Two men who met while working at 15 Walnut Bistro in Hamilton have partnered to take to helm at a well-known Beverly restaurant.
The Wild Horse Café in Beverly is now being run by Matt Blanchard and Sam Hunt. Hunt was formerly the executive chef at 15 Walnut and Blanchard ran the bar.
The both started working there in 2009 and helped transform it from Indigo to 15 Walnut.
“The whole time we were saying ‘we should get our own place,’” Blanchard said.
And last week they did.
The two men are now managing partners of what was formerly Brenden Crocker's Wild Horse Tavern on Cabot Street. The new name is Wild Horse Cafe and it will reopen on Jan. 2.
Blanchard said the two had been looking for a restaurant to buy for a while. The Wild Horse had been quietly on the market and their real estate agent, Jay Burnham, mentioned to them it was available. They began working on the purchase back in May and closed on it last Friday.
For now, they do not plan any major changes. When it reopens next week, it will remain almost exactly as it has been for the past 14 years. Many of the former staff will remain, and this week any new staff are being brought on board.
The same "mix and match" comfortable wingback chairs will remain, as will the martini menu and 26 draught beer lines.
Blanchard said they will listen to their customers during the next few months and come up with some changes based on customers feedback.
“Our game plan is to come in and run it as is,” Blanchard said.
Brenden Crocker and Milissa Oraibi "ran it exceptionally well" for 14 years, Blanchard said.
"Their model was not broken at all," he said.
In the spring, they plan to shut it down for a time and make their changes.
Hunt said they will shut it down once and then plan a "big relaunch."
"That's when we will really feel it is ours," he said.
It still remains to be seen what the changes will be, but Blanchard said he plans to “invigorate, not reinvent” the restaurant. They do plan to expand the bar and plan to be open at lunch, hoping to draw workers from the nearby Cummings Center and also plan to offer corporate catering.
Before the relaunch, the hours will be 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.
In the kitchen, Hunt said he plans to have a “grill-centric” menu with “bolder flavors” that he served at 15 Walnut. He plans to make full use of the restaurant's custom-made hardwood grill.
He does not plan to market the restaurant as "farm-to-table," but added "we will definitely be sourcing locally."
The answer to their most common question, Blanchard said: "Don't worry, we're going to keep the nachos."