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The Evolving Ethos Of Boston's Restaurants


Each year, the National Restaurant Association conducts a survey to discover the hottest culinary trends of the coming year. Although the food remains the main reason for loyal patrons, the association revealed customers are placing greater emphasis on a restaurant’s values, atmosphere and overall experience. Millennials especially will choose a restaurant with a philosophy that aligns with their own.

The emergence of innovative new concepts led by bold chefs in Boston has made the area a prime culinary destination. The team at architecture and interior firm Phase Zero Design keeps its fingers on the pulse of the restaurant scene, interpreting and helping chefs realize their visions by incorporating the latest national trends and pioneering new concepts.

Americans are eating out more frequently than they were a decade ago because preparing food at home does not always mesh with their fast-paced schedules.


William Kovel recently created the fast-casual Catalyst Café at 75 Binney St. in Cambridge as a sister to his already successful Catalyst Restaurant in Technology Square. Catalyst Café’s menu and design were meticulously tailored to the employees of surrounding science and tech companies.

The restaurant provides quick and healthy food options for breakfast and lunch. Phase Zero worked with Kovel to understand his customers and the café’s brand. The large custom-shape light fixture is a subtle nod to its logo, the structure of a coffee molecule.

Bostonians looking for an alternative to typical American fare are gravitating toward ethnic cuisine, the restaurant association's culinary research shows.


Totto Ramen recently opened its second Boston-area location at Assembly Row in Somerville. Phase Zero created the space to capture the gritty, yet refined, aesthetic of this authentic street food concept.

“As the menu inspires the aesthetic of each restaurant’s space, we anticipate integrating more cultural design concepts into architectural features,” Phase Zero senior interior designer Julie Nelligan said.

A newly franchised national brand, The Simple Greek (a Marcus Lemonis Foods restaurant), is expanding across the country, with two newly opened New England locations and three more under construction.

“When working with a restaurant group to develop a concept, it is important to understand their brand,” Phase Zero restaurant architect Justin Alpert said. "Not just their logo, color palette and menu, but what’s important to them and what makes them who they are."

Mediterranean food is also one of the fastest-growing ethnic cuisines. TSG follows the fast-casual model: customers pick gyro or bowl, select a protein and choose from a long list of fresh vegetables.  


The National Restaurant Association’s Top 10 Concept Trends for 2017 includes hyperlocal sourcing and on-site beer brewing. Phase Zero is working with two of the hottest breweries in the area doing just that, Trillium Brewing Co. and Backlash Brewery. After initially designing Trillium’s Canton location, the team is now working on enhancing it. Also in the works is the new design for Backlash’s Roxbury location, where an industrial, modern feel will be incorporated into the design.

“The public’s palate is demanding more out of [the] craft beer experience,” Phase Zero associate principal Mark Joyce said. "As brewers are upping their game to meet this expectation, Phase Zero Design is creating spaces to reflect this newfound sophistication."

Food halls have been in the U.S. and Boston since the arrival of Quincy Market, but recently have undergone a resurgence and renaissance, as evidenced by the Boston Public Market and the much-hyped Eataly. Nelligan and Alpert are working with two chefs who each plan to create their restaurants with a food hall model in mind, drawing inspiration from various trends listed on the association’s “What’s Hot for 2017” Survey.

The Boston restaurant scene is rarely found lacking when it comes to the hottest concepts, designs and chefs, from fast-casual to food halls. It is clear that local chefs are committed to inspiring and delighting patrons.

Related Topics: Phase Zero Design