Long-time chef makes his dream come true with the opening of Café Ashby

Sean Smith is an executive chef who has always dreamed of opening his own restaurant.

He thought of managing a small bistro with 30 to 50 seats.

Smith realized his dream in June when he became executive chef / owner of 873 Café and Tavern in Ashby. It’s a little different running a 50 seat restaurant, but he’s not complaining. With a cafe and tavern (and large bar) under one roof, the business can accommodate over 125 people. There is also an ice cream display case and a seasonal outdoor patio.

It took a pandemic for Smith to find “the perfect destination.” He said the property’s old business had closed due to COVID-19, and friends suggested he take a look. Love at first sight!

Smith opened the restaurant this summer despite not having a full liquor license. He said he had a team in place and was good to go. “I’m glad I opened when I did because it gave the community a chance to get to know us and through word of mouth we are attracting not only diners from nearby towns but also from New Hampshire,” Smith said.

Last month, the company received its liquor license.

Originally from Boston, Smith has lived in north-central Massachusetts most of his life. He graduated from Murdock High School in Winchendon and began his restaurant career as an apprentice chef with Executive Chef Paul Wilson, who at the time owned and operated the former Brass Pineapple restaurant in Winchendon.

Wilson has served as executive chef at Worcester Country Club, Pepper’s Fine Foods Catering in Northboro, and Cyprian Keyes in Boylston. He is now a culinary instructor at Nashoba Valley Technical High School in Westford.

Smith also worked with executive chef / owner Bill Brady when he owned Sonoma in Princeton. Brady owns Brady’s restaurant in Leominster. For eight years, Smith was at the back of the home of Romaine’s Wood Grill and Bar in Northboro, owned and operated by Executive Chef / Owner Richard Romaine, who also owns Smokestack Urban Barbecue and co-owner of ‘Olo Pizza, both in Worcester.

Smith said he viewed Romaine as a mentor who shared invaluable experience and encouraged her on her career path every step of the way.

“Richard hasn’t watered down the challenges chefs face when opening a restaurant and how you need to be prepared to run all aspects of the business,” Smith said. “As a sous-chef, I learned a lot about cooking, teamwork and human relations.”

Smith also helped open Great Road Kitchen (oyster bar and grill) in Littleton as head chef with chef Chris Frothingham. Previously, he was Executive Chef for two years at the Fay Club in Fitchburg, and earlier in his career he was Executive Chef at Colonial Hotel in Gardner – there’s no denying that Smith has years of professional experience under his belt.

“Eclectic” dishes

In his new restaurant, Smith plans to offer innovative dishes that change seasonally. He defines his food as inspired by a chef and says he is “a chef who is behind the stove”. The menu is “eclectic, but sometimes true to New England roots”. He is a passionate chef with a passion for local foods.

The menu is in the works, according to Smith. The website 873cafe.com is updated with its menus and online reservation information. FYI: If you’re in the mood for comfort food, there are flatbread options, tacos, burgers, soups, salads, and more. website before the deadline.

873 Café & Tavern, 873 Main St., Ashby, is open for lunch from 11:30 am to 4 pm Tuesday through Saturday; dinner, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Saturday; Sunday brunch, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. dinner, Sunday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The restaurant is reserving private events for the upcoming holiday season. Call 978-386-1185, or connect on Facebook.

The restaurant will be closed on Thanksgiving Day.

As for Smith, he will be enjoying the holidays with his wife and family and also plans to “rest and rejuvenate” on his day off.

No Thanksgiving dinner at Salem Cross

For the first time in 60 years of history, the Salem Cross Inn in West Brookfield will be closed on Thanksgiving Day.

The announcement was made on the restaurant’s website, salemcrossinn.com. Members of the Salem family said they had thought “long and hard” about what the best course would be for Thanksgiving 2021.

Like many restaurants in the area, staffing is a constant concern.

“After careful consideration, it is with a heavy heart that we have decided that we will be closed on Thanksgiving Day. We know that many of you look forward to celebrating this holiday with us at the Inn every year, all how we look forward to having you here! ”

The Inn, on a restored 18th-century farmhouse at 260 West Main Street (Route 9), is a destination restaurant, offering seasonal menus as well as traditional American fare. It has served Thanksgiving dinners since it opened in 1961.

Owner Nancy Salem said she remembers a year they stayed open during a major snowstorm; her father, Henry Salem, ended up bringing all the staff home.

The family said the decision to close was made in the best interests of their valued customers and staff.

Visit the website for seasonal hours and special events.

Vin Bin Thanksgiving Package

Vin Bin in Marlborough is taking orders for his Thanksgiving meal package that includes a locally grown turkey from Out Post Farm in Holliston.

The package, $ 125, serves four to six. It includes a 10 to 12 pound fresh turkey (uncooked); 8 ounces of homemade cranberry sauce; 16 ounces of turkey herb sauce; Smoked maple root vegetables with almonds; Mashed potatoes with garlic and butter; Bourbon creamed green beans with toasted garlic breadcrumbs. Brining and cooking instructions included.

Vin Bin also selected four bottles of wine, $ 63.99, associated with the meal. Wines include Tutela Prosecco; 2018 Coteaux Bourguignon; 2021 Les Poches Saumur Blanc; 2020 Elio Perrone Bigaro.

Orders will be picked up on November 24 from Marlborough Main Street and Southborough and Hopkinton Vin Bin stores. Visit thevinbin.com for more information or call 508-480-9463.

Fig and banana bread for the holidays

The California Fig Advisory Board shares a delicious Fig Banana Bread recipe, new for the holiday season.

It’s the end of California’s fresh fig season, but consumers can get their fix of dried figs year-round. In the Banana Fig Bread recipe, dried figs add incredible flavor and moisture with no added sugar.


1 cup dried California figs, divided

3 bananas, divided

¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup buckwheat flour, see note

2 tablespoons of cornstarch

2 teaspoons of yeast

1 teaspoon of baking soda

½ teaspoon of nutmeg

½ teaspoon of salt

6 tablespoons of softened butter

â…› cup of honey

2 eggs

â…” cup chopped toasted nuts

1 tablespoon of granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, line with parchment paper.

Place ½ cup of figs in a small bowl, pour in enough boiling water to cover the figs. Let stand for about 30 minutes or until softened; to drain. In a food processor, puree the figs and two bananas. Slice the remaining figs.

In a bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, buckwheat flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter with the honey. Stir in eggs, one at a time; stir in the mashed fig mixture. Stir in the flour mixture; stir in walnuts and sliced ​​figs, reserving a few sliced ​​figs for garnish.

Scrape the dough into the prepared pan. Slice the remaining banana in half lengthwise and arrange on the pastry with the reserved fig slices. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 55 to 65 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the bun comes out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Six to eight servings.

Note: Substitute buckwheat flour for all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour if desired. For best flavor, use overripe bananas to mash the bread itself and a perfectly ripe banana to decorate the top.

If you have a treat for the column, call 508-868-5282. Send an email to [email protected]

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