[UPDATE] La Bodega by Salts Eyes an Early 2017 Debut in Watertown
UPDATE, January 6, 9:30 a.m.: La Bodega by Salts is fired up: the project from chef Gabriel Bremer and Analia Verolo cleared its $40,000 Kickstarter goal on the final day of the campaign, Eater Boston reports. “You will forever be a part of our new restaurant and a dream coming true,” the team wrote to fans on Facebook. Uruguayan cuisine and a boutique wine bar are coming soon to Watertown.
UPDATE, January 2, 10 a.m.: La Bodega by Salts got its Kickstarter campaign live just before then end of the year. The $40,000 fundraiser will help build out the refurbished dining car, co-owner Gabriel Bremer told Eater Boston, while an $80,000 stretch goal would fund new furniture and tableware, update kitchen equipment, and add an outdoor patio. So far, La Bodega has cleared $3,000, and the team has until February 5 to meet its initial goal. Initially targeting a late 2016 debut, Bremer is hopeful La Bodega will open in February.
Nearly three years after their Cambridge restaurant Salts was forced to close, Gabriel Bremer and Analia Verolo are getting back into the business. La Bodega by Salts is under construction inside a quirky property on Nichols Avenue in Watertown, and Bremer is hopeful for a mid-December opening.
In February, Bremer teamed up with Tavern Road for a “taste of Uruguay”—his wife’s familial cuisine—which will be the focus of La Bodega. He’s spent the last several months tweaking his opening menu, and trying to sign on a trustworthy contractor to do the full-scale renovation. That last thing finally happened earlier this month.
“It’s nice to see things starting to move in the right direction, and things are happening fairly quickly,” he says.
The space, formerly 21 Nickels, is actually two separate buildings that are connected. The first building is a long, narrow, brick-and-glass atrium, which will house La Bodega’s bar and some dining seating, as well as a cold food production area, visible to guests.
“When we first walked into the space, it gives you the feeling of San Sebastian pintxo bar,” Bremer says. “I could see people standing and eating, I could hear the music, [envision] the wine. It was similar to the first time we walked into Salts. Analia and I both saw the final product before it happened.”
The atrium opens up into a 1950s dining car, which will house the kitchen’s hot line, and more dining space.
“It’s going to allow us to create two, very unique, connected but different spaces,” Bremer says. The bar side will be livelier and more casual, and the cozy dining car will feel more intimate. “Maybe it will bring back memories of the old Salts space for people.”
Design-wise, La Bodega will have a lot more of Latin American influence, with reclaimed barnboard and dark stone, versus Salts’ country French vibes, he says. It will be rustic, but also elegant. But the new restaurant is definitely homey and personal, as Salts was.
Once it opens, La Bodega will have a range of Spanish, French, and American wines, with an emphasis on small, artisan producers, including some little-known Uruguayan producers. The menu features embutidos (cured meats) and house-made terrines, as well as artisan cheeses, and common tapas like croquetas, stuffed piquillo peppers, and daily ceviche and Uruguayan-style empanada offerings.
There will also be vegetable, seafood, meat dishes to share, including sea salt-roasted Spanish prawns, cauliflower a la plancha, and the grilled short rib Bremer previewed at Tavern Road. Large-format roasts for two include Salts’ beloved whole-roasted duck with a honey-orange glaze.
Many of the dishes come from Verolo’s grandmother’s recipe book, like lengua a la vinegreta, a classic Uruguayan snack of thinly-sliced, poached, marinated, and chilled beef tongue.
“The very first time I went to Uruguay with Analia, her grandmother put out a big tray of this. I think she intended to scare me with it, and I swear I think I ate the whole tray. From that point on, I was part of the family,” Bremer says.
To help realize their vision for La Bodega, Bremer and Verolo will launch a Kickstarter campaign within the next couple weeks. The initial goal of $40,000 will help them add finishing touches, like tabletop accents, glassware, and other last-minute necessities. But stretch goals up to $80,000 would help them upgrade furniture and kitchen equipment, and “really let our vision come to fruition,” he says.
“When you open a restaurant, your wish list and reality list are always a little different. We’ve had some delays in this project that have taken time and money away from it,” he says.
Keep an eye on La Bodega’s social media to follow along with the progress—especially if you’re looking forward to that first familiar bite of honey-glazed duck.
21 Nichols Ave., Watertown, (617) 876-8444, Facebook.