Frank, John and Todd have new restaurants on the North Shore. But it's likely you're familiar with their work.
On Rantoul Street in Beverly, renowned chef Frank McClelland, who owned and operated L'Espalier in Boston’s Back Bay for 30 years, recently opened Frank — a new scratch-kitchen restaurant, bar, cafe and on-site market.
Another veteran in the restaurant business, John Rushi, recently opened John’s Bar and Grill in Beverly, which serves up homemade American, Greek and Mediterranean cuisine on Cabot Street in Beverly.
And on Lafayette Street in Salem, Todd Bekesha has made his Po’ Boys and Pies pop-up a permanent spot.
At Frank, 'industrial meets farmhouse chic'
Planting seed garlic into the ground earlier that day, McClelland says he tries to tend to his garden as much as possible in the fall.
Growing up on his grandparents' farm in New Hampshire, McClelland says he's heavily influenced by his New England roots and his own love for French and Italian foods.
Frank, his casual New England-inspired restaurant at 112 Rantoul St. in Beverly, sources fresh, local ingredients from the farm to its kitchen and finally to guests, says McClelland. “It’s how I’ve always been,” added the seasoned chef. “It’s what makes me tick and is what ‘Frank’ the brand is all about.”
Much like the crops, the menu changes with the seasons. Current autumn-themed dishes include cauliflower mac and cheese, sweet potato agnolotti, and smoke-roasted eggplant dip with warm olives.
“Our mission is to support small farmers,” said McClelland, adding how he hopes to help them reach the point where they're farming during all four seasons. He’s currently partnering with First Light Farm in Hamilton, Babylon Farm in Ipswich and Teltane Farm in Maine, among others.
Many ingredients also come from his own farm in Essex, where he lives with his wife, Heather, and two daughters. “We’re very excited to be in Beverly; we’ve received a warm welcome from residents,” his wife said while walking through the restaurant, pointing to the exposed ceiling, intimate bar area and glassware sourced from Essex-area antique shops. As she calls it, the atmosphere of Frank is “industrial meets farmhouse chic.”
The price point is also more moderate, with high-quality dishes now a quarter of the price from that of L'Espalier. “It’s still there, just more casual,” McClelland added.
Living on the North Shore for 23 years, the chef says he was looking for a spot closer to farm land to open a restaurant. “There was a growing population of a need that we were offering,” he said of Beverly, highlighting its location on the commuter rail line.
“We like to chase excellence and have fun at the same time,” said the chef, adding how he's always working to introduce different approaches to the restaurant scene.
That kind of motivation parallels to the work of his late father, longtime sportswriter George McClelland. Their deadline-driven professions were similar in ways — with his father covering night games and McClelland working late hours in the kitchen. As McClelland says, his father was an “icon.” A term one could call the master chef himself.
Louisiana spin on comfort dishes
Leaning up against the wooden counter inside Po’ Boys and Pies, owner Todd Bekesha spoke of the eight years he spent working in the restaurant industry of New Orleans. There for a school internship, he recalled coming home to the North Shore and missing that Southern charm — and food.
“I wanted a Po’ boy sandwich and couldn’t find it,” said Bekesha, 33. The sandwich, originating in Louisiana, starts with a hearty serving of fried seafood or roast beef on French-style bread and is topped with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and pickles.
Bekesha says this was the start of Po’ Boys and Pies, a pop-up that began in 2016 and now has a permanent home in Salem at 101 Lafayette St. “People enjoyed it, and we kept on rolling with it,” added Bekesha, who was the executive chef at Smokin’ Betty’s BBQ until it closed last year.
Serving up creative twists on traditional Southern food, Bekesha says his fast-street food is as fresh as possible — with his friend in New Orleans catching catfish and delivering it to him by midnight or early the next day.
Since opening the restaurant in September, Bekesha has also met a number of, whom he calls, “Southern transplants” who live on the North Shore. “I’m surprised at how many people came in the beginning,” he said. “We want to let it grow organically.”
The chef said the Po’ Boy Nashville sandwich — made with buttermilk fried chicken and tossed in hot chicken seasoning — is a favorite so far. “We put a spin on it,” he said. The wild-caught fried catfish sandwich and the Moonbaby, a vegan option, are also top contenders. Also on the menu is a selection of homemade pies, like the Deacon Derby Pie baked with dark chocolate, pecans and locally distilled Deacon Giles Amber Rum.
Motioning toward the records lining the shelves and nostalgic decor, Bekesha says it’s what greeted him when first unlocking the door. As there’s no seats, customers can take their food to-go or eat inside at the metal stand-up counter, welded by his friend.
A lot has changed for Bekesha in the past year. Last December, community members gathered at Opus in Salem for “The Kidney Sessions,” a fundraiser Bekesha says helped him pay for a kidney transplant. “A bunch of people came together to help me with those costs,” he said. “I ended up getting a kidney.”
Before the transplant, Bekesha was on dialysis for two years, with treatment four times a week.
“Going from that to getting a kidney that functions, you feel like you have more time,” said the chef. “It’s just the beginning.”
Po’ Boys and Pies is hosting a Thanksgiving Eve pop-up with RiverWalk Brewing Company on Nov. 27 at 6 p.m. at 40 Parker St. in Newburyport.
Mediterranean flair at John's
Frying up a traditional Greek omelette, chef John Rushi, 49, says he strives to make his guests at John's Bar and Grill leave "full and happy."
Opening this summer for breakfast and lunch, the 130-seat restaurant recently announced its addition of a 13-seat bar and dinner menu. Located at 392 Cabot St. in Beverly, the spot was previously The Wild Horse.
Rushi, a native of Albania, moved to the U.S. over 20 years ago and has spent decades in the restaurant industry, having worked at Brother’s Restaurant and Deli in Beverly and Brothers Kouzina in Peabody.
“If you come here, you leave full and happy,” said Rushi, cooking up an order behind the grill. “We just try, that’s all you can do — do the best you can and keep trying.”
Menu items include the popular gyro plate entree served in a warm pita with diced tomatoes, onions and tzatziki sauce. Pointing to what he calls the “gyro machine,” the meat cooks in a circular motion all day.
Other homemade dishes include classic Greek moussaka, spinach pie, baked lamb and lamb chops. Breakfast items feature a variety of three-egg omelettes, Eggs Benedict and Belgian waffles, among others. Restaurant parking is available across the street.
Leaving his country as a young adult, the owner lived in northern Greece for several years, where he learned the language. He travels home every few years and says he always stops by Greece to visit with friends. “Maybe you had a good life there, but you’re looking for a better life,” he said of his decision to come to America.
“You try to do everything you can to survive. I always liked cooking, so I started,” Rushi said with a smile. “Cooking is like every other job, you have to love it, otherwise you won’t get any better.”
Staff writer Alyse Diamantides can be reached at 978-338-2660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.