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New American Cuisine at 80 Thoreau

Young restaurateurs bring fine dining to the Depot.

Even on the grayest afternoon, light bathed the creamy walls of 80 Thoreau, the progressive New American cuisine restaurant that recently opened at its eponymous location.

Windows are everywhere and Sudbury native and co-owner Ian Calhoun was eager to show off the space, even while under construction last month.

While the Depot has hosted many restaurants over the years, 80 Thoreau is the first to take the entire top floor.

“It’s a fun, large space, in a contemporary New England style,” Calhoun told Patch.

The soapstone bar, crafted in Vermont, will seat 20, with additional  tables and handsome gray banquet seating nearby. There, and in the other dining room, classic cream paneled walls accented by rough-hewn wooden eaves continue a sophisticated New England look.  In total, 80 Thoreau will seat 92.

“We want to create a restaurant that’s approachable,” Calhoun continued. And create they did. A handsome new door close to Concord Optical welcomes diners into a foyer, with a widened staircase and elevator. The kitchen, now double the previous size, is open to one of the two dining rooms. Four seats at a Chef’s Kitchen counter give these lucky diners a closer view of the action. Windows on three sides flood the space with light.

80 Thoreau’s New England cuisine will feature locally grown and raised products, noted Calhoun, who has already been in touch with area farmers. 

“There’s a vibrant agricultural community here," he said.

Appetizers are in the $8-$13 range, with main courses in the $18-$29 range. There is also a bar menu that encompasses everything from “bar snacks” for $3 to “bar entrees” that will be in the $15 range.

Chef Carolyn Johnson was most recently Chef-de-Cuisine at Jody Adams’s Rialto in Harvard Square, with past experience at Salamander (Cambridge), Icarus (South End) and the Arrows Restaurant (Ogunquit).

80 Thoreau provided a few sample items that are on the Spring Menu, including:

First Course
 
Fennel & White Bean Soup
Crabmeat, saffron crème fraîche
 
Seared Gnocchi with Morels
Peas, herbs, artichoke cream
 
Main  Course
 
Roast Chicken Breast & Braised Thigh
Mustard butter, asparagus, barley
 
Grilled Lamb and Turnovers
Favas, mint, Lillet

After looking at space in Boston, Calhoun and his partner, Vincent Vela, decided that they could provide just the product that Concord was looking for. To make it happen, the pair secured several area financial backers, whom they would not name.

The two have known each other since attending Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, and planned to join forces in their own restaurant some day. Together, they have a quarter of a century in the restaurant business under their belts.

After earning his Cuisine Diploma from Le Cordon Bleu, Calhoun managed New York City’s famed Rainbow Room, and Vela worked with renowned New York chefs Thomas Keller at Per Se and Top Chef Tom Colicchio at Craft Restaurant.  Calhoun is also a graduate of the Harvard Business School.  In New York, “we learned to focus, and to achieve a high level of quality,” said Vela.  They concurred that great hospitality is paramount.

“We’re taking a mom and pop place and making it into a first-class dining experience,” said Calhoun.

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