When Tracy and Richard Vaughan went scouting for a spot to open a new restaurant, they were at first drawn to Hull for its beachfront location.
A former restaurant space was available that had two floors with an ocean view, along with an outdoor patio. She said they were encouraged by the amount of new commercial and residential development they saw along the boardwalk.
“The final factor contributing to our decision was nostalgia,” she said. “My husband and I grew up nearby and both spent a lot of time at Nantasket Beach and Paragon Park as kids. We both have great memories and are excited about the opportunity to be part of the revitalization of this area.”
Nantasket Flatts, which the Vaughans opened in mid-May, joins a raft of new restaurants that are helping to transform Hull from a funky town known mostly for an amusement park that closed in 1984 into a foodie destination.
Just across from Nantasket Beach, there’s The Parrot — in renovated space previously occupied by The Red Parrot. The 100-seat Mambo’s Kitchen and Bar is in a brand new building right across the street.
The Paragon Grill is under new management in the Nantasket Beach Resort hotel, a few doors down. And father along the strip, past the carousel and inside the reimagined arcade, there’s a new Paragon beer garden with food and craft beers.
Keep going and you’ll get to Nantasket Flatts, in the building that once housed Bridgeman’s restaurant.
There’s also a new food truck — Thyme Traveling Food Truck — that parks at the beach most weekends and does a brisk trade in vegetarian and meaty plates.
And if you head the other direction to Pemberton Point at the tip of Hull’s peninsula, you’ll find another new restaurant: Shipwreck’d. The renovated spot sits on the ferry pier and serves breakfast all day, as well as lunch and dinner, in what for about 25 years had been a tired snack shop in the Pemberton Bait and Tackle.
Locals hope the new eateries — which bring the total in town to 25, plus two Dunkin’s — will help bring new life and revenue, especially to the once vibrant beachfront downtown that has been studded with vacant buildings in the past.
“Restaurants typically bring a lot of foot traffic and activity that are great for commercial areas,” said Chris Dilorio, Hull’s community development and planning director. “The fact that these places are opening and investing in Hull shows that the town’s efforts to make the area more vibrant and boost economic development are showing signs of success.”
Peter Forman, president of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, said Hull is working hard to stretch its economy beyond the summer beach season, and more restaurants will help attract people throughout the year.
“Food and restaurants are a critical part of economic development,” Forman said. “A key strategy is having a sense of place, and interesting places for people to live and work — and a common denominator in that formula is the mix of dining opportunities, and in many cases drinking opportunities.”
Forman said the chamber is pleased to see the growing numbers of restaurants throughout the South Shore and has dedicated a website — EatSouthShore.com — to promoting them.
Nantasket Flatts is the Vaughans’ second restaurant. They opened The Jetty Kitchen and Bar in Marshfield’s Brant Rock section in 2014 — and Tracy Vaughan said, so far business is good, especially on weekends. They plan to stay open all year, she said.
Business also is good at Mambo’s Kitchen and Bar, Anthony Ghosn’s sixth restaurant in the Boston-Providence area.
A San Diego transplant who stayed in New England after graduating from Boston College, he said he chose Hull for the “ocean and the friendly people.”
Ghosn said he’s happy to see all the other new restaurants opening.
“It brings people to Hull that might have not come in the past,” he said. “It’s not all the same concept. Everyone has their own variation and I think it works. It helps all the businesses in Hull.”
Adrian Muir sold his computer repair business when he and his wife, Susie Regan, a Blue Cross Blue Shield worker, decided to get into the restaurant business seasonally and opened Shipwreck’d this summer on the ferry pier across from Hull High School.
“We live in Hull, our kids went to school in Hull,” Muir said. “We met in Hull through our kids. We’re a real Brady Bunch; between us, we have five kids 17 to 25.”
Two of the kids work at the restaurant and Muir is one of the chefs, serving items like grilled fluffernutters and homemade corned beef hash, starting at 5:30 a.m. to accommodate ferry commuters, fishermen, and lobstermen.
One restaurant that’s still trying to get permission to open in Hull is the proposed Red Sky at Steamboat Wharf Marina, which would like to operate May through mid October and have 50 seats and a big patio overlooking World’s End and the Weir River.
The catch is that the marina leases the pier it sits on from the town, and selectmen have to approve the added use. Selectmen have been mulling the proposal since November 2018 — and heard opposition to the plan from the owners of Jake’s Seafood Restaurant, a nearby Hull landmark which also leases its land from the town.
“New restaurants and new development and investment are very positive for the community,” said Jim O’Brien, whose family owns Jake’s. “The issue is parking and the lack thereof.”
Marina co-owner Justin Gould said he hasn’t gotten an official explanation for the long delay, but is still working with the town.
“We’ve lost the summer for 2019, but we’re still excited about the plan and excited to see other restaurants opening,” Gould said. “Hull is a beautiful destination; the more dining options there are, the better for the town.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the year in which Paragon Park closed.