JP Beer Garden Is Getting Serious About a Real Estate Search
Two years after Lizzie Szczepaniak and chef Owen Royce-Nagel debuted the traveling JP Beer Garden, the duo is planning one last, pretzel-powered party before putting the pop-up on hold to focus on finding a home for their own restaurant.
On Wednesday, September 7, late-night at Matthew Jennings’ downtown hotspot will feature a complimentary spread of JP Beer Garden’s signature pretzels, a couple slider options, and bratwurst, plus local beers, and beer cocktails developed by Townsman bar manager Silas Axtell.
Royce-Nagel and Szczepaniak met years ago at Craigie Street Bistrot. After the culinary couple helped Tony Maws open Craigie on Main, they traveled to Alsace together—a region in eastern France that borders the upper Rhine, adjacent to Germany and Switzerland—where they made muenster and other cheeses.
The Alsatian culture “was such a cool amalgamation of things,” Royce-Nagel says. “You have that classic French technique, with all these flavors of Germany. It’s just fun with people gathering, drinking beer, and eating food. It’s a cuisine that’s been underrepresented, I would say, within the restaurant community, and beyond that, it’s one we fell in love with.”
After France, they moved to Chicago together to work with Paul Kahan at Publican, “which reinforced our love for sausages and meats,” Szczepaniak says.
From a formal wine dinner at Centre Street Cafe to a backyard barbecue series, “We’ve been doing as many different kinds of pop-ups as we can, not only to see where we want to take the restaurant, but also to be able to reach out to different groups of people,” she says.
The upcoming Townsman event will help them connect with industry insiders beyond the Jamaica Plain community, where the couple live and work. Royce-Nagel is currently on the line at Tres Gatos, while Szczepaniak is a Cicerone-certified server at Centre Street Cafe.
If the name is any indication, they intend to open JP Beer Garden in their own neighborhood. They are currently in talks with a financial real estate consultant, as well other restaurateurs, for advice. They are introducing themselves to the developers working on retail projects in Jamaica Plain. Ideally, this time next year could see JP Beer Garden come to fruition, Szczepaniak estimates.
“We’re very aware of how tricky [finding restaurant real estate] can be,” Royce-Nagel says. “We want to make sure whatever we get into is right for us, and we’re happy to be patient.”
Their biggest desire for the space is to have a large, outdoor area, so they can recreate an Alsatian-style beer garden.
“It’s a tough thing to [find] in Boston, which is sort of why it’s taken so long,” he says. “We can’t give up on that, because that would be pretty much be giving up on the goal of the restaurant.”
There is one such space that is currently vacant in JP: The site of the late, great, James’s Gate. The Ballas Group of Jamaica Plain purchased the McBride Street property and two others nearby earlier this year, and the latest plans call for a new, five-story buildingin place of the pub, with ground-floor retail and residential units above. Szczepaniak says they have reached out to those developers, and are also talking with local groups that are trying to influence Jamaica Plain development.
James’s Gate was the first place the couple ate when they moved to JP three years ago. That night, they talked about how great a space it would be for JP Beer Garden, but they later grew to love it as it was.
“We could never take away from the community. But when it closed, we had so many people reaching out to us about it,” Szczepaniak says. “We’re seeing where the cards fall before we make our next move.”
Well, their next move is the pop-up at Townsman. Check out the snackable menu below, and keep an eye on social media for updates on the future of JP Beer Garden.
#JPBGatTownsman, Wednesday, September 7th, 11 p.m.-2 a.m.,
*menu items subject to change due to availability
Warm Pretzel with homemade Bavarian mustard
Chicken Schniztel Slider with bone marrow-Bavarian mustard aoili & salsa verde
Smoked Beef Tongue Slider with muenster cheese & dill pickle
Boudin Noir Brat with apple mustard & smoked nuts