Thursday, May 23, 2024

Lauren Friel is excited to get a positive response for the restaurant Dear Annie from the License Commission on Wednesday. (Photo: Marc Levy)

A natural wine bar with a menu of pescatarian small plates called Dear Annie won its food and drink licensing Wednesday, barring some details about capacity and a variance for live music. It will fill the old Nomad space at 1741 Massachusetts Ave. near Porter Square, with principals and supporters stressing the arrival as being good for the community.

Dear Annie is a partnership between restaurateurs associated with Somerville: Lauren Friel, formerly of Oleana and Sarma and now at the natural wine bar Rebel Rebel in Union Square’s Bow Market; and Andrew Brady and Sara Markey of the nearby Field & Vine.

License Commissioners heard Wednesday from their attorney, Adam Barnosky, that the partners were putting between $300,000 and $400,000 into converting a space vacant for a couple of years into something that the community truly wants. “With the changing face of retail, you get a lot of banks … that don’t really contribute to the vibrancy of a neighborhood,” he said.

But Dear Annie will have a big community element, Friel said, describing the creation of front and back spaces that can be combined during busy weekends or closed off for resident use for book clubs or movie nights. “We have an issue with both our restaurants where people are always wanting to hold events in them, but because we have just one space [each], we would have to close,” Friel said.

A number of people showed up to speak in favor of the restaurant, adding to letters of support that commission chair Nicole Murati Ferrer called “too many to name on the record.”

“We as a neighborhood are always trying to find where we are going to gather? Where can we be? And we walk down the street and there are so many storefronts that are vacant – it would be so great to be able to just walk two blocks to meet friends and have us all join there and have a really fun time,” said Elise Moore, an Avon Place resident. Another speaker said coming into the proprietors’ eateries made her feel like she was back in a small town.

Along with signaling the granting of the licenses, the commission hearing cleared up a question many might have: From where does the name “Dear Annie” come?

“We were texting back and forth with names, and we had [boiled it down] to a short list. And I was listening to an album called ‘Dear Annie,’” Friel explained, likely referring to a 2018 work by Irish rapper Rejjie Snow. “We’re all music lovers. And I liked the intimate feeling that the name has. It feels neighborhoody, it feels like an intimate space. It feels familiar, and it’s also a little less defined – not like ‘The Something Cafe’ or ‘The Something Bar.’ We wanted it to reflect the flexibility of the space.”

Dig Inn and Dimi’s

The hearing also granted city licensing to Dig Inn at 2 Broad Canal Way, Kendall Square, a healthy bowls eatery where the principals never quite got around to addressing the “public need” commissioners call for, instead describing their model: “Something of a different pace … something quicker, while still being a full restaurant. Something healthier, with a focused on locally sourced vegetables.”

Also winning approvals was Dimi’s, 272 Brookline St., Cambridgeport, where Gabi Essbir and Robert Miller continue to add items such as homemade hummus (fried, though baked will be available) and the meatballs known as kofta to the pizza-and-sandwich menu of the former Dimitrios Cuisine at that location. “We are slowly incorporating our own ideas into the restaurant, bringing in more healthy options with fresh ingredients,” Miller said. More cafe items are also on the way, including espresso and cappuccino.