Puritan & Co. – Cambridge, Massachusetts

First Taste: Breaking Ground

Photo credit: Dan Watkins

Photo credit: Dan Watkins

A chef/owner’s debut restaurant is necessarily personal. Will Gilson’s Puritan & Co. feels especially like the culmination of one man’s journey—he cashed in every favor and used every resource to create a dining experience he hopes will keep patrons gravitating to Inman Square. “Doing everything right takes time,” says Gilson, whose restaurant is nearing its 11th month of construction, planning and anticipation. It’s finally set to open (fingers crossed) on Nov. 1, but not under its original concept, or even its original name.

“We finally got to the point of realizing what this building was and how the name evolved with that,” says Gilson of the old Bosphorus space, which in the early 1900s housed the Puritan Cake Company. Now guests will be greeted by a 1920s Glenwood stove that serves as the host stand, an element of the “urban farmhouse” atmosphere reflective of Gilson’s upbringing on his family farm in Groton. But the stove isn’t just some flea-market find—it’s the first he ever cooked with in his folks’ restaurant, the Herb Lyceum. “There are plenty of ways you can antique things to make them look old,” says Gilson. “It’s another thing when each piece has a story attached to it.”

The story doesn’t end with the décor. What started in Gilson’s head as a fast-paced, tapas-style eatery has since transformed into something much more leisurely. He anticipates hour-long pre-meals lubricated with a good selection of fine wines. Without a full liquor license, Gilson’s ramping up the wine program, and every server is going through extensive training on tasting notes. “We’re turning this into a destination rather than just a restaurant,” he says.

The menu features New England pastoral dishes with the occasional ethnic twist. Meats take center stage, like Gilson’s lamb chop wrapped in sausage and served with greens and hay-roasted carrots. Several items that may find their way to the communal table are prepared sous vide. Also look for house-made vermouth, produce from the Gilsons’ farm and ingredients pickled and canned on the property.

Just don’t bring up farm-to-table, a term that sours Gilson’s expression. “We have a farm. We have tables,” he says. “You can make up the rest from there.”

Puritan & Co. 1166 Cambridge St., Cambridge (617-615-6195) puritancambridge.com

This article originally appeared in the October 17, 2012, issue of The Improper Bostonian.