Call it the makings of a modern-day restaurant empire—or at least the Jamaica Plain version of one. On the heels of opening the Italian-focused Centre Street Cafe, which joined their Spanish-style spot Tres Gatos last year, owners David Doyle, Maricely Perez-Alers and Keith Harmon are set to open Casa Verde this month.
The new Mexican joint will share many qualities with the owners’ other neighborhood spots: a cozy atmosphere, JP employees and, yes, a 3 percent hospitality surcharge that goes to back-of-house workers. The owners’ reputation is part of what lured JP resident and chef Sean Callahan (Ten Tables) back to the restaurant business from his latest gig, making Mexican food at Google’s headquarters.
“They’re just awesome guys. I know they care about their employees and they care about the community,” Callahan says. “To be able to work for people like that is not the most common opportunity in this business.”
What really sealed the deal for Callahan, however, was the chance to keep cooking Mexican fare. The menu will lean toward traditional street food, with 10 types of tacos, including lamb al pastor with grilled pineapple and shrimp a la diabla with chile marinade and cabbage curtido. There will also be tortas with housemade bread, a couple of ceviches, gorditas, tostadas, tamales, larger entree plates and dessert.
“A lot of Mexican food seems really simple. And there are all the shortcuts that people can take, whether it’s using chipotles or adobos that come in a can or all sorts of other products that you can buy,” Callahan says. “But the idea of taking this food, which is very simple on the surface, and making the stuff from scratch really makes a big difference.”
The spot fills the former home of Ghazal, joining the other two restaurants on Centre Street. Banquettes fill the back of the space, and a 12-seat bar stretches along the front right side of the restaurant, where GM Bailey Lyon will focus on beer, with 20 selections on tap, alongside wines and cordials. Lyon, who’s been working at Tres Gatos, is likewise a JP resident. “It’s one of the things they’ve always strived for: employing people who live in the neighborhood,” Callahan says. “It’s one of the things I’m trying to do in looking at kitchen staff.”
That neighborhood has been getting sneak peeks of Casa Verde as Callahan’s tried out dishes at Tres Gatos’ Taco Tuesdays. While he says a few are “knock-’em-out-of-the-park good,” he knows he has a tough task in pleasing his ultimate customer: “My wife has been bemoaning the lack of really fabulous tacos for years.… Hopefully, we’ll be that unicorn of a taqueria.”
Casa Verde 711 Centre St., Boston