On Marathon Monday, regulars returned to a new Eastern Standard

Food News

The Marathon Monday favorite reopened last year in a new Fenway-Kenmore space. For former regulars, that meant a piece of their Patriots Day ritual was back.

Eastern Standard
Eastern Standard on Marathon Monday in its new location on Beacon Street. Katelyn Umholtz/Boston.com

For most restaurants and bars, the hundreds of thousands of people that swell Boston on Patriots Day should be a recipe for success.

Except that the last few years have been anything but successful due to COVID-19 shutdowns, resulting in closures of beloved institutions that served spectators and contestants for years — Lir, the Pour House, and Eastern Standard, to name a few. 

But the latter is back — albeit 0.3 miles from its original location at Hotel Commonwealth and slightly farther from the finish line. And for Garrett Harker, the restaurant’s owner, the 2024 Boston Marathon would put his new spot and team to the test. 

“We’re learning a lot,” Harker said. “Going into it, we weren’t even sure if the runners were directly outside of our space or on the other side of Beacon Street.”

The beloved institution opened at 8 a.m., earlier than usual to greet an influx of morning risers there for a Fenway-Kenmore double header: first a Red Sox game at 11 a.m., then catching some of the 30,000-plus runners in the marathon.

“We’re very excited to be here in this place,” said Kimberly Kossick, who had a seat at the bar with her daughter, Bridget Gordon, before the Red Sox game. “The vibe is different, but it’s much closer to the Park. Honestly this space is better.”

Kossick ordered an Absinthe and Old Lace, a cocktail from the old menu, and shared memories of Eastern Standard, like the time she and her daughter met former Red Sox player Kevin Youkilis — Gordon’s favorite player — and Alex Cora before he became the team’s manager. When it’s been open, Eastern Standard was where Kossick and Gordon started their Marathon Monday every year. 

“We’re back!” shouted Michelle Ahern, who made a reservation for her and three friends. 

She said it was her favorite restaurant in Boston before it closed, and now that it’s right next to the Lansdowne MBTA station, it’s even better. 

-Katelyn Umholtz/Boston.com

The day had an emotional start for Harker because of the showing of some of their former regulars.

“Marathon Monday at Eastern Standard was a day full of almost ritual behavior from a lot of our regulars,” Harker said. “When we closed, that was obviously taken away and sort of up in the air. From the morning on, it’s been so many familiar faces and regulars giving me a hug and saying ‘this is our tradition.’”

Harker said the morning was a decent showing of regulars and first-timers getting back to their Marathon Monday ritual at the brasserie — sisters-in-law at the bar enjoying bloody Mary cocktails, bigger groups of five or more ordering celebratory seafood towers, and Equal Measure was rented out to a private party.

But Harker stressed that this year would be a trial run for future Marathon Mondays, given that it’s their first in the new spot, and with a new staff. 

The development of the neighborhood is a positive sign of things to come, but the completion date is still a couple of years out, Harker said, which has resulted in construction, closed sidewalks, and a difficult drive through the neighborhood. Then there’s the new location, an anticipated growing pain and not exactly its prime spot along the route in Kenmore Square.

“Once you know how easy it is to get to Fenway from here, I guess you know how to get here,” said Jackson Cannon, bar manager of Eastern Standard and adjacent cocktail bar Equal Measure. 

And since COVID-19, gone are the days that turn into late nights in Boston, with most customers opting to dine out earlier than before. 

“The 11 p.m. crowd is gone, and the 9 p.m. crowd is the 7 p.m. crowd,” said Billy Moran, the general manager of Cornwall’s. “The late-night aspect of the city isn’t all the way back.”

But there were plusses. Harker said they had no idea if the race would run directly in front of their expansive patio until he got in early Monday morning. The space for spectators was tighter than in years past, but it gave some customers the flexibility to leave their seats and join the crowd when they heard the roaring cheers from Beacon Street. 

Speaking of that patio, it was the first day Eastern Standard got to use it — and on such a warm, sunny Marathon Monday. 

And though the morning appeared to be a slower start for Eastern Standard and businesses surrounding the park, fans poured out the stadium and into businesses once the losing game let out.

Guests patronizing some of the new faces to Fenway-Kenmore — like Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar and Mighty Squirrel Brewing Co., Eastern Standard’s neighbor — crowded at bars and hung out of open windows. A new event from an old neighborhood favorite, Cornwall’s, was a block party midday, something Moran hopes can become an annual event.

Eastern Standard was equally buzzing with a standing-room-only crowd later in the afternoon, and Harker said they were still expecting a typical Marathon Monday dinner service of runners and their families celebrating the day’s major accomplishment.

“It’s a good omen,” Harker said about the day. “The weather’s turned out unbelievable. It’s the first time we’ve used the patio all spring. It just feels like there are a lot of good vibes in the air.”