Growing up in California, I never have been too familiar with traditional New England fare, although I assumed fresh seafood was involved. Described as “East Coast Revival,” Loyal Nine certainly opened my eyes to a new type of cuisine; one that redefines what people assume is New England food and simultaneously showcases an entirely new perspective on how tasty it can be.
This restaurant concept is one that is historically-inspired to reflect the region’s colonial identity through distinct flavors, cooking techniques, and exceptionally sourced ingredients, all of which come from the coastlines of Philly up through Maine. That said, owners/operators Executive Chef Marc Sheehan, Daniel Myers, Rebecca Theris, and David Beller strive to take these colonial-era dishes and transform them into unique, delicious, and eye-opening interpretations of their original state. Extremely talented, genuine, and purpose driven, everything prepared at Loyal Nine exemplifies this group’s passion for what they do.
Loyal Nine is named after a devoted Colonial-era group of compatriots and protesters. It has risen to critical acclaim within its first year of opening thanks to Sheehan and his team’s unparalleled affinity and desire to study authentic cookbooks and recipe techniques from New England’s storied history. At the same time this team works to figure out how to make those ancient dishes palatable to the masses.
Though I have yet to visit Loyal Nine’s physical location in Boston, from what I hear and have seen in pictures, the restaurant is simplistic, rustic, and artistically designed to imbue a sense of the coastline. With long, sturdy wooden tables made by Theris’ brothers, sea foam green walls, lots of light pouring through its large windows, and beautifully handmade pottery created by the extremely talented Theris herself, this eatery is a lovely place to enjoy your time dining.
Loyal Nine’s café offerings begin at 8 a.m. Not to be overshadowed, the café serves a large selection of lattes, cold brew, nitro-poured coffee on draft, espresso tonic, and more, with each drink made with Dark Matter Coffee, a Chicago-based artisanal roasting company. Also available are fresh breads, pastries, and light breakfast fare throughout the morning hours. For those not into coffee, the eatery features home spun sodas and various pots of tea that range from oolong to Yerba Mate.
The bar, ran by Fred Yarm, serves an innovative list of cocktails that include drinks like the Millers River Milk Punch, a mix of old monk, milk, cinnamon and ango; and the Kanaloa, a rum, chamomile, absinthe, and citrus concoction. With a full beer and wine list (crafted by grower-producers only,) and some outstanding, authentic ciders, you won’t run out of libation choices anytime soon.
The opportunity to dine on the some of the best bites, dishes, and specialties of Loyal Nine’s first year in business at The James Beard House was phenomenal. To start the night, platters of inventive hors d’oeuvres circulated the room. These mouthwatering bites included: fresh oysters with smoked porter vinegar; fried soldier beans with sweet herbs and house-made sea salt; squash tart with pickled cranberries and pork jowl; soused Bluefish on brown bread with cultured cream and radishes; and sallet with aged goat cheese and hard cider vinaigrette.
The beans were the most surprising out of the selection, as each crispy, well seasoned bean was incredibly good. The sallet was so complex in flavor, which makes sense given it takes days to perfect this starter. ‘Sallet’ is just an old English term for plain ‘ol lettuce. But with creamy goat cheese wrapped into a neat little lettuce bundles, which are then drizzled with a hard cider vinaigrette, I am sure that this is as good as lettuce will ever taste. In addition, the soused (a traditional way of preserving fish in vinegar) Bluefish paired nicely with the slight sweetness of its house-made brown bread.
For the first course we were presented with an impressive dish of seafood delights. The four dishes included marinated Cape Cod Mussels with pease pudding and Brussels sprouts; Chatham scallop with Bartlett pear and poppy seeds; poached shrimp with salted herbs and lime; and surf clam with pickled garlic scapes and soft leeks.
The juicy mussels over porridge was an interesting combination that incorporated some tangy, creaminess into the dip-like porridge. A nice touch was the crunch from the tortilla-like chip it’s served with. The raw scallop is served sliced still attached to its ornate shell (as with the surf clam), and is then mixed with sweet cubes of pear, and topped with herbs and poppy seeds. This was freshest scallop I’ve ever had. The whole poached shrimp was cool, buttery, and went amazingly with the pickled, salty zest of Loyal Nine’s special salted herbs.