The Hourly Oyster House Opens Tonight in Harvard Square
A force on the Harvard Square restaurant scene debuts its latest venture today. The Hourly Oyster House is the first seafood restaurant from the Grafton Group, which also runs an eponymous grill and pub, as well as Temple Bar, Russell House Tavern, and Park, and State Street Provisions in Boston.
The Hourly takes over the Dunster Street storefront that was long home to ice cream icon, Herrell’s, Boston Restaurant Talk first reported. More recently, it housed short-lived concepts Kennedy’s and First Printer. The historic building is along an important, 19th century travel route, and the Hourly is named after the horse-drawn carriages that propelled it, the restaurant group explains in a statement.
Designer Peter Niemetz retained details from the space’s previous life as a bank (a former bank vault holds the wine selection), and added “quintessential American oyster bar” details, like on-trend white and blue subway tiles, antique mirrors, and nautical art. The Hourly sits 94 across an oyster bar with communal seating, a 15-seat main bar, and a dining room.
Russell House Tavern bar manager Ashish Mitra is behind the new restaurant’s beverage program, too. Alongside mainly white, rosé, and sparkling wines by the glass, there are three whites and one red on draft. Another draft line is reserved for a rotating sour beer from New York’s Sloop Brewing Co., and there are other craft beers and a cider. The cocktails also veer clear, light, and easy-drinking, like a Side Car that subs Laird’s Applejack for cognac, and adds Yellow Chartreuse and Prosecco, as well as Smoke on the Charles, which strengthens vodka with blended Scotch, Cocchi Americano, and bitters.
Executive chef Taryn Mohan Bonnefoi, a Massachusetts native, joined the Grafton Group a year ago and worked her way up, most recently as opening sous chef at State Street Provisions. The dual Irish citizen had spent the previous decade in Paris, including a few years cooking at chef Eric Frechon’s the three Michelin-starred Epicure.
At the Hourly, her menu has New England classics, including cornbread-stuffed baked lobster with drawn butter, a lobster roll with mayo, and a few other choices from a menu section dedicated to the regional staple. The raw bar features a tower, and mainly East Coast oysters, and appetizers include comforts like oysters Rockefeller, crab cakes, and fried clams. If you’ve been trying all the tune pokes around town, add a new entrant to your list. Non-seafood eaters will find pub requisites, like a house burger, steak, roasted chicken, and a grilled vegetable sandwich with goat cheese. Check out the menu below.
Grafton Group co-founders Patrick Lee, his brother Peter, Sean Kennedy, and Gerry Sheerin, opened Grafton Street Pub & Grill to give “Harvard Square something that it needed at the time: a hangout that combines a traditional neighborhood pub’s warmth and coziness with a contemporary full-service restaurant.” Their latest offering is, surprisingly, Harvard Square’s only traditional New England oyster house. There are plenty of places to find buck-a-shuck deals and seafood entrées, and Michael Scelfo just introduced his take on a 2016 raw bar with Waypoint. The Island Creek Oyster Bar owners, who also operate Row 34, have a Harvard Square project in the works, but the team has not confirmed the concept.
The Hourly is open nightly for dinner at 5 p.m., with the bar staying open until midnight. In the coming weeks, the team will launch lunch and brunch.
15 Dunster Street, Harvard Square, Cambridge, 617-765-2342, thehourlycambridge.com.