As a child growing up in Watertown, Andrew Holden saw the Arsenal complex as a forbidding place behind a big fence. Now, he has helped open up a new restaurant, Branch Line, which he hopes to bring many people to the Arsenal on the Charles to enjoy some food and drink – some of it from sources right in town.
Holden, the owner of Branch Line, has worked with the owner of the restaurant at Eastern Standard in Kenmore Square. It offers the style of food found in places like Italy, France and Greece, featuring dished prepared on a rotisserie as well as in a wood-fired grill.
To begin with, the rotisserie will be used to make chicken, but the menu will evolve over time, Holden said.
“Eventually we will do suckling pig and ham, and we can do vegetables,” Holden said.
The restaurant also features a large selection of craft beers and wines. The bar has 20 beers on tap, featuring breweries both local and from across the nation thanks to Branch Line’s Magellan Casto, who used to be bar manager at famous Boston beer bar Bukowski Tavern.
The wine list features wine from the regions which inspired Branch Line’s food.
“We have a focus on wine from coastal France, coastal Italy and Mediterranean islands – Corsica, Sicily, Sardinia – and some Greek wine,” Holden said. “It fits with the food.”
The restaurant opened in the former Watertown Savings Bank branch, in the back end of the building where the Arsenal Center for the Arts and Panera Bread are located. Holden grew up just blocks away.
“My parents still live there,” Holden said. “I have worked in restaurants for 17 years, and if you asked me if I would ever open a restaurant in Watertown – I would have never thought I would.”
The space is not huge – seating 65 people including the bar plus more outside – but it appealed to the owners. The historic building has high ceilings with exposed steel beams and brick. The patio, which Holden hopes to use 9 months a year, was designed by Watertown-based Sasaki & Associates.
Holden’s career in the food business began, not far from the Arsenal. In high school, he made deliveries for Iggy’s Bread, which was then located on Arlington Street, in the spot now occupied by Danish Pastry House.
“In 1994, there was no real Old World European quality bread made in Boston. Iggy’s pioneered making nice crusty sourdough,” Holden said.
When he was looking for bread to use at Branch Line, Holden naturally turned to Iggy’s, which is now located in Fresh Pond in Cambridge. The restaurant serves sandwiches on Iggy’s ciabatta bread.
That’s not the only local product that can be found in Branch Line’s dishes. Coop’s Creamery’s sweet cream ice cream, made on Arlington Street, is served with salted caramel sauce and candied hazel nuts. They also serve Armenian String Cheese from Eastern Lamejun Bakers and honey Greek yogurt from Sophia’s Greek Pantry, both located on Belmont Street, just across the line in Belmont.
During his college summers Holden waitered at Upstair’s at the Pudding in Harvard Square – the predecessor to Upstairs on the Square. He also worked with a restaurant owned by the Brennan Family in New Orleans when he attended Tulane University.
He moved back to Boston to attend Boston University’s School of Hotel and Restaurant Management.
“Afterward I got my dream job working with Ken Oringer,” said Holden, who worked as manager at Clio and Uni in Boston.
In 2006, he got his first general manager job at Eastern Standard. The restaurant is frequently mobbed with people from the Red Sox games, and is also open for 19 hours a day, Holden said, because it is the hotel restaurant for Hotel Commonwealth.
Branch Line has been popular since it opened in late October. Getting in without a reservation can be tough, but Holden said people can often get in if they are willing to sit outside on the patio, which is warmed by heat lamps.
Most days Branch Line is open 4:30-10 p.m., but is open until 11 on Fridays and Saturdays. It is closed Sundays. The restaurant will soon begin serving lunch from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.