Ledger is Headed for Salem, Care of the Blue Ox Chef Matt O’Neil

New England traditions and a custom, wood-fired grill inspire the chef's second restaurant inside a historic bank building.

Chef Matt O'Neil of the Blue Ox and forthcoming Ledger

Chef Matt O’Neil of the Blue Ox and forthcoming Ledger in Salem. / Photo by Anna Wolfe Photography provided

A North Shore chef is opening his second restaurant in ever-cooler downtown Salem. Matt O’Neil, who’s behind the award-winning Blue Ox in Lynn, will debut Ledger in 2017, the Boston Herald reports. Boston Restaurant Talk first noted the development last month.

Taking over a former Eastern Bank, O’Neil is inspired by the circa 1800 building and the historic downtown with Ledger.

“The décor will be an ode to the building’s original beauty with with classically rich furnishings and original details, such as the original strapwork ceiling, large windows, exposed brick, and the namesake 19th century bank ledgers,” he says. It will seat about 200, with private dining rooms as well.

But the kitchen isn’t limited by the historic structure: O’Neil is building out an open cookery—”a vibrant, shiny hub of energy,” he says—which will repurpose a bank vault as a walk-in refrigerator, and be surrounded by raw bar and charcuterie counter seats.

O’Neil says his menu ideas are changing daily, but Ledger’s fare is rooted in a custom, wood-fired grill.

“As of today, I’m hoping to offer many sharable family-style dishes including carved meats, whole fish, and several vegetarian options. I want to incorporate my love of smoking foods to the menu. And I’m also trying to figure out how to bring back the popover,” he says.

A North Shore native, O’Neil started his career on Martha’s Vineyard, then worked in Boston with the likes of chefs Anthony Caturano at Prezza and Copia, and Barbara Lynch at No. 9 Park and the Butcher Shop. The Blue Ox is his first ownership venture, and earned him a Best of Boston nod in its first year. With the Blue Ox’s Sin burger, O’Neil was the reigning Boston magazine Battle of the Burger champion from 2013-2015, and judged the competition this year. He has also competed at the South Beach Food & Wine Festival, and has been featured on ESPN, as well as the Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay.

Eater Boston reports Ledger could open as early as summer 2017.

Ledger, coming to 125 Washington St., Salem, Instagram.