Because all three restaurants share a kitchen, there’s a fair amount of cross-pollination and flavor melding across the concepts. Wiley says that while the restaurants share recipes and culinary sensibilities, they are expressed differently through each concept’s personality.
And when it comes to personality, Eventide certainly has a lot of it, with a laid-back environment that feels light, bright, convivial, and friendly. “If you come in your flip flops and shorts, you’re totally ready to dine and have a great experience with us,” Wiley says.
Seating just 50 people inside and an additional 20 on the patio, the restaurant is what Wiley calls “cozy”—a feeling that is compounded during the busy summer season when wait times often exceed an hour and customers line up down the block for a taste of Eventide’s oysters. Wiley concedes that space can be snug, but it matches the vibe.
“We don’t want big, opulent lounge chairs. Having people on stools and at picnic tables feels a little more honest to that stripped-down Yankee spirit,” he says.
But, despite being a 2017 James Beard Award winner and a destination for diners around the country, Eventide isn’t immune to Portland’s off-season slowdown, with the colder months presenting a drastic downturn in foot traffic.
Last October, the owners found yet another way to bolster winter business—or, rather, two. They entered a new market in Boston and they adapted to a new side of the restaurant industry: fast casual. “Almost immediately when we opened Eventide Portland—and it was off to a pretty good start—we realized that the way people were using us was the way people use these little seafood shacks,” Taylor says.
Eventide Fenway—located just steps from Boston’s famous Fenway Park—is a fast-casual, counter-service concept with “all the hits from Eventide Portland” in a sleeker, more metropolitan setting.
Upon entering the store, guests are greeted by a team member who takes their phone number and order. Oyster orders are handed off to the shucker, who prepares the seafood staple right in front of diners. By the time guests get their drinks and oysters, they receive a text message alerting them that their food is ready for pickup at the counter. Diners also have the option of continuing service, where they can order additional food, oysters, and drinks from servers working the floor.
“What makes this unique is the level of quality of the food, the beverage program, and the service in a fast-casual setting,” Taylor says. “Eventide Portland will always be our flagship; it will always be unique. But I think what we’re doing in Fenway is really something different for the industry.”
Not only does the new location draw a bigger lunchtime workforce crowd than Eventide Portland, but it also places a greater emphasis on the beverage program through tapped rosé and other wines, along with a strong craft beer list.
“We wanted people to feel comfortable coming in with a date and having a meal, as opposed to grabbing a sandwich or having a half-dozen oysters and getting out of there,” Taylor says.
Though their limited-service experiment is still underway, both Wiley and Taylor agree that this fast-casual concept would be the path forward if the brand should ever expand.
But with multiple restaurants in Portland and a brand-new service model underway in Fenway, the duo has bigger fish to fry at the moment than the idea of unit growth.
“I’m definitely in nose-to-the-grindstone mode, not sniffing around looking at real estate,” Wiley says. “I’m not looking at the clouds. I’m just looking at the ground right now.”