QUINCY — This city south of Boston is full of historical firsts, from being home to the inaugural American presidential library to being the site of the country’s first railroad. And in the culinary sphere, Quincy is where the initial Howard Johnson’s and Dunkin’ Donuts were located.
Continuing on the food “firsts” front, the city will soon be home to Rewild, the country’s first plant-based beer hall, restaurant, and cafe.
Pat McAuley, 28, one of the restaurant’s three cofounders, said with a blossoming plant-based food trend, and a lack of vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants on the South Shore, Quincy seemed like the perfect place in which to open.
“What I see happening in Quincy is what’s happening in Southie and Dorchester. It seems like the next spot where young people are moving,” he said. “And it’s also this unique spot between the Hingham and Cohasset area and Boston, where people from down there who are looking for a night out but don’t want to drive into Boston can get to in 15 minutes. And the same for people in Boston. . . . We’re right on the Red Line and it’s 20 minutes away.”
Rewild, which opened Oct. 6, is being temporarily housed at 1495 Hancock St. in Quincy Center, in a space formerly occupied by Iron Furnace, a restaurant and craft-beer dining establishment that closed last summer after being in business for less than two years. McAuley explained that the building is being razed (probably next year) to make way for a road, so he and his partners are on the hunt for a permanent location. While at the temporary site, Rewild will only have a weekend liquor license, but a seven-day-a-week license will be sought once it’s in its permanent home.
The owners said Rewild will be a cafe offering artisanal coffee and vegan pastries in the morning, before transitioning to a restaurant serving lunches and dinners of hearty, tasty, meat-free fare including burgers, tacos, pizza, and appetizers such as vegan bacon-wrapped scallops made with oyster mushrooms and bacon made from rice paper that’s soaked in a tamari-based marinade.
Chef and co-owner Will Hernandez, who worked at vegan eateries by CHLOE in Boston and Veggie Galaxy in Cambridge, said he “tries to tell a story” with the food he serves.
“When I first went vegan, I didn’t know what to eat and I was scared that I was going to miss out on the things I liked,” Hernandez, 29, explained. “But I learned that there are so many really good and healthy alternatives. So the complete arc of my food journey is highlighted in this menu.”
“There is nothing I can’t make at this point,” he added. “There are so many vegetables and roots and mushrooms and so many other things that can replace meats and replace most proteins, and it is so easy — and a lot better for you.”
Hernandez said he thinks the fish ’n’ chips will be a popular menu item because when he worked at Veggie Galaxy, it was the most requested item. “I’m not sure what it is, but maybe because with vegan foods, vegan fish is the least available,” he surmised. “I’m really proud of the tacos, too. They’re an homage to my family. My mom is from El Salvador, and there are definitely Salvadoran flavors through and through. They’re like she used to make them, only without animals.”
He said the salads are creative and tasty, like the one with watercress, roasted seasonal squash, walnuts roasted in candy syrup and cayenne, and pomegranate seed with champagne vinaigrette.
“There’s not one single item on the menu that I haven’t thought about obsessively,” he said with a laugh.
Hernandez said his life took a positive turn when he went vegan 10 years ago.
“The ethical part of veganism is a big part of my life. Empathy is such an important pillar of living a happy life to me, so it makes me feel happier knowing I am taking personal steps to lessening another being’s pain,” he said. “It has just made my life better.”
‘What rewild means is bringing an area of land back to its natural, uncultivated state. And getting back to nature and eating what you were intended to eat, in a sense.’
Third partner Marissa Hughes, former general manager at by CHLOE in the Seaport, has also been vegan for 10 years. She said she wanted to effect positive changes through food, so when McAuley approached her last fall about coming on board, she was intrigued.
“We all care deeply about the environment, so beyond not serving meat — since factory farming is so detrimental to the environment — we will be composting and recycling and not using any straws or other plastic items at the bar whatsoever,” said Hughes, 30.
She explained that the name “Rewild” ties into Quincy’s history, since members of the Adams family (two presidents, John Adams and John Quincy Adams, are from Quincy) were farmers.
“What rewild means is bringing an area of land back to its natural, uncultivated state,” Hughes said.
“And getting back to nature and eating what you were intended to eat, in a sense,” McAuley added. “So for humans getting back to nature, there’s this sort of a rewilding culture that for some is getting outside to hike more, spending more time in the woods — and eating more in line with what we feel humans were meant to eat.”
Hernandez said the restaurant’s menu encompasses that mind-set.
“There are no seitans, no processed meat alternatives . . . there are lots of vegetables, roots, and natural foods,” he said. “It’s stuff that is going to fill you up, but it’s not going to bog you down.”
McAuley said that he and his partners want to make Rewild “fun and approachable for anyone who walks in.”
“If you’re a regular dude looking for a couple of beers, you can walk in, order your beer, get a pizza or a burger, fries . . . they’ll be elevated though, without using animal products,” he said. “I think some people are turned off by the word vegan and think they’re going to come in and have ice cubes and lettuce, and that’s just not the case.”
He said that a portion of beer sales proceeds will go to animal sanctuaries, and the trio plans to offer live music, as well as talks and other events focusing on things like sustainability and health.
“We are getting such great feedback,” Hughes said. “We can feel the energy and excitement growing and we’re just so happy to be a part of it.”Juliet Pennington can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.