Jason Santos is not afraid to be colorful. From his signature blue hair to the painted pink floors of his forthcoming restaurant Citrus & Salt, the celebrity chef and restaurateur’s aesthetic is anything but boring. And now, after opening the New Orleans-themed Buttermilk & Bourbon in Back Bay earlier this year, Santos is transforming his now-shuttered Back Bay Harry’s into a Mexican concept, set to open Nov. 27.
“Just like with myself in life, I’m not taking anything too seriously. We’re definitely taking some culinary creativity and creative licenses here,” Santos says. “I wanted it to be a fish-driven menu, a kind of funky version of street food—keeping true to the authenticity of it, but then putting our own twist on it.”
Santos says the inspiration he discovered on a recent trip south of the border is apparent in every aspect of the restaurant, from floors covered in a mosaic of swirling painted flowers to a succulent-filled wall and a back room with neon graffiti and a Santeria-inspired shrine.
“When you go to Mexico City, there’s flowers in bright bursts everywhere. I love the idea of all white, and then the pop of color from the floor up,” says general manager Colleen Hagerty. “Mexican street art was a huge influence. Every spare wall in the city is covered with beautiful murals and patterns.”
As for the menu, small plates will riff on traditional dishes with inventive twists, including grilled street corn rolled in a puree of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos dust, smoked mayonnaise and cotija cheese. The drink list will also host different takes on classic margaritas, such as a seasonal coconut caramel margarita served with a salted caramel popsicle in it.
“I think that with both the food and the space it’s really all about not taking it too seriously or too literally,” Hagerty says. “It’s just about having fun with it.”
With a dining area that seats about 130, a colorful menu centered around coastal dishes and a rustic raw bar, Santos believes the space will carve out a niche in Back Bay.
“I want it to be super approachable and I want it to be fun,” Santos says. “I want people to leave and be like ‘Holy crap! That was a ton of fun!’ It’s a place people can hang out, and I want the ambience to be very welcoming.”
Citrus & Salt 142 Berkley St., Boston citrusandsaltboston.com