New restaurant to open on C.F. Donovan’s site

The former C.F. Donovan’s restaurant, vacant for over a year, will soon reopen as Savin Bar and Kitchen, a new name to go along with new ownership, an energized look, and a fresh menu.

Co-owner Kenneth Osherow plans to open the restaurant, on Savin Hill Ave. across from the MBTA stop, within the next eight weeks.

Osherow described his vision of Savin Bar as a place where locals, both old and new, will be comfortable. Area resident and architect Eric Robinson said the bar will be “forward looking in terms of where this neighborhood is going.”

Kevin Deabler, a fellow project architect and local resident, added that the area is drawing younger people and that Savin Bar is going to “reflect who lives here now,” but those who want to order a traditional pint as they always have will not be disappointed.

The interior of the new restaurant is nearly unrecognizable from the Donovan’s look. The bar is being crafted from wood reclaimed from a mill in Vermont. The floor plan is much more open, with fewer columns and other boundaries separating the dining areas. New windows look out onto Sydney St., giving the dining room more daylight, and an open kitchen will allow diners to watch the cooks in action.

“It’s an overall rethink of the restaurant,” Deabler said.

Osherow hasn’t decided on specifics for the menu just yet, but said that it would be a mixture of traditional cuisine and would be influenced by a yet-to-be-hired chef. A job posting for Savin Bar’s chef describes a “comfortable yet innovative menu.”

C.F. Donovan’s, which opened in 2001, was a popular spot with locals and visitors alike. Owner Arthur Donovan lost the property to foreclosure when tax troubles and the expense of attempting to open another location in Hyde Park forced the business into bankruptcy. The city closed the neighborhood haunt in November of 2009 because of unpaid back taxes.

After months of vacancy, Osherow and co-owner Driscoll DoCanto bought the property from Mt. Washington Bank at a sidewalk auction last August. The final price of $857,000 included the property and the restaurant’s full liquor license.

The new owners hired RODE Architects Inc., a partnership between Deabler and Robinson, to take on the task of renovating the space. Osherow worked with RODE when he opened Savin Scoop, an ice cream and coffee shop, across the street last year.

“We’ve always been interested in bettering the Savin Hill area,” Robinson said.

Deabler and Robinson, both of whom live within a third of a mile from the restaurant, said that they would often bring their young children to Donovan’s and they appreciated its family-friendly atmosphere.

“Once that place closed down, the whole neighborhood changed,” Osherow said, adding that he hopes the new restaurant will attract people to the area at night. He and his architect team said that the condition of the building was worse than they expected after the auction. Water damage in the basement and conditions brought on from being closed for over a year left the building in, as Osherow put it, “probably unsanitary” condition.

New plumbing and sprinklers will allow Savin Bar to restore the occupancy to 139 patrons if given city approval. Other renovations include new freezers in the basement, an improved downstairs prep area, and new lighting throughout. The lack of sprinklers forced Donovan’s to abandon seating in the downstairs area and limited the occupancy to just 99 patrons.

The occupancy proposal was approved by the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association on Tuesday at its monthly meeting at the Little House. Osherow, DoCanto, and others attended the session and answered neighbors’ questions..

Osherow has operated At Home Realty for over ten years, first on Stoughton St. and later at its current location on Savin Hill Ave., just across the street from the shuttered restaurant. He expanded from real estate to the restaurant business more than five years ago when he purchased McKenna’s Cafe from its departing owners and turned the breakfast and lunch spot from “just a little coffee shop,” into a full-fledged eatery.

“I really believe in this neighborhood and I’ve done a lot [here] already,” he said.

Osherow credits his success and burgeoning Savin Hill empire to “good synergy” with the neighborhood and an understanding of the area’s needs. “I just see so much need for business around here and services that don’t exist.”