A sneak peek at Red Bird in Waltham.
Daniel Stokes, a protégée of Dave DuBois at Franklin Café, opens his first solo venture.
Chef Daniel Stokes, an alum of both Franklin Café locations, is preparing to open his first solo venture, Red Bird, on July 15 in Waltham. Housed in the former Tuscan Grill spot, which closed in November of 2013, Stokes has created what he calls “chef-driven, modern American cuisine” with seasonal recipes influenced by his time under David Dubois at Franklin Café and Jimmy Bradley of Pace and The Harrison in New York.
Why Waltham? Stokes and Michael Staub, a restaurant consultant from Group M, were originally looking at real estate in Boston and Cambridge, particularly the vacated Chez Henri space, but the two became more and more enamored with the untapped potential developing outside of the city. “I was given some locations on Moody Street and I initially wrote them off,” Stokes says. “Then I looked at this restaurant called the Tuscan Grill and it was the perfect size; right in my wheelhouse of 70 seats. Because I’m the chef and owner, I’m a real hands-on operator and I didn’t want anything where I was relying on a huge team of people. I looked around and saw pressed tin ceilings, exposed brick walls, and a beautiful bar, and I just saw a lot of potential. The restaurant had a storied history as one of the best Italian restaurants in all of Boston back in the day.”
Joshua Smith, the acclaimed butcher and chef behind Moody’s Delicatessen & Provisions, was another major draw for Stokes. “There’s a lot of diverse businesses in Waltham,” Stokes says. “It doesn’t have a Starbucks or a J. Crew or the “mallification” that a lot of main streets have turned into. They have Indian markets, Vietnamese restaurants, comic book stores, and then of course, Joshua Smith who moved up the street and built Moody’s Delicatessen. What Josh is doing is just insane and he’s helped make Waltham a little culinary destination.”
Stokes’ menu emphasizes his own version of house-made craftsmanship like Red Bird’s selection of pastas, pickles, sausages, and even cheeses, such as a house-whipped ricotta that accompanies the pappardelle with lamb ragu, and arancini appetizer, and the lobster ravioli. The debut menu will initially have a seafood-heavy focus, but Stokes anticipates shifting directions once fall and winter arrive.