Next Score View the next score

    With more restaurants, Newton becomes a culinary hub

    Del Frisco’s Grille owners opened in Chestnut Hill aware they had a customer base there.
    Globe Staff Photos by Lane Turner
    Del Frisco’s Grille owners opened in Chestnut Hill aware they had a customer base there.

    At Del Frisco’s Grille in Chestnut Hill, you can savor your $43 prime New York strip steak while gazing out the wide second-floor windows onto nearby Hammond Pond.

    Expensive wood paneling, specially charred to heighten the ambience, envelops you.

    You’d never know you are tucked into what was once the Chestnut Hill Shopping Center, since redeveloped and reborn after a $50 million makeover as the Street Chestnut Hill.


    Del Frisco’s is part of a surge in restaurant openings across Newton, both on Route 9 — also known as Boylston Street — and in the city’s many villages, that is making the Garden City into a culinary hub for Greater Boston, a haven for both foodies and more casual diners.

    Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
    The day's top stories delivered every morning
    Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

    “For a long time it was just the Cheesecake Factory on one side of Route 9 and Legal’s on the other,” said Shang Skipper, regional manager for Del Frisco’s, which has restaurants in 10 cities across the country. “With it becoming more of a dining district, it brings more people to the area.”

    Overall, more than 40 new restaurants have set up shop across the city in the last three years, bringing the total to 190 and covering the gamut from ritzy establishments to neighborhood diners, according to Newton officials said.

    Big new shopping and entertainment centers like Chestnut Hill Square and the Street have helped nearly double the number of dining establishments along Route 9, based on statistics provided by Mayor Setti Warren’s office.

    Ten new restaurants have opened on Route 9 over the past two years, offering a mix of fine and casual dining. Del Frisco’s Grille, Davio’s Cucina, and the Shake Shack have opened over the last year at the Street, while Brio Tuscan Grille and Seasons 52 are now serving customers at Chestnut Hill Square.


    Tokyo Japanese Steak House recently opened at the Mall at Chestnut Hill, and Besito, featuring Mexican food, will be opening there later this year. The Cheesecake Factory has been operating in spacious new digs there since November, after leaving the now-closed Atrium Mall.

    The transformation of the former Chestnut Hill Shopping Center into the Street purposefully created spaces that would be appealing to a range of restaurants.

    “Restaurateurs have always coveted Chestnut Hill because of the demographics, but there never really was the venue for them,” said Brian Sciera, a vice president at WS Development, the complex’s developer.

    But not all the growth has been along Route 9.

    Just ask Paul Turano, who last fall opened his Cook restaurant on Washington Street in Newtonville, offering a mix of casual and bistro fare. The decision to locate in the Garden City came after he looked at locations as far afield as North Andover.


    “I always liked Newton, it is a very educated diner,” said Turano, who also runs Tryst in Arlington. “The diner in Newton eats out more — the average guest we have comes twice, three times a week.

    “I can’t ask more than that.”

    A number of factors are driving Newton’s restaurant boom, from a campaign by the mayor to make the city friendlier to new restaurants to larger lifestyle changes that have diners looking closer to home for a night out.

    The openings have been a bragging point for Warren, who says he has made attracting new restaurants a key priority of his administration.

    Warren said they are a source of new jobs, taxes, and neighborhood atmosphere.

    “Restaurants are a key part of village vitality, community vitality,” he said. “From an economic standpoint, having people come into Newton to shop and eat is very important.”

    Warren and other city officials say they have worked to streamline the permitting process for budding chef entrepreneurs, boiling down what had been a complex, confusing, multiple-step process to a single stop at the city’s health department.

    The city has also waived parking-meter fees at certain times and locations to encourage diners to frequent various restaurants, and removed old restrictions that had barred alcohol from being served during Sunday brunch.

    Warren said he also worked with the city’s Board of Aldermen to pass new rules making it easier to offer sidewalk seating.

    The new welcoming attitude has helped give Newton a friendly image in the local restaurant community, said David Andelman, chief executive of the Phantom Gourmet and president of the Restaurant and Business Alliance, a regional trade group.

    Towns and cities with a reputation for being difficult to deal with when it comes to lining up the various municipal permits needed to open a new dining establishment are likely to be lower down on the list when restaurateurs are considering where to open the next dining hot spot, he said.

    “Towns develop a reputation for being business-friendly or not,” Andelman said. “Word gets around.”

    Restaurants like Cook and other new establishments are also providing nearby options for residents of the city and nearby communities who might not want to make the drive into Boston or Cambridge.

    “You are seeing a lot of great places,” Andelman said. “A lot of the wealthy people in these nice towns want to have nice places to eat. It’s a part of their lifestyle.”

    One thing that’s undeniable has been the dramatic growth in choices that restaurantgoers now have when looking for a place to eat in Newton.

    There are a number of chefs who have chosen to open their own establishments in one of Newton’s 13 villages, Warren noted. West Roxbury’s Rox Diner opened a second location in Newtonville in 2012, and the Rox Cafe in Newton Highlands last year.

    For Cook owner Turano, friendly city officials were a plus. But the bigger draw, he said, was Newton’s sheer size and diversity, with lots of potential individual markets to draw from among its many villages.

    “From one side of Newton to the other it can be twenty minutes,” Turano said. “It’s huge. There are a lot of little niches that need to be filled.”

    Meanwhile, over on Route 9, Skipper, Del Frisco’s regional manager, says opening up in the Street Chestnut Hill just made sense. Looking over the customer database, it became clear that many of the diners at the restaurant’s location in South Boston’s Seaport district were actually coming from Newton.

    Now they are becoming regulars at the new Del Frisco’s.

    “They are obviously people who like to dine out and enjoy a good steak or beer or glass of wine,” Skipper said. “The best thing is the people who keep coming back day after day — it’s like they have found a great home to have a steak or burger with some of their friends.”

    Scott Van Voorhis can be reached at sbvanvoorhis@ hotmail.com.