood products are imported from Portugal and Spain (from, among other sources, Portugalia Marketplace in Fall River), though Fortier is developing a relationship with Ekone Oyster Company in Washington state, too. That company’s smoked mussels and oysters were featured in sliders during a preview event at the Eat Boutique Holiday Marketplace in December. 

The conservas, as they’re also known, are packaged during prime fishing season, which makes it a sustainable source of seafood, says Fortier, and they’re also a good source of omega 3 fatty acids, iron, and other nutrients.

The containers are also beautiful, she adds. “Back in the day, tinned fish were things you’d bring to war, or when you’re going fishing, things like that. About 10 years ago, around the time I was in Spain, it really came back around. Now, not only are they producing good quality fish, but they’re taking pride in design. Some are so beautiful you don’t even want to open them,” Fortier says.

haley.henry wine bar

De Morgada smoked eel from Portugal; and other Portuguese tins. / Photo provided

“It’s going to play a big aesthetic part of the bar,” she continues.

Haley.Henry is working with BHaley Designs (Steel & Rye, Trina’s Starlite Lounge, others) to overhaul the former Cakeology space. Located beneath residences at 45 Province and next door to MAST’, the wine bar is less than 700 square feet, and “it is what it is,” Fortier says. It has 20-foot ceilings, but no basement storage, no back kitchen, no conventional seating. Haley.Henry will have 25 seats, at the bar, high-tops, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Province Street. Construction crews are installing a mezzanine for storage.

“We’re creating that space that’s functional, realistic, and easy to maneuver,” which plays into the casual concept, she says.

Beyond tinned fish, which will be served varyingly on crostini, mini Parker House rolls, saltine crackers, potato chips, and straight from the can, with butter, aioli, garlic, herbs, and lemon, there will be cheese, charcuterie, ceviche, and salads. Consulting chef KC O’Hara of FaO Hospitality is on board helping to design the “kitchen” functinality and menu. There will be no open flame cooking; just a small oven behind the bar, for toasting breads, and ample refrigeration. “Everything we’re serving is pickled, cured, or cooked through acid,” Fortier says.

She is spearheading the bar program. There will be canned and bottled beers, as well as three local drafts; and for wine, about 45 small-production, independent varietals from Europe and beyond. She also hopes to serve half-carafes. “Something else the city lacks is versatility. It’s hard for me to commit to a bottle,” Fortier says. “I will be willing to open whatever [guests] want, as long as they commit to two glasses. It can be expensive, which is why people don’t do it, but I want to be a wine bar, with education.”

She is up for a full liquor license this week, but Haley.Henry won’t be a cocktail bar. Expect “old classics,” including a gin and tonic—her go-to cocktail, along with her father’s, where the Henry in the restaurant name comes from. “We don’t have the space to do a [full] bar program,” she says. “Unscrewing corks and popping bottles is the style.”

Haley.Henry is about three years in the making, and it’s aiming for a May debut, just before the Millennium Tower’s anticipated summertime opening. Fortier is excited to be a part of the new Downtown Crossing. “When we opened [Sportello] in 2008, we were the first thing down there [in Fort Point]. It was fun to see community grow and really change. When I was looking for spaces, I wanted to be in Fenway or Downtown Crossing. It’s small, but it’s going to be a really cute wine bar,” she says.

Haley.Henry Wine Bar, opening May 2016, 45 Privince St., Downtown Crossing, Boston; haleyhenry.com.