Restaurant That Transformed Historic Building into Dining Destination to Celebrate 9th Anniversary

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Branch Line has transformed a former military weapons development facility into a dining destination. (Courtesy of Branch Line)

Nestled within the historic Watertown Arsenal, Branch Line stands as more than just a restaurant; it’s a testament to community, perseverance, and the art of culinary craftsmanship. Celebrating its ninth anniversary this coming October 2024, Branch Line has become a beloved fixture in Watertown, owing much of its success to its deep roots in the neighborhood and its commitment to quality and hospitality.

General Manager Andrew Holden, a Watertown native himself, recalls the serendipitous discovery of the restaurant’s location — an expansive, historic space dating back to 1912. Holden said he was captivated by the building’s rich history, once a hub of industrial activity during the military and industrial revolutions that made trains, weapons, and equipment for the military. Determined to preserve this legacy while creating a welcoming space, Holden envisioned Branch Line not just as a restaurant, but as a place where the community could gather and feel at home.

“I kind of was looking in Cambridge, and in Somerville, and then came across this beautiful room and the minute I walked in, seeing a historic space, as soon as I walked in said we have to open a restaurant here,” Holden said.

Branch Line began its journey with a vision distinct from its initial conception. Originally intended as a beer-focused venue by its landlords, Holden and his team steered towards establishing a more eclectic, neighborhood-oriented establishment. Embracing the rotisserie as a centerpiece, the restaurant quickly became known for its rotisserie chicken — a star attraction visible from nearly every table.

Reflecting on the evolution of Branch Line, Holden emphasizes the importance of staying connected to the community and innovating to keep guests coming back.

“Restaurants are so humbling and have so many ebbs and flows, with changes of personnel and people moving in and out of the neighborhood, you can never rest on your laurels,” Holden said. “You always have to work harder to connect with more guests and meet people in the community.”

Melissa Ostrow Branch Line opened in the former U.S. Army Arsenal in 2015.

Beyond serving as a dining destination, Branch Line aims to be a neighborhood space — a place where regulars mingle with visitors from neighboring towns and even farther afield, drawn by the restaurant’s warm ambiance and consistently excellent fare.

“Being nine years old now, you’ll see guests from Belmont, Arlington, Brighton,” Holden said. “I’ll bump into tables who have come out from Back Bay and South End, and that’s all great, but it’s all about Watertown first and foremost. It’s about the town you’re in and the people you need to be connected to.”

The journey hasn’t been without challenges, particularly highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many in the hospitality industry, Branch Line faced uncertain times, navigating closures and restrictions. With the support of loyal patrons and the local community, the restaurant adapted, leveraging its spacious patio and offering takeout options, even if Holden said he didn’t think takeout would work at first. 

“It was such a scary time,” he said. “When we had a chance to open up for takeout and delivery, I said to the team, ‘I don’t know if there’s business out there for casual fine dining like us,’ and managers said, ‘We know there is.’ And then everyone in the community started ordering takeout from us.”

Looking ahead, Branch Line continues to evolve, embracing new culinary trends while staying true to its roots. As Watertown grows and changes, Branch Line grows and changes with it — a place where locals can bring their families for a casual meal or celebrate special occasions.

“I just want to say, thank you to the community,” Holden said. “If you haven’t eaten here in a while, things are always evolving and getting fresh. I could not be more happy and proud to be in my hometown, to be a resident here, and have a restaurant that’s part of the community.”

For Holden and his team, Branch Line isn’t just a restaurant; it’s a labor of love and a testament to the enduring spirit of community and hospitality. As Watertown’s dining scene flourishes, Branch Line stands tall — a beacon of culinary excellence and a cherished part of the community fabric.

3 thoughts on “Restaurant That Transformed Historic Building into Dining Destination to Celebrate 9th Anniversary

  1. Andrew and the amazing team do such an excellent job in terms of food, service and atmosphere! The landscaping is phenomenal as well. Whenever I have hosted an event there, they go above and beyond – sometimes too much above and beyond. Branch Line is a great community fixture. Congrats and Thanks!

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