IN THE KITCHEN District 45 is the latest among a hotbed of cool restaurants that could comfortably compete on the culinary stage with hip Boston restaurants. Leave it to its executive chef, Corey O’Shea, a Lynn native who’s returned home to work and live.
“We wanted to be the first restaurant in the area to revitalize the Diamond District name,” said O’Shea, a chef in Boston for 15 years with Backbay Restaurant Group and Newport Harbor Restaurants.
He is proud of his menu at District 45, where he says “everything is made from scratch” and upscale entrees ($20-$30) are listed alongside casual sandwiches and burgers ($10-$20).
“Growing up in Lynn, I understand what people might be in the mood for, coming off the beach,” O’Shea said.
THE LOCALE Located near the Swampscott town line, the 85-seat restaurant is a short walk from the beach and accessible from the MBTA.
Inside, the mix of jaunty music — Nat King Cole, Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake — is as diverse as the clientele. Young millennials, older couples, groups of friends watching sports on the TVs, and large family gatherings blend in easily. The staff mingles with genuine attention. Chandeliers constructed with bicycle-tire rims hang from faux tin ceilings. Oversized, colorful artwork hangs on the walls, including reproduction prints of Andy Warhol’s famous Campbell Soup cans and a Marshmallow Fluff jar with the red top. Suddenly, I crave Fluff, the sweet, sticky white marshmallow stuff invented in Somerville 100 years ago and made in Lynn today.
ON THE MENU I decided to check out District 45 solo on a quiet Tuesday night and figured I’d probably be one of just a few people there. I figured wrong. When I pulled open the door, the sounds of a big party poured out.
Opened in late June, District 45 is the latest addition to a string of eateries owned by the Newton-based Neighborhood Restaurant Group (transforming soon to Good n u Hospitality Group) led by Henry Pariseau.
And it’s a gem. Looking around, I spotted a counselor from my daughter’s camp on his day off having dinner with his mother. Both are residents of Lynn, and she confessed to having visited District 45 three times in six weeks. The two gushed with recommendations for the mac and cheese fritter ($7), three crunchy balls of panko-coated macaroni and cheese, lightly fried, leaving the center soft and creamy, a lingering sizzle from the drizzle of sriracha sauce and basil. Also, the haddock sandwich ($14) — “It’s so flaky”, she said. And, if I wanted to splurge, the shrimp scampi ($26) — because “the shrimps are so large.”
I started with a bowl of creamy corn bisque ($7) with a touch of basil oil, and the beet and quinoa salad ($13), with the thought of bringing leftovers home. But soon my plate had barely any left of the light, sweet, crunchy salad of mesclun greens with dots of the healthy grain, feta, and candied walnuts sprinkled among slices of pear and chunks of rosemary-braised beets, then drizzled with balsamic vinegar and honey.
Though the scampi tempted, it was a cool summer’s night. The blueberry-braised beef short rib ($27) was a perfect choice, with a hint of summer in the sauce, the tender meat falling with each forkful. A creamy mascarpone and basil lightly accented the mashed potatoes.
The dessert menu was short, with just four items ($7-$9). But how could I resist the ooey-gooey deep-fried banana Fluffernutter ($8). Thankfully, the waffle batter-dipped Texas toasted bread concoction came sliced into four sections.
And an appetite to return for brunch.
District 45, 45 Lewis St., Lynn, 781-790-4545, www.district45lynn.com.
Kathy Shiels Tully can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.