Jason Santos admits that the concept for his forthcoming Buttermilk & Bourbon sounds far removed from his current restaurants, Back Bay Harry’s and Abby Lane. The new spot, set to open in February in the old BarLola space in Back Bay, will serve Southern-style small plates.
“I’ve always sort of reinvented myself every so often. When I was a chef at Gargoyles, I was plating everything with tweezers and using 250 liters of liquid nitrogen a week,” Santos says. “Abby’s is like steak tips and pizza and American food. I kind of miss that nicer food, and I just want to find that balance that makes me happy. This, for me, is the most excited I’ve been in a very long time for a project.”
Santos promises whimsical food, and the menu includes a deviled egg toast with deviled egg salad, crab-fat butter and country ham as well as a dish of sautéed crawfish tails served over guacamole. The mac and cheese will include red-hot Cheetos used as a crust, and a hummus-like dip will use boiled peanuts instead of chickpeas. Santos expects chicken to be the restaurant’s signature item, with wings, boneless thighs and bone-in preparations served alongside a selection of sauces such as white barbecue, sweet and spicy or Nashville style. Dessert options will be simple: beignets with powdered sugar or soft-serve ice cream. And Santos spent two years working on his baked-to-order biscuits.
“I don’t want to go so far as to say it’s the best biscuit in Boston, but I’m secretly throwing my hat in the ring,” Santos says. “The food we’re going to try to make is fine dining, but in a very casual atmosphere.”
That atmosphere is meant to channel New Orleans. The 150-seat space retains the same layout as BarLola, and a dining area to the left of the entrance recalls an old parlor with a funky glass chandelier, a large tufted banquette by the front window and lots of low-top seating. A nook near the front door will include a mobile oyster bar that will also serve on-tap Hurricanes. The main bar area features a large mural, while a narrow room off the bar area will sub church pews for banquettes and can be closed off for private dining. A small room in the back is designed as a voodoo lounge with club chairs, black lights and a communal table. The outside patio will open in the spring with lounge seating.
“It’s going to be down and dirty, but not really down and dirty. I want the food and drinks to pristine,” Santos says. “We’ll strive to be the best, but I don’t even care. I just want it to be fun.”