Jasper White, a founder and managing partner of Summer Shack, stands behind the new bar in the restaurant's original location in Cambridge, which just re-opened after renovations. Photo courtesy Summer Shack.
It’s still a shack, but celebrity chef Jasper White says his flagship Summer Shack restaurant in Cambridge is a bit more refined after its first major renovation in 14 years.
The restaurant that seats more than 300 and is known for its lobster, oysters and immense menu reopened last week after closing for two weeks to renovate the space.
Since the Summer Shack opened at 149 Alewife Brook Parkway in May of 2000, the restaurant has opened additional locations in Boston, Dedham and at Mohegan Sun, but White said the flagship restaurant has only undergone minor changes over the years.
To keep up with changes in the neighborhood around the Alewife T stop, White said Summer Shack has now tripled the size of its oyster bar, put in new floors and furniture, along with new lighting, ceiling fans and a new color scheme.
“Originally, our concept was kind of a fisherman bought a Chinese restaurant, that’s kind of what it looked like,” said White. “But over time things have changed and the neighborhood has changed and we have a lot more business guests, so we kind of needed to tone down the shack side of it. It’s still a shack, but it has a different feel to it.”
The restaurant serves more than 3,000 oysters per week and its new 30-seat, zinc-topped oyster bar also includes space for up to three guests using wheelchairs. The bar also has a new draft beer system with 20 beers on tap.
White said there are more renovations to come. By the beginning of April, the restaurant is going to convert a back bar into a function room able to accommodate more than 120 guests.
The back bar had originally been used as smoking space before Cambridge banned smoking in restaurants, and has since been used as a sports bar, said White.
Now, as more businesses have opened around the T station, White said his restaurant gets more and more requests corporate meetings space and clam bakes.
White said the renovations are also a way of thanking regular guests who keep coming back to the restaurant.
“I think you owe that to your customers—to keep it fresh over time," he said. "Otherwise, they will go other places.”