Here’s Your First Look at the Porch Southern Fare and Juke Joint
The Medford venue expands on chef Jonathan Post's barbecue menu, and adds live music to the mix.
From the art on the walls, to the music on stage and the stereo, to the expansive menu, Medford’s newest restaurant is a loving homage to the modern American south. The Porch Southern Fare and Juke Joint—one of the area’s most-anticipated summer openings, and one of the many reasons to be excited about the dining landscape in Medford—lands on Monday, July 15, bringing not only a wood-smoked barbecue program and deep whiskey list to a new development in the north-of-Boston city, but also an ambitious live music venue.
Spanning 8,500-square feet in the new River’s Edge mixed-use complex in Medford, the Porch fills the expansive space with 250 seats, including a private dining room. Anchoring the room is a 54-foot bar, and a stage on which touring and local bands will perform regularly. The lounge area features two pool tables and other games, and there are an additional 50 seats on an outdoor patio. The place boasts ample free parking nearby, and is also accessible by a River’s Edge shuttle from the Wellington MBTA station.
It’s a massive upgrade from a now-closed 20-seat restaurant in Wakefield, where Nashville-born chef Jonathan Post and his business partner, Cenk Emre, first debuted the Southern concept in 2016. Initially poised to be an expansion of the Porch brand, the Medford location was going to be less than half its current size, Post says. But when the partners had the opportunity to take over the entire anchor-restaurant space at River’s Edge, they decided to close up the Porch in Wakefield.
“It doesn’t make sense to manage a 20-seat restaurant in Wakefield and try to keep up with this larger space,” Post says. But he adds that the city of Medford immediately proved to be more business-friendly for this project, especially when it came to using the smoker.
Authentic, Southern-style barbecue is not only a main part of Post’s menu, but it also informs the new restaurant’s interior design: The architects at Stack + Co. were inspired by the curves of the custom-built smoker for the rusted-steel ceiling soffits. The private dining area, on the other hand, recalls a classic Southern porch, with wooden details and an azure-painted ceiling.
But the main, Southern-inspired theme of the space is music. Post, who grew up in Nashville and still has family there, commissioned paintings of seminal musicians Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton, and George Jones by Nashville artist Amy Tyndall. He also contracted family-friend and Nashville artist Richard Cook to do all of the Porch’s updated graphic design, as well as a number of paintings for the restaurant, including a mural on the ceiling in the private dining room.
“Talking with [Richard] had a lot to do with the design of the space,” Post shares. “In his art [for the space], he really wanted to tap into this dichotomy down South: Religion is really big, but so is drinking whiskey and having a good time. We [Southerners] refer to it as ‘Saturday night and Sunday morning.’ There’s a constant internal battle between good and bad. It’s a recurring theme in country and blues music as well.”
The mural, actually entitled “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning,” features symbolism that recalls this dichotomy—from the angel and devil tugging the main character in opposite directions, to more subtle images. “It really resonated with me,” says Post, and he used it as inspiration for other eye-catching design details, like the lyrics from the classic Son House blues tune, “Death Letter,” hanging in neon over the bar.
“Music was always an important part of what we did in Wakefield,” Post says, referring to the playlists of Southern rock and blues he curated, but the small spot didn’t have room for a stage. “As soon as this project turned into an 8,000[-plus]-square foot space, it was a no-brainer to add the live music. In Nashville, there’s almost always a band in the corner.”
The Porch will host ticketed shows at least once a week, beginning around 9 p.m., after the dining room has mainly cleared out; but smaller acts will also play during service sometimes. Currently, Post is booking the bands himself; the first show features Nashville psychedelic-blues band, the Minks, on July 20.
Post is not alone in the kitchen, though. The chef-owner is an alum of Boston-area dining institutions including 80 Thoreau, Moody’s Delicatessen, and Blue Ginger, and he recruited a former Blue Ginger colleague as the Porch’s new executive chef: Alex Horowitz. Most recently the executive chef at the James Pub & Provisions in Needham, Horowitz is imbuing the menu with his own creativity, Post says. The two chefs recently took a road trip together around the southeastern U.S., from Nashville to North Carolina to Atlanta to New Orleans.
“It’s always been important to me to maintain authenticity in the food, but when we brought Alex in, I wanted him to feel fulfilled in the job. He really embraced the whole culture on our trip down south. He came back and put together a really great menu that combines traditionally rooted dishes with creative and local [touches],” Post says.
Alongside Post’s smoked meats and some other favorites from the original Porch menu, Horowitz’s new dishes include cornmeal-crusted catfish with baby kale, pickled watermelon rind, and a mint remoulade. “Remoulade is traditional, but the addition of the mint is really his own, and it really sets it off,” Post says.
Bartender Oliver Castro-McClung is overseeing the Porch’s beverage program, which highlights whiskey, as well as local craft beers.
The Porch hosted a friends-and-family opening party on Tuesday night, and opens to the public on July 15. The Porch will begin serving dinner nightly from 5-11 p.m., and lunch will come online later this summer.
175 River’s Edge Drive, Medford, 781-874-9357, theporchsouthern.com.