Top Boston chef and restaurateur Brian Poe leaves a lot of hard work at his two hit eateries in Boston – whipping up incredible dishes, shining in the media spotlight and preparing a new, third dining spot in the South End – but his inspiration for those ventures comes from Revere Beach where he and his wife, Cristiana, have lived for a little over two years.
Speaking with the Journal in a recent interview, Poe said that watching the sunrise over Revere Beach and hanging out in various Beach locales has given him the respite to continually go into Boston and create meals that generate quite a buzz.
What’s more, he’s exactly the type of dynamic new resident that the City has been trying to attract for a decade – a young professional with big plans in Boston who realizes that Revere Beach is only a few minutes train ride from the center of the Boston scene.
“Living here absolutely brings me some peace,” he said. “It relaxes me and takes some of the pressure off – looking at the Beach landscape. It’s a great location with the T Station and the view of the Beach. It’s a straight shot to my new Beacon Hill restaurant – the Tip Tap – and then a short walk to my other restaurant – Poe’s Kitchen – in the Back Bay. Then, it’s an easy, quiet ride back home again on the Blue Line. I think the City has done a great job cleaning the Beach up and I’ve lived here two years now and things are much better. There’s a large State Police presence now and a lot to do. I’ve heard all the stories and jokes, but every morning I sit out on my balcony with my coffee and look at the Beach and the big boats in the distance and the bulldozers cleaning up the sand. I think it’s great.”
After building a noted career in the kitchen at hotels in Atlanta, Phoenix and Los Angeles, Poe moved to Boston 10 years ago to run the Seasons Restaurant in the Millennium Bostonian Hotel.
“Following in the footsteps of such great culinarians as Jasper White, Lydia Shire, Gordon Hammersley, Jody Adams, and others, Chef Poe spent five harmonious years cooking his way to the top of the food chain, securing the dual title of executive chef and food and beverage director at the hotel,” reads his official biography.
However, he was hungering for bigger things.
After travelling through South America, he came back to Boston and embarked on a venture that began to set him apart in the Boston restaurant scene – Poe’s Kitchen at the Rattlesnake. The hip Back Bay lounge had never been much of a food destination, but Poe was able to transform the lounge into a stop on the Boston food chain.
This past June, after finding success with Poe’s Kitchen, he opened up his second restaurant – converting an old Chinese food restaurant on Beacon Hill into the Tip Tap Room. That new venture has generated rave reviews for its variety of steak tips – from the traditional beef to more exotic options like yak, ostrich or kangaroo.
“We came up with the idea of doing steak tips and just some kind of simple concept like that,” he said. “It was strange, but I said, ‘Let’s go exotic and have some fun.’ That’s what spawned our wild game menu. The top seller so far are the steak tips and the next top is wild game – a difference of only about eight plates.”
Nowadays, while still solidifying the Tip Tap Room on Beacon Hill, Poe is also venturing out with another renowned chef – Gordon Wilcox – to renovate Estelle’s, a former hip hop lounge in the South End. The particulars of that venture are still somewhat secret, but Poe assured it was going to be innovative.
Poe said he has gotten quite a bit of inspiration for his new business/culinary ventures from his travels. However, he also has had a fair amount of inspiration from hanging out on the Beach – especially at BK’s Bar & Grill on Ocean Avenue.
“I am a huge fan of BK’s,” he said. “I know all the guys, the bartenders and owners. I think it’s great the way they have situated the bar to the ocean and it’s just a great spot and they do have something special there. I don’t have as much time to go down there now as I used to, but I did notice the guys came into my restaurant the other day and that was great. I actually wrote the menu for the Tip Tap Room when I was sitting at the bar in BK’s.”
Poe’s success as an up-and-coming celebrity chef is quite spectacular in that he never intended to cook a meal professionally. A native of Macon, Georgia, Poe is a laid back southerner who remembers helping his grandmother cook up large meals after church. Though always around food, he said he never was interested in cooking until he landed a culinary job to pay the bills while attending Auburn University.
“My family always loved cooking and I was around that a lot,” he said. “But I actually went to college at Auburn to become a landscape designer. In the process, I fell into a bar/cook job. Then, I ended up in a higher-end restaurant and that caused me to just blossom. I loved interacting with the people and cooking for and with people. I think those two things – interacting with people and making people happy by cooking for them are what truly drew me in.”
And just as Poe knows a good piece of Yak when he sees it, he also knew Revere Beach was a good deal for living when he laid his eyes upon the three-mile stretch of sand. He said he and his wife had been living in Malden and they were looking for a condo to buy, and that’s when they discovered the hidden gem that is Revere Beach.
“I found this condo on Revere Beach and we loved it,” he said. “I will tell you it’s very easy to get around. In fact, I used to disagree with my wife that I had to drive downtown every day and pay $35 a day on parking. I decided to try and take the T in town and it turned out great. From my door to the Tip Tap in the day is a 20-minute journey. At night, it’s only a little longer. It’s not bad and we’re proud to be residents of Revere.”
Poe’s Kitchen is located at 384 Boylston St. in the Back Bay and the Tip Tap Room is located at 138 Cambridge St. on Beacon Hill.