Ed Kane had actually homed in on the concept for his grand, multifaceted bistro Explorateur before he found the grand, multifaceted, historic building to house it, right on well-traveled Tremont Street.
The café, restaurant, and bar opens August 28, on the ground floor of the 120-year-old Grand Masonic Lodge, overlooking Boston Common. Kane has opened more than 20 restaurants and clubs throughout his career, including Stars on Hingham Harbor, Boston spots Red Lantern and Empire, and Shrine nightclub and Scorpion Bar at Foxwoods Casino & Resort. He’s been developing Explorateur for about three years, initially planning to open it with a partner in Washington, D.C., he says.
“But I always thought Boston lacked that breakfast, lunch, dinner thing that you’d see in London or Paris,” he says.
Then he looked at the Los Angeles model, in spots like Gjelina and Republique: They added fresh, seasonal, California cuisine to the European-style concept. It makes it healthier, for one, and it also focuses on the food, which is a departure from the nightclub-restaurant hybrids Kane has done with his company, Big Night Entertainment, for the past decade.
“Because my first restaurant [Stars] is breakfast, lunch, dinner—it’s still one of my favorites. But it’s more of a diner, and I really wanted to do something that was just a little more sophisticated,” Kane says. “The market has really grown. Like, Millennials really get international travel, and they really get dining and great food.”
Explorateur has four distinct spaces across more than 5,000 square feet. Enter the brass door on Tremont Street—in front of new, 15-foot windows, formerly a set of mosaics you’ve certainly walked by hundreds of times—into the café, with antique-looking tile flooring, subway-tiled walls and black marble countertops, and bronze details. A custom-made, creamy white La Marzocco espresso machine serves a full La Colombe coffee program, and there are J’Enwey Teas.
Pastry chef Morgan Gray, along with Big Night Entertainment’s executive pastry chef Maria Cavaleri, keep the cases stocked with grab-and-go muffins, scones, croissants, quiches, and other pastries. There’s also a hot breakfast menu, offering yogurt, oatmeal, mushroom, and avocado toasts; a Croque Monsieur, an egg flatbread, scrambles, sandwiches, and more.
Full-service lunch starts at 11:30 a.m., though guests can eat it anywhere—the café; in a fully accessible, raised dining room; at high-tops around the 19-seat bar, or in the darker, cozier “library,” an 88-seat overflow seating area, perfect for holing up with a laptop or for private events of up to 200 standing guests.
Chefs Michael Morway and Jacob Mendros incorporate French flair through technique, but the flavors on the lunch and dinner menus are global. Lunch offers soups, salads, sandwiches, flatbreads, tarts, and composed entrees, like steak frites, or a salmon bowl with couscous. The dinner menu breaks out the “Things We’ll Call French,” and adds a few large-format and more dishes.
Check out all the menus below.
Bar manager Gina Goyette, a South Boston native, just returned to the city after 17 years in New York City where she was beverage manager at the Mark by Jean-Gorges; chef sommelier for Alain Ducasse at Benoit, and managing partner of Bottle & Bine, among other stints. At Explorateur, “The beverage program is going to enhance what the kitchen is doing,” she says.
In that vein, her wine list is about 50 percent French, a quarter American/California, and a quarter of other crowd-pleasing favorites. “It’s spread out amongst the cocktail program and the beer program, as well. There’s kind of East Coast-versus-West Coast beer styles, with a little bit of European thrown in,” Goyette says. A third of the cocktails riff on the classics, a third are seasonally driven, and a third are “café-inspired, because the café is such a huge part of what we’re doing.”
Explorateur will serve breakfast from 7-11:30 a.m. daily, lunch until 5 p.m., and dinner until 10 or 11 p.m. on weekends. It will also offer weekend brunch, and drinks until midnight or 1 a.m.
Opening Monday, August 28, 186 Tremont St., Boston, 617-405-5053, explorateur.com.
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