The Tres Gatos Trio Plans to Open Brass Cat Cafe and Bakery

The latest from the Jamaica Plain restaurant group will be a central bakeshop and coffeeshop by day, and serve New Orleans-style comfort food at night.

Centre Street Cafe

Centre Street Cafe. / Photo by Ruby Wallace Ewing for “A Chef’s Guide to Eating Well in Jamaica Plain”

The team behind a popular group of Jamaica Plain restaurants is not treating 2017 like business-as-usual. Centre Street Cafe and Casa Verde are both upgrading their bar programs this year, and a fourth establishment is in the works: Brass Cat Café could open at 3399 Washington St. within 12-18 months.

Keith Harmon, David Doyle, and Maricely Perez-Alers successfully sought a cordials license for their Italian restaurant, Jamaica Plain News reported, which means an amari menu, aperitifs, simple cocktails like an Americano, Aperol Spritz, and Bloody Marys at brunch are headed for Centre Street Cafe.

Pending state approval, Casa Verde was also granted a full liquor license upgrade. Harmon is hopeful the taqueria will debut a margarita menu by Cinco de Mayo, he says.

Brass Cat Cafe “has been in the works for a while,” Harmon says, but Casa Verde clearing that initial hurdle sped up the process. The license shuffle would free up Casa Verde’s cordials license to go to a brand new concept from the ownership trio.

Brass Cat would be the group’s first effort outside the Centre Street corridor, proposed for 3399 Washington Street. It’s an area they’ve kept an eye on, Harmon says, with new, mixed-use development in the works. Their landlord at Casa Verde also owns the former Schell Printing building where Brass Cat would be located, he adds.

“Traffic down there will be good for a coffeeshop and bakery with counter-service sandwiches and casual food during the day, and inexpensive, American comfort food at night,” Harmon says—especially since neighborhood favorite, Canto 6 French bakery shuttered over the summer. “Canto 6 closing was an extraordinary loss for the neighborhood. That being said, we now have something we can deliver down there.”

The impetus behind the bakery concept is to give talented pastry chefs in the Tres Gatos / Centre Street / Casa Verde universe more opportunity, though the team has no staffing announcements to make at this time, Harmon says. Each restaurant currently makes its own table bread, doughnuts, cannoli shells, bocadillo and torta rolls, pan de muertos, and more baked goods, so the kitchen at Brass Cat could streamline that production, he says.

The eatery would also offer a full espresso program and its own, unique dinner menu. With the plans still in the works, the team has been discussing Southeastern American comfort food.

“What we like about [New Orleans-style] cuisine is it combines French technique with Caribbean and North African seasonings, and there’s also a really great cafe culture that exists down there,” Harmon says.

The restaurant group is a leader in Boston restaurants in terms of tightening the wage gap between back- and front-of-house employees, implementing a 3 percent hospitality fee on all bills late last year. A year into the surcharge, the owners report it’s increased hourly kitchen staff wages by about $2.87 per hour, and that tipped employees have seen a 2.5 percent average increase, too.

“We’re always thinking of ways to have more efficiencies so we can pay better, do more charity work, work with as much local agriculture as possible, and last but not least, pay back our investors. And maybe even turn a profit,” Harmon says.

Brass Cat is another piece to that puzzle. “With all of these restaurants, we’re trying to add something to JP that because we’ve lived here for a long time, we would enjoy ourselves.”

Brass Cat Cafe is on the agenda of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council meeting on Monday, January 23, at 7 p.m., and is subject to approval of its cordials license from the licensing board. The Schell building is slated for general renovations this spring before restaurant-specific work can begin, so the cafe’s opening is at least a year away, Harmon says.