Chef Chris Coombs is responsible for some of the trendiest food experiences in Boston: Dorcester’s dbar is hosting its annual rosé garden party on August 7, with over a dozen bottle options and live music on the patio. Boston Chops South End just launched a live music summer series, featuring students from Berklee four nights a week until September 1. And don’t forget the now-infamous Instagram table—with the absolute perfect lighting for your food—at the new Boston Chops Downtown.
But it goes beyond trying to provide a cool eating experience—even though Coombs says that’s an important aspect of the food service industry, as he sees it. “Currently our biggest competition is Netflix,” he explains. “How do we get people off the couch? People aren’t just interested in having a meal but an experience.”
Ultimately, Coombs works to accomplish both by combining food, ethos, and impact. “We try to be as much as a cultural influence as we are a meal,” he says.
“The most power that we all have in life is where we make choices to spend our money. We feel that supporting local farmers and fishermen, when it’s possible, is a good choice. Supporting these Berklee students is another. If you don’t support local arts, businesses, and culture, they go away.”
The Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree is chef and co-owner of both Boston Chops locations, dbar, and Back Bay’s modern French spot Deuxave (pronounced doo-ahve) with business partner Brian Piccini at Boston Urban Hospitality. Deuxave was named “Best French Restaurant” in Boston Magazine’s Best of Boston in 2017. It was also rated four stars in the Forbes Travel Guide (only three restaurants in Boston have the distinction), and it’s where Coombs spends a lot of his time. It’s close to home for him, and it’s been a labor of love for nearly a decade.
“Deuxave is the restaurant I find the most creative and experimental. New dishes are constantly coming on or going off the menu, which is why it requires more of my attention from a culinary perspective,” he explains. Dishes are as gorgeous as they are complex, with a wine list so comprehensive you might need assistance from the award-winning sommelier.
But the food experience is more about being refined and humble at all four spaces. In keeping with a town that honors substance, the focus is always about pushing patrons to experience something they haven’t before, but still grounded in what they enjoy.
“I do think Boston eaters have become more adventurous,” Coombs says. “Historically, Boston was known as a meat and potatoes city—which is why there are so many steakhouses—but there are a lot of food professionals that are working to bring the scene to the next level. The food awards that have come to Boston lately are helpful to the overall wellness and growth of a prosperous scene.”
Boston Urban Hospitality has evolved during this particularly interesting time in Boston—an evolving food scene, and an explosion of local food offerings thanks to several years of economic strength.
Coombs is interested to see, though, what happens in a downturn, and is prepared for what might happen if there wasn’t a local eatery on every corner. “There’s an oversaturation of restaurants—that’s why we need to continue to give people a compelling reason to come out,” he says.
Boston Chops Downtown just launched a catering service to office buildings in the local area, in order to take advantage of more people wanting nutritious, upscale food brought to them. “As an artist, it’s difficult to package your craft to go,” Coombs says. “But as chefs, we have to be in front of that.”
For now, Coombs says, Boston Urban Hospitality is working to optimize their existing spaces and continue building a reputation as some of the best local food around. “People are always going to have a choice about where and how they spend their money,” he says. “We just try to focus on what we do best.”