The popular Fresh Food Generation food truck and catering company specializing in Caribbean Afro Southern cuisine hopes to open its first-ever brick-and-mortar location on Talbot Avenue near Codman Square.
Founders Cassandria Campbell and Jackson Renshaw, who have been operating from a food truck in Nubian Square and a catering company from space in the Commonwealth Kitchen on Quincy Street, told the West of Washington civic group about their plan this week. They expect to base their operation at 191 Talbot Ave. in a building that is being finished now by TLee Development.
“Getting to a point where we could open our own restaurant was a decade in the making,” said Campbell, who grew up in Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury and attended the Lee School and the old O’Hearn School at times. “We are grateful and thankful now to be opening up in Codman Square. I don’t think there was a better place in Boston for us to open our doors for business.”
The two entrepreneurs started their business ten years ago and launched the food truck in Nubian Square seven years ago, eventually moving into catering as well. They also ran a pop-up kiosk at Dot House on Dorchester Avenue and catered events for Bowdoin-Geneva Main Streets and the Boys & Girls Club of Dorchester. Soon, however, they outgrew the Commonwealth Kitchen space. That’s when they ran across the opportunity with Travis Lee and TLee Development to plan an anchor restaurant in an area with virtually no dining options.
Cynthia Loesch of the Codman Square Neighborhood Council spoke highly of the effort, noting that it was in a food desert and an area where there are very few healthy options. That’s an argument she and others made in successfully blocking a Popeye’s Fried Chicken from opening in Codman Square in the last few years.
“We don’t have a sit-down healthy food restaurant in Codman Square in our business district,” Loesch said. “We’re thrilled you’re committed to this neighborhood. We’re happy we will have an establishment where we can go with a family like other neighborhoods have…Codman Square really needs this.”
The build-out has been ongoing for about a year, they said, and they are about a month away from opening. The restaurant includes a large kitchen, with eight seats indoors and multiple outdoor spaces that will likely be programmed and have approximately 20 to 30 seats. They will load and unload the food truck in a spot behind the building, so as not to tie up Talbot Avenue and the Lee School.
Some of the dishes proposed for the menu are already favorites on the food truck, and include rice plates, salmon, red bean stew, Jamaican jerk chicken, and a popular Kale Salad. Right now, they are waiting on a Sept. 29 date at the License Board for a common victualers permit license and a beer and wine license.
Some neighbors on Monday’s West of Washington call worried about the beer and wine situation, and just what kind of drinking would be going on, as it’s a fairly new situation for Talbot Avenue. Campbell said it wasn’t a big part of the operation.
“I see it as sort of in the same context of wanting to provide the neighborhood with a resource where people can get a quick bite to eat or have a bit to eat outside and if someone wants to have a glass of wine or get a beer with the food, we want to have that available. … much like Haley House [in Nubian Square] where they have beer and wine but no one is going there to have a fun night on the town.”
Some neighbors were glad to see an owner of color working her way up, and choosing to expand west of Washington Street – noting that they want to see more entrepreneurs of color grow and expand their businesses in Codman Square areas.
Other neighbors were worried about parking, and what might happen to the surrounding streets if the location were to become very successful. Both the Codman Square Neighborhood Council, WOW, and Fresh Food Generation said they would look into partnering with nearby lots for potential parking relief if things take off.