POSTED ON OCTOBER 8, 2008:
On the Grille
College grads bring fresh perspective to the downtown dining scene
Perfect Blend. Zampino said that the signature salad is the most popular, and I can see why. There's a great blend of ingredients that work together in each bite.
With a big city feel, downtown's Boston Avenue Grille & Catering is nestled in a space on the first floor of the First Place Tower building on Boston Avenue. This place is small and cozy but with plenty of dining room inside and outside. Owners Shelly Harris and Licia Zampino are very pleased and proud of their place, and they should be.
Recent college grads (Harris a Culinary Arts graduate from OSU-Okmulgee and Zampino a Hotel and Restaurant Administration grad from OSU), the duo has the energy, drive, enthusiasm and background to do well in this location and in this business.
Zampino said that they had been working on this concept since last November, and when this location presented itself, they went for it.
Since opening May 19, Boston Avenue Grille has been doing quite well. "We wanted to cater to the downtown professionals," Zampino said. They designed a very unique and classy, upscale restaurant downtown, and they used menu selections, like Starbuck's Coffee, that would serve as good marketing tactics. "We decided to sell Starbuck's Coffee and serve it as in the corporate stores," she explained. "It's great to uphold their brand name in our store."
They get that coffee going early in the morning, arriving, prepping and opening by 7am. The breakfast menu is simple and straightforward. Selections include egg and cheese on a croissant or biscuit with sausage, bacon or ham, and a breakfast burrito. Other items cinnamon rolls, muffins, and Kashi items. Zampino said she is also offering biscuits and gravy as a special item because of popular demand.
The restaurant has a good following in the morning, mostly regulars picking up bakery items like cranberry muffins, banana nut muffins, scones or even the signature dessert--the cranberry bread pudding. Zampino said the pudding can be great for breakfast or for dessert.
The two girls combined efforts to design the menu selections, but Harris created the recipes from techniques she learned in school and just from knowing foods that people want. Zampino added that they took a poll of employees in the First Place Tower that proved to be very beneficial.
The result is the Southwestern flair on the menu. "People said they wanted to see Southwestern/Mexican items on the menu," said Zampino. Popular "From the Border" menu items include the burrito, Boston's signature burrito, two tacos, quesadilla and veggie quesadilla. All are priced at $6.15.
Other menu selections include soups, like the Chicken Tortilla or the "Soup of the Day" (such as Tomato and Herb, Creamy Baked Potato and Southwest Corn Chowder). The soups run $2.99/cup, $4.99/bowl, and $5.99/bread bowl.
Salads and sandwiches ($6.15) are the other main menu items for lunch. Salads include the classic Caesar, chef salad, taco salad, the B&B salad (the b's stand for "tender roast beef" and "crumbled bleu cheese"), Boston's signature salad, the cobb, the Asian salad and soup and salad. More than 10 sandwiches are available, including the Cuban, turkey and guacamole, shaved roast beef and cheddar, Boston's signature chicken salad, Reuben and the Italian.
I took a late lunch, escaped the rush and arrived at Boston Avenue Grille after 1pm. A few lunchers had the same idea. Ordering, payment and pick up is counter-style; I ordered the Boston's signature salad, Boston's signature burrito and the Cuban sandwich.
Zampino said that the signature salad is the most popular, and I can see why. There's a great blend of ingredients that work together in each bite. The fresh roasted chicken breast is mixed with romaine lettuce, field greens, cranberries, apples, toasted walnuts, tomatoes, bacon and all tossed with a light balsamic dressing. I would have enjoyed a little more chicken with the salad-- it was somewhat sparse.
The burrito was very good. With all the ingredients, it easily could be a "wrap." Marinated chicken and beef, black beans, cilantro seasoned rice, pico de gallo, lettuce, queso blanco, cheddar and jack cheese and sour cream were all stuffed into a heated four tortilla. I was thankful this was sliced in two; it eased the eating process. What stood out were the marinated meats; the sweet marinade proved to be a good juxtaposition with the other ingredients.
The Cuban sandwich (smoked pulled pork, ham, banana peppers, shaved red onion, pickles, Swiss cheese and dijonnaise sauce on a toasted hoagie) was packed with lots of tender and flavorful meats. The banana peppers and dijonnaise sauce added a distinct flavor and an extra little punch to the overall flavor.
Catering is the other half of the business for Boston Avenue Grille & Catering. Zampino said that no catering job is too small or too big. They offer not only what is listed on the menu, but sushi, BBQ and other items.
Zampino said she and Harris are very excited about Boston Avenue Grille and Catering. "We really have a lot of fun and we have a great work ethic. We are doing what we enjoy doing each day. It's lots of work, but we love it," she said.
Boston Avenue Grille & Catering
15 E. 5th St, Ste. 150
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