Newton native Josh Weinstein named his new East Boston tavern The Quiet Few after a song by a favorite band, Tomahawk. But he hopes that his business gets busy and loud. “I’m a big believer that a neighborhood tavern is a cornerstone and a pillar in a community. It’s where people get out of their homes, see familiar faces, gossip about the neighborhood, and watch the Sox game,” he says. “We want guests to come in and be comfortable and feel like they’re in our home.”
Weinstein and his wife, Linsey, got their start at bars in New York City; Linsey then moved on to Rebel Rebel in Somerville. Chef Scott Jensen comes from the Gallows Group; here, he’ll serve “comfort food — burgers, wings, that kind of thing, but done with a lot of thought,” Weinstein says.
What’s the first restaurant you ever ate at in Boston? My family and I used to go to Café Brazil [in Allston] religiously. I think it’s now Lulu’s. That’s the restaurant I remember having experiences at. I’d get homemade beans, rice, grilled vegetables, steak, and chicken.
What’s one thing you’d like to fix about the restaurant industry here? The issue with liquor licenses and their availability, and all the accessibility of them and everything that goes along with obtaining them. Living and opening up in East Boston, every day I see these high rises going up all along the water and all these residents coming. It’s very tough, especially for someone with a small business like ours, to serve those people. What builds a community is its restaurants, bars, and small businesses. And a $400,000 liquor license is only obtainable by Ruth’s Chris [Steak House], not someone like myself. Making it so difficult to obtain them means that smaller family-run bars and restaurants are much more difficult. Kristen Scanlon was my attorney, and she was the best.
How has the restaurant landscape changed since you arrived in Boston? This is a tough one. I moved back here almost two years ago. We were in New York for 12 years. I do see trends: There’s definitely a big cocktail trend and still some fantastic old-school dive bars, which are my favorites. My wife is into wine, and I love seeing the natural wine program that’s going on.
What other restaurants do you visit? If we have a day off, we’ll usually find ourselves at Bar Mezzana. That’s probably our favorite. My wife loves Rebel Rebel. I love Eddie C’s. We frequent Cunard Tavern and Renegade’s [Pub]; they’re close by. We really love Lion’s Tail. Definitely Smoke Shop for whiskey. But, generally, Bar Mezzana.
What’s your earliest food memory that made you think: I want to work in restaurants? Café Brazil! Going there often and being treated like we were in someone’s home, being so welcomed by the owner, Walter, and his staff — we actually became somewhat friends with them, and they’re people who have been in our home. Looking back, that’s what gave me the pull to this industry.
What’s the worst restaurant experience you’ve ever had? Nothing jumps out to me. My dad had one where there was a dog in the restaurant being fed under the table. The dog urinated under the table, and the owner and dog left like nothing happened. There haven’t been too many experiences where I’ve been like, ‘I just can’t.’
How could Boston become a better food city? Not taking yourself too seriously and being affordable is really important. We’ve crafted our drinks and our food to be something where you can come three or four times per week and not completely break the bank, because we want it to be an extension of our home.
Name three adjectives for Boston diners. ‘Tito’s and soda!’ was yelled at me a lot while bartending. They’re interested, they’re excited, and they’re fun.
What’s the most overdone trend right now? Besides Tito’s? The drizzling of sauce! The squiggly line sauce that’s drizzled on top. You know what I’m trying to say? A zig-zag, very intentional, and I just don’t get it.
What are you reading? I’m going through “Kitchen Confidential” one more time. I’ve also been reading “Straight Up: Real World Secrets to Running a Killer Bar” by Ramona Pettygrave Shah. And I’m reading “Small Victories,” the biography of Faith No More.
How’s your commute? My commute to work is incredible. It’s a straight walk. We live a mile from the bar. A bus drops us off right at the door.
What’s the one food you never want to eat again? Durian. It’s like a weird, custard-y gym sock.
‘Not taking yourself too seriously and being affordable is really important. . . . We want [our tavern] to be an extension of our home.’
What kind of restaurant is Boston missing right now? Hopefully one like ours. Something community-driven and accessible and fun, and not too pretentious. There’s places like that, but we could always have more.
What’s your most missed Boston restaurant? Obviously Café Brazil.
Who was your most memorable customer? I was going through a run at the bar I worked at in New York when I had a couple straight weekends where I got popped in the face by some female guests. One, I was trying to stop from attacking someone else, and another, I don’t know what she was on, but she didn’t remember anything when she came back to grab her credit card the next day. Those definitely come to mind. I had one guy come in once who was really there just to cause trouble. He had his own beer in his pocket, he had no lenses in his glasses, and he had a small thing of vanilla extract. There’s been all sorts of fun, interesting ones.
If you had to eat your last meal in Boston, what would it be? For a while, I wanted to get Bar Mezzana’s half-portion of mozzarella and prosciutto as an appetizer, then the full portion as my main. I say that to my wife every time we go there. Just more meat. All the meat and cheese.Kara Baskin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.