The first thing customers will notice when they step inside the forthcoming White Bull Tavern is not one particular decor piece, but rather an interior design that stuffs history into nearly every nook of the space.
“I did not want a cookie-cutter restaurant. I want somebody to notice something different every time they come in,” says owner Jeff Baird, who also owns the Blackstone Grill (soon to change its name to the Blackstone Pub). “We’re not trying to recreate history because we’re at the end of a street with the Bell in Hand and Union Oyster House. But we’re trying to come up with something that ties into the street and the area.”
Legend has it that William Blackstone rode a white bull named Jupiter into Boston in the 17th century.
The downstairs includes more than a dozen types of wallpaper, an open kitchen with a gold-foiled pizza oven meant to evoke the State House and a portrait of William Blackstone hanging on one wall. Upstairs, interior designer Dave O covered all of the walls with pages from 186 old books, sketching over some of them with objects from keyboards to spinning wheels. One table is made from an old Singer sewing machine, while others have custom tops with keyhole images of chairs painted on them. The actual chairs have a background, too—some were bought at the Brimfield Fair, while others were sourced from a Vermont barn and are more than 100 years old. Above the staircase bridging the two levels, a white bull hangs as a nod to the tavern’s name.
“We’re on the Blackstone block, which is named after William Blackstone, who was the first European settler in Boston,” Baird says. “He was granted land that became the Boston Common, but he eventually moved to Rhode Island. At the age of 65, he rode back into Boston on a white bull to reclaim his land.”
While the history surrounding the tavern (slated to open in early- to mid-October) might surprise some customers, they’ll find some familiarity on a menu that’s expected to include a lot of tavern staples such as a large selection of pizzas and salads as well as wings and lamb chops. Lobster pie and other New England classics will also fill the menu, in addition to a weekly rotating entree such as prime rib. Twenty-four beers will be on draft, and cocktails will be served in creative vessels such as teacups and even a briefcase. Falling in line with the rest of the late-night options in the area, a DJ will take over the top floor nightly for dancing, pumping beats through a system that cost Baird more than $100,000.
“It has to be a three-dimensional place,” Baird says of White Bull, which will have a capacity of 350, with seating for 180. “We’re going after a lunch crowd, an after-work crowd and the dance crowd.”
White Bull Tavern 1 Union St., Boston thewhitebulltavern.com