Saturday, July 20, 2024

The restaurant at the Porter Square Hotel has a chef but is waiting on a licensing issue, managers say. (Photos: Marc Levy)

There are mixed signals about the Porter Square Hotel restaurant, which has been described for years as a steakhouse called the Porter House Grill.

At a License Commission hearing in September, when managers were still looking forward to opening Oct. 15, consultant Kevin Sheehan assured it was a steakhouse where there would “absolutely” always be a porterhouse steak on the menu, seeing as how it’s rumored that the cut was invented in Porter Square back in the late 1800s, when it was a cattle capital.

Outside dining is planned for the hotel restaurant.

But a totally different concept was presented Wednesday at a meeting of the North Cambridge Stabilization Committee, when representatives of new hotelier Peter Lee gave an update on the restaurant and the two more hotels Lee has planned for Porter Square.

“The general thought that it’s going to be something along the lines of an international grill – it’s not going to be a steakhouse,” Sheehan said. “The chef will be taking different dishes from around the world, depending on season and depending on what he wants to highlight. So if it’s winter and he wants to do four dishes out of Norway, and a few dishes out of somewhere else,  then that’s what he’ll be highlighting.”

But Lee, Sheehan’s boss, gave a simple response by phone Saturday morning, seemingly baffled there was even a question: “No. It’s a steakhouse.”

As of mid-April, the main delay in opening the hotel restaurant had been given as the lack of a chef and kitchen staff, but now a chef is “in the wings,” Sheehan said.

The only issue keeping the restaurant from opening is the liquor license, inherited from the razed Kaya restaurant and limited to the restaurant itself, he said. “You can’t walk through the door to your room with a drink. You can’t walk into the lobby with a drink. You could open a restaurant and serve within the restaurant, but it’s going to put us in jeopardy. Someone’s going to walk through that door, and at that point they could suspend the license,” Sheehan said. “We’re trying to modify that license to include the hotel” and patio.

Hotel trio

Sheehan, architect David Barsky and Porter Square Hotel manager Curtis Butcher discussed various aspects of Lee’s hotel projects:

bullet-gray-small The hotel coming to 1868 Massachusetts Ave. in December, which is focused on business travelers (and will have a business center and exercise room), has been called Hotel Cambridge for reference purposes only. “That’s not the name,” Sheehan said. While there are residents eager for a displaced 24-hour deli and gourmet mini-mart to return, they’re getting no promises from Lee’s crew. Still, Barsky believed that in leasing the two ground-floor retail spaces “we’re really trying to attract cafe-restaurant type tenants” or a wine bar or “epicurean grocer.” The structure is being built with interior ducts that would allow for cooking.

bullet-gray-small The 35-room extended-stay hotel coming to 371 Beacon St., Somerville (so far called the Beacon Street Hotel) can be used for extremely extended stays – six months or a even year, Sheehan said. But the project “is under complete review” because of some architectural excess. “There were random metal sculptures hanging off the side of the building,” he said. Expected by spring 2018, now the hotel might open by the end of 2018.

bullet-gray-small The Porter Square Hotel, at 1924 Massachusetts Ave., which has 65 rooms, has been at 85 percent to 100 percent capacity since opening. “This area is dramatically underserved for hotel use,” Sheehan said, but it doesn’t hurt that as an independent hotel, managers can make dramatic price adjustments to the $175 to $225 room rates. Neighbors of the hotel get a 15 percent discount.