This is a beautiful new neighborhood restaurant in Medfield, Massachusetts named Avenue. And this is the chef / owner Josh Foley.
Josh Foley: “You can’t let the fire get to mellow, you can’t get too hot.”
Josh and his family live so close the restaurant, he actually walks to and from work every day. And he can smell the inticing aromas coming from the wood fire burning in the kitchen all the way at his house. But this is definitely a step above your typical home cooking.
Josh Foley: “I like to think of it as rustic New England comfort food focusing really on our wood fire cooking. I like to buy quality and do as little as possible to it. I wanted to offer food that I loved to cook and that I have learned from talented people over the years to make, but also a menu that is creative but accessible so we would be busy seven nights a week instead of just on the weekends.”
And the crowds have been coming since the day Avenue opened, for crispy flatbead pizzas, big BLT salads, fall off the bone confit chicken wings, potato crusted Port Judith Calamari, pan-roasted mussels with chardonnay and garlic butter, wood-grilled swordish, and cabernet braised short ribs. But the hottest attraction might be the kitchen itself.
Josh Foley: “In the kitchen we have a wood oven. It’s a combination of gas and wood. We do all the flat breads in there. And then next to the salad station is the wood grill, which is kind of center piece of the kitchen. It was custom made in Northern California. It’s an Argentinian design, they’ve been making these brasas they call it for hundreds of years, and it’s a very simple construction. The wood lays down on the bottom but you spin a wheel and the wood just raises up if you need to get it hotter and faster. During the day it’s down low, if we’re slow roasting the chickens but during dinner service doing swordfish, steaks, burgers things like that we need it hot and fast, and it’s a versatile piece of equipment.”
Josh learned how to cook over live fire during his time working at some legendary restaurants in San Francisco, including Boulevard and Zuni Cafe, and his wood roasted chicken has a direct lineage back to the West Coast. And his signature burger was inspired by his days working the grill station at Harvest restaurant in Harvard Square, Cambridge, where culinary legend Julia Child was a frequent customer.
Josh Foley: “It’s off the wood grill so that’s different and it’s a certified Angus beef product so it’s delicious already. We cook it to temp. It’s on a house made brioche bun… we serve it with comeback sauce which is a secret recipe… And then we make our fries in house too which is important to me. If our burger’s good enough for Julia Child what better testimonial is there than that?”
The wood grill also imparts an extra layer of flavor to the Steak Frites, featuring a corn fed prime skirt steak that’s brushed with compound butter, served with hand-cut fries, and plated over Argentinean style chimichurri sauce.
From the outside, Avenue looks like something straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting, inside it’s a combination of rustic and modern, with lot of windows, wood, and slate. Between the bar and dining room, there are over 100 seats, and most of them are filled with customers who come for the flatbreads.
Josh Foley: “They are rectangular. We make the dough in house… and it’s a double zero flour from Italy. There’s a two day rise so it’s in the walk in for two days before we even touch it. It’s then cooked hot and fast in the combo wood gas oven. They are crispy.”
And impossible to resist. There’s the sweet and spicy Avenue Flatbread topped with housemade pork sausage, wild mushrooms, and onion jam. And the ultra-popular carmelized onion and cherrywood smoked bacon flatbread.
Josh Foley: “That is on the flatbread with a roasted garlic cream fresh and fresh mozzarella that goes two minutes in the oven, we toss arugula with red wine vinaigrette and just top the hot flatbread with that. The roasted garlic hits you in the face, but then so does the smokey bacon and peppery arugula. It’s a great combination. And delicious.”
But believe it or not, the Bolognese might be ever better.
Josh Foley: “First of all it’s a big portion. We sell 100 orders a week. And when you bite into it, it’s like Sunday dinner at your Italian grandmother’s house. It’s loosely based on a recipe that’s over 200 years old so I waned to do something kind of old school, but we’ve sourced certified humane veal and an all natural ground pork and we use really good pancetta. I think buying what we buy and applying it to the old world recipe really makes it special.”
And of course, you should finish off your meal with a butterscotch blondie sundae with sea salt caramel ice cream, because you really need to explore all “avenues” from this talented team.
Josh Foley: “I think what you’ve got is some restaurant people with a lot of experience from cities like Boston and San Francisco, that are in the suburbs and we know what we’re doing. We’re in the middle of the Medfield Center right next to town hall, plenty of parking. And beautiful windows looking out onto the town green right there. We like to think it’s a restaurant, a city experience in the suburbs. My favorite thing is that we’re in a community that we’re invested in. My wife and I have four children and I think we’ve built something here that’s built to last.”