After three years in business, Brewer’s Fork restaurant in Hayes Square has become part of the local lexicon, and they’re making a splash citywide too, recently being named one of the top 35 places to drink by Boston Magazine.
That follows Best of Boston designations for brunch and neighborhood restaurants as well. Now, three years in, owners Michael Cooney and John Payne have learned a great deal about operating a place in the Town.
“I would say we learned two high chairs are not enough; we’ve gone from three to four to six now,” laughed Cooney recently at their restaurant.
Brewer’s Fork came onto the scene three years ago on Feb. 26, and after having worked together in the restaurant industry together, the two owners were taking a chance to open a concept that focused on local craft beers on tap and great food cooked exclusively in a custom wood-fired oven.
“It’s pretty scary borrowing a lot of money from your family and friends and bringing all you have and not knowing what will happen when you open the doors,” said Payne – reliving the worries they had in the first days of the restaurant. “We are very happy with how things have gone – especially the rapport we’ve had with local people. People seem to really like the place. They’re comfortable here. We have so many regulars now.”
Added Cooney, “Our basis for this place was to cater to the neighborhood. Our business plan relied on reaching out and bringing in the neighborhood. We believed that if you have a place that’s comfortable – they’ll come multiple times. That was a big thing for me – the neighborhood accepting what we’re doing and enjoying it here.”
Payne said the success has come because it was about learning how to do “1,000 little things right,” all the way from whether the music is on to how one is greeted at the door when they come in. Learning how to do those little things, he said, only made the food experience better.
Brewer’s Fork came in at a time when there were no restaurants in that area of Charlestown at all, and despite the fact many said they were taking a gamble, the owners felt it was a great location. The former dry-cleaning store and convenience store next to McCarthy’s Liquors was the place they settled on after having looked north, south, east and west. It was a place they felt they could build up their clientele and grow, while also learning the ebbs and flows of restaurant ownership.
Cooney said they hit great timing with the surge of local craft beers, and having so many on tap and fresh separated them from the pack. Meanwhile, Cooney knew a lot of the upstart breweries, such as the huge Night Shift Brewery in Everett, which is a staple on tap at Brewer’s Fork.
“That relationship allowed us to get things that others couldn’t get their hands on,” he said.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Payne had to learn to cook exclusively in a wood-fired oven, as that is the only thing that the restaurant uses to cook food. The huge, custom oven took some learning, he said.
“There was a learning curve, especially for brunch,” he said. “You had to learn to cook breakfast items over a fire.”
Payne said the food has become a reliable staple in the Town because it’s a simple menu and one that changes frequently.
“We do what we do and we try to do that the best we possibly can, and that’s it,” he said. “We don’t have a six-page menu. We do things seasonally and we try not to repeat what we have done before.”
Add all of that to a staff that both said were exceptional and hard-working, and it adds up to a recipe for success in Charlestown.