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August 29, 2012

'A great restaurant scene'

In wake of downtown closings come three new places to eat in Beverly

BEVERLY — Nikita Paras admits it looks like a trend. In the last few months, three of downtown Beverly’s most familiar restaurants have shut down and will open under new names and new ownership.

But in the Darwinian world of the restaurant business, the owner of Soma on Cabot Street has another explanation for the changeover in the city’s restaurant scene.

“It’s just natural selection, maybe,” he said.

Tryst, Mandrake and Harry’s 240, which had all been open for at least six years, have closed their doors. Tryst reopened two weeks ago as EJ Cabots. Mandrake and Harry’s 240 are scheduled to reopen as Barrel House American Bar and Prides Bar & Grille, respectively, in the fall.

Paras, in fact, bought Mandrake when it went out of business in April and will run Barrel House just two doors down Cabot Street from Soma.

Paras said the sudden turnover could be explained in part by the economic downtown of 2008, which he said forced restaurants to change or face extinction.

“We added pizza and sandwiches and opened for lunch,” he said. “We added less expensive options so you’re not spending $30 on an entree.”

Paras said his two restaurants will offer different fare — he described Barrel House as an American bistro, while Soma specializes in Mediterranean food — so they won’t compete with each other.

“I would rather open something myself than have somebody who can come in and compete with Soma two doors down,” he said.

Farther down Cabot Street from Soma and Barrel House, Tryst has reopened as EJ Cabots under the ownership of Joseph Deisley and Emilie Grant.

Deisley ran Brodie’s Pub in Peabody for 15 years but said he decided to sell due to the constant flooding in Peabody Square.

“I wanted to get into more of the eclectic-with-an-upscale-edge-to-it type of food,” he said. “I didn’t want to be a pub anymore. I think Beverly is a great restaurant scene. We have a lot of specialty restaurants in this area, so we complement each other.”

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