Monday, June 24, 2024

Repairs and renovations are complete at a Painted Burro location in Cambridge’s Harvard Square. (Photo: Tom Meek)

Two of Cambridge’s longest-awaited eateries showed signs of life Thursday, winning approvals from the city’s License Commission: The Painted Burro, an upscale Mexican restaurant that said in January 2022 it was coming to Harvard Square; and a Jaho Coffee Roaster & Wine Bar expected in Central Square since March 2020.

The Painted Burro replaces the Border Cafe at a 32 Church St. site empty since a fire on Dec. 1, 2019 – an incident prompting the main concern of the three-member commission board.

“There have been two significant fires that originated in the prior establishment. In addition to the fires, we had a number of code issues that were related to the cooking and the hood system,” probably because exceptions were made for older kitchen equipment in a complicated building with business tenants above, said acting fire chief Thomas Cahill, seeking assurances that these problems wouldn’t recur.

He got them: Cambridge and Harvard fire departments have signed off on new, totally code-compliant systems that have been installed, Painted Burro chef and owner Joe Cassinelli said.

“The restaurant was rebuilt all the way back to the studs: all-new ventilation, all-new HVAC, all-new hood systems. The suspected reasoning for the fires before was, as you say, very insufficient or poorly designed systems,” Cassinelli said. “This is state of the art.”

The chain, open in Somerville’s Davis Square for 11 years and now in Brookline and Waltham, would replace a restaurant open for 28 years that itself took over “the longtime home of the Oxford Ale House, a fixture in Harvard Square” that once worked with Club Passim across the street in terms of booking musical acts, attorney Jim Rafferty said. The Painted Burro application is awaiting approval from the city’s Department of Public Works and feels “a certain urgency,” he said.

The 7,199-square-foot restaurant would have an inside occupancy of 226 with 28 seasonal patio seats on the sidewalk and be open 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. all days.

Jaho Coffee Roaster & Wine Bar

Jaho signs are up at 425 Massachusetts Ave. in the Market Central building, where managers running Boston locations of the chain since 2005 are ready to open a “high-end, European-style coffee shop with an inviting atmosphere” where “people can have a latte, but at the same time a glass of wine while they’re hanging out,” according to managers and their attorney, Thomas Miller.

“Customers can come and enjoy a setting to meet with friends, study or do work in a relaxed, casual environment, giving people the kind of atmosphere in which they can do that work or meet with friends and have an actual conversation without noise,” Miller said.

The 1,500-square-foot site will be open 6:30 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday and from 7 a.m. to midnight Saturday and Sunday with an occupancy of 45.

Pikalo and JP Restaurant

Other changes in Cambridge’s food scene include in The Port, where the former Izzy’s at 169 Harvard St. is open as Pikalo, offering dozens of kinds of empanadas from cheese to lobster, as well as tostadas, plantains served four ways, burgers and sandwiches. Pikalo was approved by the commission back in November.

Inman Square is also seeing a change, as JP Restaurant will serve breakfast, an all-day buffet and traditional Portuguese and some Brazilian food at 1124 Cambridge St., which has been open as Midwest Grill Fusion. Marc Hurwitz of the Boston Restaurant Talk website reported the news Thursday, noting it replaces a Korean barbecue spot that was previously Midwest Grill Brazilian BBQ.