Hungry for Design’s authors are Susan Battista and Fritz Klaetke—partners in both work and life. By day they run Visual Dialogue, a branding and design firm where Susan leads strategy and Fritz leads creative. By night, they can be found sharing meals (and opinions) at restaurants all over Boston and beyond.
Sometimes the sequel is better
Can Bondir’s Concord location top the original?
Ah, fall in New England. The perfect time to head to the quintessential New England town of Concord, Massachusetts, for a hearty fall meal by a cozy fire. Following the trend of chefs opening a second location as their reputation grows, chef/owner Jason Bond’s Bondir Concord is an expansion beyond their original Cambridge location. The new restaurant—a white wood-trimmed storefront in a red brick building—fits beautifully into the neighborhood amidst the quaint shops and local businesses. It stands in stark contrast to the original location that’s located in a white brick building (that looks like a “shot and a beer” bar) in a bleak, uninviting stretch of Broadway in Cambridge.
You enter the restaurant and the smell of a wood burning fireplace immediately gives a homey feel just like the Cambridge location but that’s where the similarities end. Across from the reception area is the bar which was hopping on a Sunday evening. The sleek, polished look of the bar contrasts with industrial finishes (exposed brick, HVAC ducts) but works well in the long space.
The center area of the restaurant is dominated by the aforementioned fireplace clad in green ceramic tile and an open kitchen where you can see the chefs hard at work. In this area we see little compositions of old dishes and antiques throughout. Each table setting was slightly different using mismatched vases with floral plates mixed in with standard-issue restaurant white. A large painting featuring a pheasant in a field of ivy with a bounty of autumnal fruit and foliage dominates the wall behind the booths. It’s great to see art that was thoughtfully selected because it definitely sets a tone and enlivens the space.
The back dining room is a twist on “Ye Olde New England” evoking a Revolutionary War tavern with low ceilings, decorative paintings, wainscoting, and a more intimate feel.
While the assemblage of disparate spaces and decorative items works well, the assemblage of disparate flavors on our plates were hit or miss. The dishes sound interesting from the menu descriptions (don’t underestimate the value of good copywriting), but they were trying to pack in creativity at the expense of flavor. And like too many chef-driven restaurants, little attention was paid to the desserts (our cortland apple semifreddo with butterscotch caramel sounded delicious but was both flavorless and icy).
While the interior design here takes a modern twist on traditional New England decor, the branding and website take a very different approach. The hand-drawn logo suggests Chef Bond's signature and his personal, hands-on attention to the food, but very little attention was paid to the website. The website is built on what looks to be a generic, off-the-shelf Wordpress blog. If your food is creative and special, your website should be as well (ok, so they didn’t have the internet in colonial times but it’s pretty important now).
As we were leaving Concord, we passed the home of Ralph Waldo Emerson who lived nearby and once said, “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” We think life’s experiences make us all as well. And in the case of Bondir Concord, we won’t remember the meal but will remember the experience.