Getting Salty with Mathew Freid, who opens Idle Hour in Quincy this week
Mathew Freid opens Idle Hour in Quincy this week. He worked as a manager at the Beehive, Beat Brasserie, Capo, and JM Curley before striking out on his own. His cocktail-focused neighborhood bar conjures a bygone Americana, with banana-leaf wallpaper and a 1960s console radio host stand. To eat? Food from all over: fried chicken on cornbread, pork and ricotta dumplings, and skit steak tacos on homemade tortillas.
What’s the first restaurant you ever ate at in Boston? I’m originally from Needham. I can’t remember my first, but my most early restaurant memory is a Chinese restaurant in Chestnut Hill called China Sails. It’s long gone. That’s what my extended family had for dinner every Sunday night. There’d be a table of 20 of us, with a giant dragon sculpture on the ceiling.
What’s one thing you’d like to fix about the restaurant industry here? Can I give you two answers? I’d love to see happy hour again, even though that was gone before I was even born, and I’d like someone to figure out the T and late-night traveling. It prevents people from being able to work in different areas in town. It’s pretty cost-prohibitive. You could be spending a lot of what you earn getting to and from work in an Uber. That’s not OK.
How has the restaurant landscape changed since you arrived in Boston? It has exploded — just the sheer number of restaurants. But Boston hasn’t grown with it, so it’s the same number of guests divided among more places. It drives us to do more interesting things and to take more risks, but it does thin the pool out a bit in terms of guests and staffing.
What other restaurants do you visit? It’s a healthy mix of trying to see what is new and visiting friends. We all went to Peach Farm the other night. That was a lot of fun. That’s a go-to. I basically let Debbie bully me into whatever she wants. She’s been a server there for 100 years.
What’s your earliest food memory that made you think: I want to work in restaurants? My family was in wholesale liquor distribution. I remember walking through kitchens with my father and being amazed by the insanity, the organized chaos of the kitchen. Walking through the back door and then walking in through the dining room, seeing it that way.
What’s the worst restaurant experience you’ve ever had? You could write a whole article on this. I gave this place two opportunities and both times, they missed the mark. I waited 15 minutes just to get a drink menu at the bar, and then, against my better judgment, I went back with friends and had the exact same experience. But this time the manager was talking to the bartender the whole time, ignoring us. They were just chatting. I walked out both times. I won’t say where.
How could Boston become a better food city? In my eyes, it’s a lot of barriers to enter into the industry, one of which, the most expensive being other than rent, is the liquor licensing in downtown Boston. This is one of the main reasons I’m in Quincy: lower rent and lower barriers to entry. In Philly, every corner has its little BYO restaurant. There are a lot of really cool things going on in kitchens that you couldn’t afford to take the risk on here because of the investment. You put up so much money, you have to play it safer. If we could afford to do more unique things, it would allow us to push Boston further.
Name three adjectives for Boston diners. Excited, curious, willing.
What’s the most overdone trend right now? I’m as guilty as anyone else: a burger! I wouldn’t even call it a trend. I’d call it a standby.
What are you reading? I have a book I’ve been avoiding starting because it will be such a challenge to read: “House of Leaves.”
How’s your commute? Vastly improved! I just moved to Quincy yesterday from Southie.
What’s the one food you never want to eat again? That’s easy. Balut. It’s a partially fertilized duck embryo. I haven’t eaten it in many years, and I hope to never eat it again. At day 15, they boil the egg, and you eat it out of the shell. It’s like cracking open a hard-boiled egg, but instead of a yolk and white, you have what is essentially a duck fetus.
What kind of restaurant is Boston missing right now? Hopefully a place like Idle Hour — a totally laidback place doing really out-of-the-box stuff. Unpretentious, a 20-seater with nothing but a bar doing one singular thing and mastering it.
What’s your most missed Boston restaurant? Tavern Road.
Who was your most memorable customer? Bob Saget at the Beehive. He just sat in the corner, giggling to himself. It was amazing.
If you had to eat your last meal in Boston, what would it be? Soup dumplings at Gourmet Dumpling House. It’s the world’s most perfect food. It’s soup, it’s savory, and it’s delicious. I just love dumplings to the point where I mandated that my chef can have free rein in the kitchen, but there were two things I wanted: a fried chicken sandwich and pork dumplings.