Normally when it comes to a new restaurant concept emerging in the greater dining ecosphere, the life cycle tends to be something like concept—location—construction—opening.
However, Jeremy Kean and Philip Kruta, the duo behind Whisk Boston, the popular series of one-night to six-month pop-up supper clubs, tend to do things as they see fit. And so far, nobody has complained.
Which is why the news that Whisk has purchased the Fazenda Cafe across from the Forest Hills MBTA station in Jamaica Plain (right in the shadow of the colossal Casey Overpass project) is not only newsworthy because it’s their first official permanent home, but also because the process of bringing their full concept to life is taking a different route.
“We did these pop-ups for however many years, and it was amazing and fun and we got to travel around and do what we want,” says Kean. “But it was all done out of a van. Then we started doing six-month setups so we wouldn’t have to use the van so much.” Those temporary spots were hit-or-miss for Kean, who calls the stint they did at 351 Hanover in the North End “a dream for us” but says after they moved out, they didn’t feel they had much to show for it. And the stretch they spent in the kitchen at Wink and Nod in the South End turned out to be less than desireable. “We just didn’t feel like it was a place for a tasting menu, it was too dark, [we] weren’t confident in the front of house, and we wanted out,” he says. “After that we said no more partnerships. We wanted our own thing, and had people who wanted to invest in us.”
But the reason JP was the choice for them has a lot to do with the history of Whisk. The duo started their pop-ups in 2011 at Fiore’s Bakery on South Street, and both of the guys wanted to bring it all back home. But Kruta says it hasn’t been a walk in the park. After all, the Fazenda cafe was just that—a cafe.
“We had to put in the infrastructure for restaurant; took a lot behind the walls to bring it up to where it needed to be to become a restaurant,” he says. “I think it’s a great way to evolve. By doing the pop-ups here, we get to learn what the area wants from us, what the neighborhood wants. We’ve been getting a lot of feedback from the customers, and that’s really helping us evolve the whole concept.” [Ed note: On Monday they announced their next pop-up will be Aug 20 and 21 and will focus on ramen, Japanese whiskey, and live blues.]
The story of how they procured the space is noteworthy if only for the ease with which the changeover happened. After a motorcycle trip the duo took through the South in September of last year, Kean and Kruta weren’t sure what their next move would be for Whisk. They had looked at a couple places in JP, but things just weren’t falling into place—and then one day the two called the Fazenda owners and essentially asked if they wanted to sell the cafe. The next day they talked price, and that was that. Kean and Kruta took over the space in mid-January, and since then have held a few pop-ups right in the cafe as a way to slowly build out the restaurant while also introducing the concepts to locals.
“We’re not in a rush,” says Kean. “We have this space during the day, and we’re turning it around into something we’re real proud of, and while we’re doing that we’re learning what the whole thing will be. It’s taken a while to transform, but we’ve got time.”
WHISK BOSTON. 3710 WASHINGTON ST., JAMAICA PLAIN.
Dan is a freelance journalist and has written for publications including Vice, Esquire, the Daily Beast, Fast Company, Pacific Standard, MEL, Leafly, Thrillist, and DigBoston.