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 is opening a new spot at Holmes Beverly, the new luxury apartment complex across from the commuter rail station in Beverly.
The restaurant will be 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 won’t be as high-flying as L’Espalier’s, McClelland says. “It’ll be 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 will be 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 will occupy 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.”
Frank is expected to open in August, which can’t come fast enough for McClelland. While his wife and five kids are enjoying having him around – the kids often demand fish for dinner, which they have realized he’s “pretty good at” – the chef is anxious to unveil his next act.
“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.
Coming this summer to 110 Rantoul Street in Beverly. Visit farmtofrank.com for updates or follow them on Instagram @farmtofrank.