THE LOCALE Owner Mike Sheridan still speaks with a sense of amazement that he and partner Mark Nadow managed to open the Chelsea Station Restaurant Bar & Lounge in a building with a historic — if not miraculous — background.
A wall of flames once raged around the former Engine 5 fire station as parts of Chelsea were engulfed in a massive conflagration considered one of the worst fires in state history. The Oct. 14, 1973 fire started on Summer Street and quickly spread to Everett Avenue. Firefighters fought a desperate battle to save the station – even resorting to pouring water on the fire from within the station when the heat outside grew too intense. The station survived, but 18 city blocks were leveled.
What were once doors to the fire station are now large windows, and the décor utilizes ladders as a motif. Otherwise, there’s little left from the years when the building housed Engine 5. Eventually, the station was decommissioned and the space housed a bank. The dates 1908 — when an even more massive fire ravaged the same area — and 1973 both appear in the restaurant’s logo.
WHO’S IN CHARGE Sheridan has a long resume in food service. He started as a bartender at age 22 at the Rattlesnake Bar and Grill in Boston and later ran Ironsides Bar and Grill in Charlestown. He teamed up with the Nadows — Chelsea resident and businessman Mark and his wife, Michelle — to see if they could add to the dining options in Chelsea.
They took over the space on Everett Avenue at Fourth Street and opened last month. Their goal is to serve “the best modern American” cuisine with some Asian influences that will also be “very rustic in style,” Sheridan says.
Executive chef Shelly Demmon has a background in steakhouses from Smith & Wollensky and other places. April Chestnut is the beverage director. The attention to craft cocktails, craft beer, and wine is immediately apparent. A corner of what is essentially one large, airy room is devoted to a bar where shelves reaching to the ceiling are thickly stacked with bottles and libations. That high ceiling, the spare décor, large windows, and high-def TVs create a setting that is one part hipster, two parts neighborhood hangout.
ON THE MENU: Chelsea Station balances innovation and satiation that aims not to strain the wallet. Since the kitchen has only been in operation for a month, there’s still some unevenness to be worked out.
Our crew discovered some bright spots in unexpected places, starting with the Warm Vegetable Salad ($10), a harmonious medley of carrots, baby Brussels sprouts, and roasted onion, punctuated with chunks of beets and mixed with red quinoa grain, both hearty and healthy. (If you want more of this, opt for the also delightful Quinoa, Veggies and Beans entrée ($19), with black beans and sautéed portabella.)
Another starter standout is the Winter Salad ($10), a refreshing mix of greens with fruit, onions, and fried goat cheese.
The pan-roasted half chicken ($21) doused with maple thyme jus that gave intense flavor to the juicy meat and proved to be a delectable entrée. Less successful was Sausage Ragu ($21), which lacked distinction although was doled out in generous portions. The sauce, mushrooms, and rosemary blended beautifully in the savory Lamb Stroganoff ($24 dinner, $14 lunch) while the parts of the somewhat similar Poutine ($13) — braised lamb, yucca fries, and mozzarella cheese curds — didn’t quite work together.
Chelsea Station also offers an array of burgers and sandwiches priced from $9 to $14, ranging from the Smokey Turkey Bacon Burger ($13) to the Italian Chicken Sandwich ($11) to the Pastrami Reuben ($9). You can also hang out at the bar and toast the firefighters who – twice – saved Chelsea from burning.
Chelsea Station Restaurant Bar & Lounge, 105 Everett Ave., Chelsea, 617-466-0754, thechelseastation.com.