Welcome to the new trend: the 18th century. Not only are we experiencing a ferocious winter spell that compares only to the Great Snow of 1717, but if the crew behind Cambridge restaurant Loyal Nine, set to open in an old liquor store in March, has anything to say about it, we’ll all be dining like we did a few centuries ago. Well, minus a few things.
“We’re looking to be inspired by that time period, with the flavors, ingredients and cooking techniques, without being inhibited too much by it. We’re not going to be thickening all our sauces with flour because that’s what was done,” says chef/co-owner Marc Sheehan. “It’s updated with modern food, and it’s inspired by the time period, not an actual re-creation.”
The menu focuses not solely on New England, but more generally on the East Coast—with an emphasis on the coast. There will be seafood like mackerel and bluefish, as well as many kinds of shellfish, including razor clams, oysters, crabs and shrimp.
“One of our goals with shellfish is to use them in different ways, whether they’re in sauces, glazing vegetables or simply served on ice. Take different approaches than your standard warm bowl of mussels and broth,” Sheehan says.
But fish-weary folks will find a few other options on the opening menu, such as the savory stuffer, which harks back to a favored 18th-century casserole of potatoes, onions and salt pork. Sheehan has kept the dish simple with the same three main ingredients, but reimagined it. The result is confit potatoes, sweated onions and salt pork that’s been half-cured and ground with egg and cheese for added structure.
The 18th-century sensibility carries over to the bar program, with a focus on brandy and rum as well as a selection of dry ciders. Despite the fascination with colonial history—the restaurant name references a group of nine citizens who were revolutionaries in the 1760s—there will also be drinks favored long after the Sons of Liberty, like a mean dirty martini.
The backgrounds of the Loyal Nine owners (Sheehan, Daniel Myers, Rebecca Theris and David Beller) also have a modern bent. When they first met, Sheehan was working on the Brasstacks pop-up, while Myers and Theris were working on the Hand Taste Collective pop-up.
“Although the food was very different, you could taste some core overlaps in how we were approaching our concept. Responsibility and proximity, while keeping quality in mind, were always very important to us,” Myers says. “What’s most important is to commit to all these practices that involve handcraft.”
That handmade touch carries over to the decor of the restaurant and adjoining coffee shop, which will serve coffee, sandwiches, salads and pastries during the day. Theris made every plate in the restaurant by hand, while Myers and his brother-in-law built all the wooden tables themselves. And customers will get a chance to see Sheehan and his kitchen crew add their own touch every day.
“You’ll see a completely open kitchen,” Myers says. “The only walls we built were to cover the restrooms. Other than that, we’ve built no walls, so we can show you what we’re doing every step of the way.”
Loyal Nine 660 Cambridge St., Cambridge (617-945-2576) loyalninecambridge.com