After keeping eager diners updated for months on the construction progress of 7 South Bottle + Kitchen via social media, the grand opening announcement of the Natick Center restaurant arrived in the same way. “And the time has finally arrived…Opening tomorrow at 5pm,” read the Instagram post.
What? That soon? As in June 21? Judging by the high-profile crowd in the dining room, Natick’s movers and shakers cleared their calendars the moment they heard it was game on for the brand-new American comfort food spot, located in the former Dolphin seafood location. For now, seating is dine-in only, dinner only, on a first-come, first-served basis. Current hours below, but make sure you double-check before you go.
The dining room and bar area, decorated with sparkly art, filled up fast on opening night. We spotted luminaries including at least one current Select Board member enjoying a friends night out; one former Select Board member and company; the high-visibility foodie and chef, Kiat Cormier, behind the popular Facebook group Chew on This; long-time Natick residents table hopping their way around the 150-seat space; and town employees stopping by after work. The specialty cocktails and craft beers flowed, and animated chatter filled the room as busy waitstaff dressed in black pants, black tops, and heavy-duty olive-drab canvas aprons brought sweet and sticky Korean chicken wings; street taco flat bread; harvest grain bowls; shrimp and grits; and more from the seven appetizer/11 entrees menu.
The Giannacopoulos family, who for 27 years ran the Dolphin in the 7 South location, put John G. at front-of-house duty to meet and greet the hungry hordes, and apologize for any opening-night glitches. Although plenty of seating was available, we waited about 30 minutes for a table. “Thank you for your patience,” John said. “We had to give the kitchen a chance to catch up. They’re working very hard back there.”
Once seated in our comfortable booth, we got down to the business of ordering drinks—lemonade for me, and for my co-editor a Robot Crush Pilsner, a light lager with honey and hay notes, one of about a dozen beers on tap.
Since our drinks cried out to be put to work washing something down, we asked for an appetizer of bacon and cheddar potato kegs, the adult version of that kid’s-table standby, tater tots. In the 7 South way of reimagining the comfort food, the tots have put on some weight, evolving into crispy, deep-fried grated potato barrels, with bacon bits and scallions, served on top of garlic aioli ($14). The six potato kegs, crunchy on the outside, steaming hot on the inside, disappeared fast. Serving the kegs on top of the smooth-tasting and garlicky aioli sauce, instead of smothering them with it, allows diners who aren’t sauce fans to join in the delicious fun.
Feeling like I needed to have something virtuous after such a decadent start to my meal, I ordered the spring salad with fresh and tender arugula, baby kale, and baby spinach, dressed with a shallot vinaigrette ($16), and topped with a nice portion of salmon for an additional $10. Served in an asymmetrical black ceramic bowl, the salad had a nice balance of all greens, with a good ratio of the goodies—crumbled goat cheese bits, walnuts, and green and red grapes, halved.
My dining companion was game to try out the fried buttermilk chicken and waffles. “I feel like I should because I’m here,” he said, suggesting that he’s not really a heavy-meal kind of guy. The generous portion of chicken was crisp on the outside, moist on the inside. Served with cold smoked bacon and hot and spicy honey it was the kind of down-home dish designed to fill up all the empty spaces in both stomach and soul. A squeeze bottle of thick, brown liquid was brought to the table to drizzle atop the fluffy waffles, but just know we’re talking “pancake syrup” here, not the local (and pricey) maple-tree based treasure that comes out of the Natick Community Organic Farm sugar shack every spring. Even I know that’s a lot to ask for.
Expect friendly and efficient service at 7 South, and bring a dose of patience as the new place gets up to speed.
NEW RESTAURANT: 7 South Bottle+Kitchen
MENU DETAILS: One appetizer is gluten-free and about half of the dozen entrees are as well.
LOCATION: 7 South Ave., Natick.
We meter parked and entered on the South Ave. side of the restaurant, but most diners parked in the the lot on the Washington Street side and entered there.
Check 7 South Bottle+Kitchen’s social media channels before you go.