QUINCY –– You wouldn’t expect 4 p.m. to be a busy time for a restaurant, yet there they were: a steady stream of customers Thursday afternoon eagerly filing into Garden Patch by the Sea, a new eatery on Quincy Shore Drive along Wollaston Beach.
The restaurant’s grand opening attracted a variety of people, from locals who had frequented Café Maddie (the previous tenant) and wanted to see what was following it, to passersby curious about the bustling scene, with some diners seated inside and others outside on the expansive patio overlooking the water and the Boston skyline. The patio seats up to 80 and there is seating for 30 indoors.
Most said they had come to experience the restaurant’s niche fare: plant-based seafood, from shrimp to crab cakes to lobster rolls — served with coleslaw and French fries, of course.
”Everybody’s been talking about it, and I couldn’t wait to try it,” said Mike Foley, 31, a social worker who lives in Quincy. “[It’s a] very cool concept – and I love that it’s local. I usually have to go to Boston or Providence to get [vegan] food.”
Owners Craig and Travis Somers, a father and son team who own AJ’s Stone Oven Pizzeria (and Garden Patch at AJ’s Pizzeria, its vegan counterpart at the same location) in Norton, said they didn’t know of any other restaurants in New England — or in the country, for that matter — that specialized in vegan seafood and saw an opportunity to fill a void.
”We had been looking for a second location for a year and a half, and I’ve had my eye on this place for a while. I mean, look at it,” said Craig Somers, 59, as he proudly gestured toward the patio, with Quincy Shore Drive and the bay beyond it. “Vegan seafood is a fairly new category in plant-based food, and it just made sense to have it here at the beach.”
Garden Patch by the Sea, open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., also serves non-seafood vegan and vegetarian items that are on the Norton restaurant’s menu — including subs, salads, pizzas, a variety of desserts, and ice cream (both hard and soft-serve) — but its focus is on plant-based seafood, and Somers said he hopes to transition to a fully vegan menu.
While many items are being made in-house, most of the seafood (made largely with a plant-protein combination of peas, chickpeas, lentils, soy, fava, and navy beans) comes from outside vendors, Somers said.
”It’s about the flavor and texture and the way it’s cooked, and so much of our food tastes the same as its traditional counterparts,” the Sharon resident, who is vegan, added. “Based on the reaction we’ve had from customers at our other restaurant and from those who visited us today, they’re very satisfied.”
Added Travis, 24: “I love it when non-vegans try it and say ‘this is really good’ or ‘are you sure it’s made from plants?’ It happens all the time, and now with our new location by the water, I think we’re going to get a whole new clientele base — including a younger market with people who are more inclined to order plant-based food.”
John Loporto, 40, a Boston Public School teacher who lives in Quincy, said he was “very interested” in trying the food at Garden Patch by the Sea when he visited the restaurant with his wife and son on Thursday.
”I love that it gives us another great option. We’re used to not having many choices at restaurants” since he and his wife don’t eat meat, he said. “I celebrate the audacity of trying to open a vegan place on Quincy Shore Drive. This is a crazy experiment and I would love to see it succeed.”