Boca Restaurant Group leads Cincinnati’s new restaurant row with its re-opened Boca flagship and its Sotto and Nada concepts.
As Chef David Falk likes to say, his goal for dining excellence is BPA. Translated for the masses, it simply means to “blow people away,” and that is the mission of the celebrated chef, founder, and CEO of Boca Restaurant Group. In addition to Boca, its recently reinvented namesake restaurant, Chef Falk’s group is the engine behind the rustic Italian trattoria Sotto as well as Nada, a funky Mexican concept.
With his old friend and colleague Jeremy Lieb, who is executive chef of the new Boca kitchen, Chef Falk is helping prove there’s more to the Queen City than five-way chili and football.
In fact, for those who haven’t visited recently, it’s easy to be blown away by the culinary expansion and development in the downtown area, including 26,000 square feet along Sixth Street that have been transformed into an unofficial restaurant row. Earlier this year, the first Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic featured more than 40 chefs from the region as well as celebrity chefs from New York and San Francisco.
The most notable part of the redevelopment, made possible by city planners and investors devoted to the cause, centers on the relocation of Chef Falk’s 13-year-old Boca restaurant from the Oakley neighborhood on the city’s North Side to the former home of Maisonette, a French fine-dining institution that was helmed by Chef Jean-Robert de Cavel.
Maisonette closed nine years ago after a 41-year tenure during which time it was recognized with accolades from across the nation and many chefs, including Chefs Falk and Lieb, got their start in its kitchen. Boca opened in the vacated space on May 6, 2013, with Sotto operating in the space beneath it and Nada located just around the corner.
“When we opened Nada in 2007, downtown Cincinnati was dead,” Chef Falk says. “Now you can see a huge, amazing transformation that is rooted in culinary passion. In 2001, Cincinnati was a small city with a small-town mindset. These days, it’s still a small city but with a very big-city mindset.”
Chef Lieb agrees: “When you look out Boca’s front window, there are six or seven restaurants across the street and even more behind us, and this [happened] just in the last six months to a year.”
Even beyond its relocation, Boca has come a long way in terms of positioning itself. “When we opened in 2001, Boca had 53 seats and 13 employees, and was very blessed,” Chef Falk says. “We were doing $750,000 year in sales. Now, we’re doing $20 million with soon to be 430 employees.”