Looking for the latest and greatest in New England cuisine? Look no further than PARK, right in the middle of Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts! Relatively new on the scene, PARK opened its doors in the spring of 2012. Chef Mark Goldberg mixes French technique, current culinary trends, and classic New England staples to create a down-to-earth, approachable dining experience. The eclectic atmosphere features four different dining areas, each with its own unique, distinct vibe! Avoiding the stuffy or pretentious, the casual-cool mood creates a warm, welcoming feel that corresponds perfectly with its “comfort food” style menu! With a plethora of “shareable” appetizers and plenty of affordable entrees, PARK’s menu ensures that a fantastic night out need not break the bank! Perfect for friends looking for a relaxed, fun-filled night out, PARK will soon become your new favorite neighborhood hang-out! I had a chance to speak to Chef Goldberg to hear more about his exciting new restaurant!
RD: What kind of culinary experience helped shape your technique?
CG: I’ve spent most of my life and career here in Boston and eating a lot of our classic New England foods, so updating those and bringing them back to life is kind of where I take things. Technique-wise, we’re classically French-trained but we utilize it into our New England cuisine!
RD: PARK is a relatively new restaurant – does this present any special challenges or opportunities?
CG: Opening a new restaurant is always a challenge! Obviously, there’s nothing pre-set, so we get to create things and systems that work or don’t work – we have the ability to make them work or not make them work! It’s always a challenge with a new venture. You’re not sure how your clientele is going to take to what you’re offering; it’s always fun!
RD: How does your location in Cambridge, Massachusetts influence your restaurant?
CG: We’re right in Harvard Square, so we have a big college influence – more the Grad schools and professors. We definitely get a fair amount of large parties, a lot of people that are gathering where they don’t necessarily have space in their small apartments or whatever they might be living in. We cater a lot to them; a lot of our items are shareable and snack-friendly, as well as some really approachably-priced entrees so they can come down to dinner more frequently. We’re more of a neighborhood dining spot versus a destination, special-occasion dining spot.
RD: What gives PARK such a unique atmosphere?
CG: We’re slightly subterranean and we have a bunch of different rooms. Each room is designed a little differently to offer a variety of dining options. We have a den, which is all leather couches, and chairs, and books on the walls; we have our “classroom” which has a working fireplace which is cozy; the bar itself is a big “u” shape bar, lots of wood and exposed brick. There’s a bunch of different attributes that make the areas slightly different in the dining style yet it’s all the same concept.
RD: How would you characterize the overall vibe of your menu?
CG: It’s comfort foods – it’s New England style cuisine with a little bit of a twist to it. We make them a little bit more updated and put our own little twist to them. It’s especially approachable foods, using as much of our seasonal, local product as we can. We just try to be more of a neighborhood spot. We have a patty-melt on the menu, we have roasted brisket on the menu, plenty of seafood and shareable appetizers. It’s just a fun place to come in, and sit down, and enjoy the food, drink, and atmosphere; and really it’s not rushed, it’s not pretentious.
RD: Do you have a favorite dish that you currently serve?
CG: I’m kind of partial to most of them! We have what we call a “bacon three-way.” It’s a tasting of three different bacon hors d’oeuvre , so to speak, that we rotate around. Right now, I like what’s going on; we have bacon-stuffed roasted clams, we have sourdough flapjacks topped with a cranberry relish and applewood-smoked bacon, and then we have some kumquat-glazed pork belly, that’s the third one. There’s two of each piece, so six pieces on the board; it’s a shareable appetizer but it really kind of showcases a lot of what we have available to us around here. It’s fun to play with bacon! We have a monkfish osso buco, which is a great local fish. We’ve kind of taken the Italian, hearty osso buco style and made it much lighter using a local fish. It’s served with baby spinach and sweet potato and a malt-cider sauce, so it’s really flavorful and seasonal, and really speaks to the orchards, and shellfish, and seafood that we have here around Boston.
RD: Do you rely on any particular suppliers or partners to help PARK operate?
CG: I have some great working relationships with some vendors here in the city! Nobody in particular – we have some great vendors that are in and out of the markets every day. We do some work with the Food Project during the summer months, which is an educational not-for-profit that teaches inner-city youth about biodiversity and sustainability. They do sell us some product; it’s not their primary goal, but I’m happy to buy any of their surplus that they do produce!