Reinventing the wheel: Spoke Wine Bar returning under new management

This story was originally published in the Somerville Journal

After almost five months, Spoke Wine Bar will reopen its doors on Holland Street.

Owner and operator Felicia “Flea” Foster first opened the cozy neighborhood destination bar three years ago, with David Jick, owner of Dave’s Fresh Pasta. The restaurant specialized in small production wine, craft cocktails, and small food plates from executive chef John daSilva.

Now, new owner Mary Kurth and new executive chef Eric Frier are ready to take the restaurant to a new level, complete with an improved menu and homey aesthetic, while simultaneously honoring Spoke’s legacy.

An opportunity

Almost two years ago, Foster was diagnosed with amyotrophic laterals sclerosis (ALS). She hired a management team to take the reins, overseeing the operation from afar. But as the years passed, she wasn’t happy taking a backseat.

“This is not an ideal way to run a business,” she wrote on the restaurant’s Facebook page in October. “This is especially true for someone like me whose goal was to not only discover amazing wine, but to be in the trenches every night sharing this experience with each and every one of my guests and staff.”

In December, Spoke finally closed, nothing more than a familiar but vacant space.

Kurth, 28, first started bartending at Spoke in 2015, a few years after moving to Boston to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. She immediately fell in love, with the staff, the patrons, the atmosphere.

“[Spoke] was my favorite space to go as a guest, and my favorite space to go as an employee,” she said.

Originally from New York, Kurth worked in the restaurant business since she was a teenager, bonding with people over food, wine, and solid conversation. Restaurants like Spoke helped her navigate new cities and communities

When Foster closed Spoke, Kurth wondered what would happen to the space.

As the Spoke team searched through applicants, Kurth said Foster and Jick wanted to keep a neighborhood feel, a place that continued supporting local and regional foods and single-family producers.

“They just decided to hold out until they could find a person [to do that], and ta-da!” said Kurth. “It was just a really good time for me to take on this project, to take on this adventure. The opportunity landed in front of me.”

A neighborhood home

Kurth said the new management wanted to keep a similar feel of the original restaurant, but add a bit more of a “homey” feel.

“We wanted to continue walking this line of casual and elegant as the space was before, but we do want it to be a little bit more homey and comfortable,” said Kurth. “People relax when they’re sharing a plate and sharing a bottle of wine. It leads to good conversation.”

The aesthetics, she continued, will be a bit more playful, with some personal touches from Kurth herself.

With Frier at the helm, Kurth said Spoke will be serving a new-American style menu with a heavy Mediterranean influence.

The young and talented chef, said Kurth, is excited to manage and write his own menu. The small kitchen, she added, is a challenge, but Frier is looking forward to navigate using induction-burners only.

“It’s mostly snacks…but there will be a full menu s that people can come and have a full meal,” explained Kurth. “We really want people to come in and feel comfortable to just have a glass of wine and a snack on their way to the theater in Davis Square or whatever.”

Though Kurth didn’t disclose any menu specifics, she did say she and Frier are the only people who have tasted any of the dishes. Since the space has been closed, she said, it’s been easy to play around with dishes and spend an extended amount of time preparing.

He also recently hired sous chef Daniel Rodriguez. The two of them, said Kurth, spend a lot of time bouncing ideas off of one another. Since Spoke’s menu was so well-received to start with, she continued, they’ve had a solid starting point.

Though not all of the wines are local, all of them are single-family and organically produced, said Kurth. Sommelier Liz Mann will continue as a consultant for the restaurant as well.

“We’re supporting smaller producers that are … acting bio-dynamically and creating wine that is representative of them and where they are from,” she said.

With a full liquor license, Spoke will also serve house cocktails, made up of all the classics, said Kurth, and four changing draught beer selections.

The team is working on the wine program and putting finishing touches on the menu, she said. They’re currently actively hiring front of the house staff, including servers and bartenders. The staff will consist of an estimated nine people, and the restaurant will seat up to 45 patrons at a time.

With everything coming together, Kurth hopes to open in four weeks.

“People really liked [Spoke] and are excited to see where we’re going with it,” she said. “We’re ready to get the public jazzed about it … and unlock the doors and see what happens.”

 

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