Chef Brian Poe Is a New Partner at Parish Café
The Tip Tap Room chef has no plans to change the guest-sandwich concept—but expect some "Poe touches."
A dozen years into their business partnership, chef Brian Poe has joined Gordon Wilcox as a partner in a neighborhood staple. Poe is taking over chef-ownership duties at both locations of Parish Café from cofounder Sean Simmons, overseeing a menu centered sandwiches designed by Boston’s best known toques.
“It’s very much an honor to take on and be a part of this,” Poe says. “To look at the [archive of sandwich recipes, from chefs] I’ve loved forever, from Lydia Shire, on across to Cassie Piuma from Sarma, Tiffani Faison, William Kovel, Jeremy Sewall, Joanne Chang, Tim Cushman, you name it—it’s a really dynamic list, and a phenomenal thing to be a part of.”
Simmons and his wife and cofounder, Elaine, are planning to retire, Poe says, though Sean is helping Poe with the transition for the next several months. Tip Tap Room general manager Jerry Ullman is also a new business partner at Parish Café, helping with front-of-house operations.
Poe first teamed up with Wilcox in 2007. Then a fine-dining chef at Seasons Restaurant at the Millennium Bostonian Hotel, Poe started planning a more casual, “Poe’s Kitchen” concept with Wilcox. With the economy slowing, they opted to debut it at Wilcox’s Rattlesnake. Poe’s Kitchen at the Rattlesnake shuttered in late 2016, but the partners have since expanded with the Tip Tap Room in Beacon Hill, and Bukowski’s in Cambridge.
“This menu is written by every chef in the city,” Poe says. “I’ll be adding some Poe touches along the way—it’s in my blood, I can’t help it—but for the most part, I want to keep adding fresh, new talent to it, keep an eye on what’s happening in the city with food, and keep developing the concept that’s already here.”
Poe has been a part of the process to put new sandwiches from Catalyst chef William Kovel and Row 34’s Jeremy Sewall on the menu, and plans to debut more new recipes in early February. Parish Café, which expanded with a second location in the South End in 2010, has an archive of about 60 sandwiches from the course of its 25-year history. They’re all at Poe’s disposal—the Parish Café currently has 18 sandwiches on the menu, plus two chalkboard specials on any given day.
“That’s what’s fun for me right now as I get into it, like, ‘Ooh, I’ve always thought highly of [Michael] Schlow, let’s put [his recipe] on.’ It’s almost like being able to give them a call and see how they’re feeling,” Poe says. “What’s fun for me in pre-meal, where we educate the staff before service, is I can tell a great story of a chef that I cooked an event with, or a chef I’ve known for a long time. I really do love every one of them on there.”
And in his opinion, Simmons and his team have done the chefs the utmost justice over these two-plus decades.
“I’ve had a sandwich there for 11 years myself,” Poe says. The Mexican meatball sandwich with pepper jack cheese, chipotle aioli, and an aguas frescas salad is “a play on where I came from, but Sean Simmons… captured me cooking, and it’s maintained for 11 years, perfectly. That’s so beautiful about this concept, as well. How these guys in the kitchen, the waitstaff, the management team, how much they respect what goes into it.”
Parish Café, 361 Boylston St., Back Bay, 617-247-4777, 493 Massachusetts Ave., South End, Boston, 617-391-0501, parishcafe.com.