New details emerged Tuesday about a Mexican restaurant proposed to fill the Ghazal space at 711 Centre St. — including a draft menu featuring $3 tacos.
The eatery, to be called "Casa Verde," is from the team behind existing JP restaurants Tres Gatos and Centre Street Cafe. Co-owner David Doyle described the project Tuesday to members of the Public Service Committee of the JP Neighborhood Council.
"We believe a Mexican restaurant, really affordable, family friendly, would be a good fit for Jamaica Plain," Doyle told those at the meeting, which was held at Curtis Hall Community Center.
Doyle and co-owner Keith Harmon passed around a draft menu. Here's the possible menu, which obviously may change before the spot's expected opening in October or November 2015.
The restaurant's menu would mirror its sister restaurants in that while inspired by a particular cuisine — Spanish for Tres Gatos, Italian for Centre Street Cafe — that those traditions would be a starting point. Casa Verde would focus on traditional Mexican dishes as opposed to Tex-Mex creations like burritos. Tortillas would be made on-site. The menu would also be influenced by South America, Harmon said.
There was discussion of whether the new restaurant would compete with nearby Purple Cactus. Harmon said the two concepts are quite different: One a quick-service spot with an emphasis on wraps and Casa Verde a full-service restaurant focusing on tacos and ceviche. He said they would likely serve tortas instead of burritos, for instance.
As you can see from the draft menu above, tacos would range from $3-5, ceviche $5-7 with full entrees ranging from $11 to $17. Doyle said the spot would also offer a strong program of draft beers.
Harmon said the team was close to announcing their hire for chef.
With 58 seats, the location is an easier fit to attract families, Doyle said, than in the smaller footprints at Tres Gatos and Centre Street Cafe.
Harmon said the team had worked out a 20-year lease with landlord Paul Iantosca. He said the new project also plans to buy all assets of the now-closed Ghazal, including the spot's beer, wine and liqueur license.
The terms of that license and others required by the city were the subject of Tuesday's meeting. Committee members voted 7-0 with one abstention to support a 1 a.m. closing time and a provision that alcohol only be served to those ordering food.
In the beginning, the restaurant won't likely stay open that late, Harmon said. He said it was they would probably stop serving their full menu at 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends.
The location has an entertainment license, which Ghazal had used for recorded music. Doyle said there would be no live mariachis and Harmon said terms of the lease prohibit noise loud enough to reach outside the building.
Mostly Support for New Venture
Response from residents at the meeting was warm.
Jullieanne Doherty, the mayor's liaison for the neighborhood, said based on conversations and emails from residents she offered "strong support" for the project.
"David is a staple in Jamaica Plain," she said. "I'm sure we even know how much he does for Jamaica Plain."
One man who lives near the spot sent a critical letter. He asked that the restaurant not mirror what he said were raucous late nights at next-door Costello's Tavern.
Committee member Constance Cervone, a JP Realtor, also asked that the new owners respect deeded parking spaces behind the restaurant owned by her firm, Coldwell Banker. Although the spots are marked as reserved, Cervone said delivery people from the now-closed Ghazal often made use of them.
Jamaica Plain News hasn't spoken with Ghazal's owners, but Doyle Tweeted that the owner is selling Ghazal to pursue another venture.
It's been a busy year for Doyle, Harmon and and Mari Perez-Alers, who is Doyle's wife. They opened a revamped Centre Street Cafe, keeping Felicia Sánchez' famous brunch but switching most of the menu to a Mediterranean/Italian theme. That's while continuing to operate Tres Gatos, a Spanish tapas restaurant/record store/bookshop.