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Lynnfield becomes a dining destination
The Boston Globe - Nov 19, 2013

Just a few months ago, Lynnfield didn’t even have a supermarket. Today, it’s a booming dining destination for the suburbs north of Boston.

Several new restaurants (and a Whole Foods Market) are dishing out meals in the town, all of them clustered at MarketStreet, an open-air shopping center that officially opened for business over the summer.

Lynnfield is “a relatively untapped, affluent market,” said Town Administrator William Gustus. “There were only a handful of Lynnfield restaurants prior to this development, and the addition of the new restaurants at MarketStreet will attract many new customers to the development”.

Until recently, the town of about 12,000 people had only three full-service restaurants. Now, Wagamama, Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse (whose CEO, Steve DiFillippo, grew up in Lynnfield), and Yard House are among the high-profile newcomers to town. There are also several smaller, more locally oriented establishments jumping on the Lynnfield bandwagon.

FuGaKyu, an outpost of the Brookline Japanese restaurant, is one such establishment, as is The Grove Boutique and Café, whose original location is in Manchester-by-the-Sea.

“I decided to open up another Grove here in Lynnfield because I really liked the ’outdoor lifestyle mall’ concept — the idea of mixing some local stores such as mine with some bigger names,” said owner Susan Harsch. “I knew it would draw on a large population and it was a great opportunity for me to get my name out there.”

But it takes more than a new mall to attract big-name chains or locally owned restaurants. It’s all about location, and many restaurant owners saw something in Lynnfield.

One of them is Wagamama, a Japanese-style noodle bar that originated in London and chose Lynnfield as its first suburban location.

“We subsequently fell in love with the [MarketStreet] project, as well as with Lynnfield and all of the surrounding neighborhoods of the North Shore,” said Carlos Bernal, chief executive officer of Wagamama North America. “If the early warm reception of our new restaurant is any indication of our future success, then I think we definitely made the right decision in opening in Lynnfield.”

The president and CEO of Legal Sea Foods, Roger Berkowitz, opened Legal C Bar — a more casual version of his Legal Sea Foods restaurants — a few weeks ago at MarketStreet.

“There was opportunity in Lynnfield and the surrounding regions,” Berkowitz said. “I have to give the developers credit for earmarking it. They have unleashed the hidden potential.”

Being right off Exit 43 on I-95 mixed with joining a large-scale mall in an otherwise untapped suburban market is almost a no-brainer for many restaurants.

“Given highway access, I would expect people in towns within a 10-mile radius of Lynnfield would find MarketStreet convenient,” Gustus said.

The seemingly overnight explosion of restaurants will bring more traffic and other strains to a relatively quiet town. But Gustus said the local government is prepared to handle the additional costs.

“From a financial standpoint, the development is a home run for the town,” he said. “When finally completed, it will generate almost $3 million in real estate and meals taxes.”

“While there will certainly be financial costs to the town associated with such a large development, . . . it is expected that it will result in providing the town with over $2 million in net revenue that will be available for other town services such as education, public safety, and public works.”

Anny Deirmenjian, director of public relations and marketing for Davio’s, believes that Lynnfield’s proximity to Boston helps make MarketStreet, and all of the restaurants opening up there, appealing to those who live in the town. She noted that many of Davio’s customers are either Lynnfield residents who work in the city or are city residents who grew up on the North Shore.

“They love to see a taste of Boston in their area,” Deirmenjian said.

Maggie Battista, a 10-year Lynnfield resident, is excited for all of the new dining options, but she is also wary of the rapid growth. “I’m going to be really interested in the town maintaining that small-town vibe,” she said.

However, it’s hard for her to disagree that having more dining options is a good thing.

“Lynnfield is kind of an untapped audience for food fans,” Battista said. “The opening of these larger restaurants in this town gives us an opportunity to get out there and eat some good food.”

The restaurant growth is far from over. Portland-based Otto Pizza opened just last week, and will be joined in the coming months by Besito, a branch of the New York-based upscale Mexican chain, and FuGaKyu.

“I am hoping to build . . . a ’community vibe’ here in Lynnfield,”said Harsch. “Provide a place for people to sit, shop, and stay a while; relax, slow down, take a break from the craziness of the world, and perhaps even make a few new friends.”

Michelle Lahey is a professional chef who writes about food on her blog www.theeconomicaleater.com.

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