The restaurant world was rocked in December, when Frank McClelland closed L’Espalier after its four decades as one of the country’s most lauded, consistently excellent restaurants. But Boston’s loss is the North Shore’s gain. McClelland just opened a new spot at Holmes Beverly, the new luxury apartment complex across from the commuter rail station in Beverly.
The restaurant is called “Frank” – perhaps a bit of a thrill for the chef, who has been quietly celebrating New England cuisine since the 1980s, way before it was cool.
“It’s all about Frank,” the chef says with a laugh, explaining that the name is a great umbrella for his new brand of very New England “hippie creative” food. “It’s amazing that no one has thought of it before.”
The cuisine is not as high-flying as L’Espalier’s, McClelland says. “It is more earthy, with notes of all the freshness New England products bring. Just local ingredients, from the seashore to the fields to the mountains to the streams.”
The Essex resident looks forward to a much shorter commute these days, and to working with farms like First Light in Ipswich and Cedar Rock Gardens in Gloucester. “I can’t say it is 100 percent New England-sourced, but pretty close to it.”
The vibe will be a far cry from the white tablecloths and special occasions that were hallmarks of L’Espalier. McClelland hopes Frank will be the kind of place people hang out at all day. “It will be very, very casual,” he says. “Some people might call it ‘fast casual,’ but I think it’s going to be more casual than fast.”
Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Frank occupies a large first floor space at Holmes Beverly, with 120 seats and a separate retail area selling prepared foods, including a bakery and a grab-and-go section, beer and wine, and other products hand-selected by the chef.
What is familiar to diners is the focus on the seasonal and the local that made the menu at L’Espalier, where the chef never really had a signature dish, mostly because the whole kitchen was driven by what was perfect at that moment. While McClelland expects there will be dishes that regulars hope become staples, right now he plans to cycle plates in and out according to the seasons.
Thrilling denizens of the North Shore, McClelland hopes the Beverly location will be the flagship for what could be a collection of restaurants – and a line of prepared perishable and non-perishable goods in supermarkets as well. But future expansion will be driven by what he sees is a shifting demographic – one that favors small cities like Beverly with good public transportation.
“Large hub cities have become very expensive for people to live in, so they are migrating out to smaller cities that have mass transit, both for cost of living and quality of life,” he says. “It’s been dramatic in Beverly, and I think it will continue for the next 20 years.”
The menu is split into two sections “share with me” and “do I have to share?” The autumn themed salad with roasted squash, radicchio, almond, cranberries, and shaved goat cheese is divine as is the crispy roasted chicken with roasted Brussels sprouts and jus. The skirt steak and frites is also another crowd pleaser as is the Frank hamburger with Frank’s hot sauce mayo, cherry tomato jam, pickled cucumbers, Raclette cheese, and smoked bacon on a brioche bun.
“When people take that first bite at Frank, they’ll hopefully say ‘This is it. This is what I’ve been waiting for.’” We’d say that checks out.
112 Rantoul Street in Beverly. Visit farmtofrank.com for updates or follow them on Instagram @farmtofrank.