When we saw live musicians were scheduled to play on the Bacon Free Library lawn on Tuesday night, we thought, hey, we should walk over there, grab a picnic, and catch some tunes.
The picnic turned into takeout from Pizza Shop at South Natick, but we earned it by lugging our folding chairs to the shady spot amidst high 70’s temperatures.
Folk duo Hungrytown had just begun entertaining the crowd with their singing, and guitar/banjo/harmonica playing, and stories from the road—a road they’ve badly missed during the pandemic. After all, it’s the road where Rebecca Hall and Ken Anderson meet the characters and see the places that inspire their music. They even talked about talking a stroll around “your village” before the show. Maybe the iconic South Natick dam might someday be immortalized in one of their songs?
Although most of the crowd wasn’t familiar with Hungrytown’s songs in a sing-a-long sort of way, the melodies seemed to have a magical effect, especially on the 5-and-under members who outnumbered adults at least two-to-one. Kids showed off their eating-while-running, break dancing, ax throwing (yes, a plastic ax!), and non-stop energy skills. Some big kids walked around carrying smaller kids, and others walked their moms and dads and grandparents ragged in rings around the library.
We clutched our salad and sandwich, kept our legs out of tripping lanes, and enjoyed both shows—the pre-bedtime kids and the once audience-starved musicians.
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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.
As over 250 cyclists readied themselves for the Natick Rotary Club-organized Tour de Natick at the starting point between the post office and the Common Street Spiritual Center, a police officer shouted out a friendly directive: “Remember, this is a ride, not a race.”
The goal: have fun and keep the action on the 6-mile Tour de Natick course as unlike the Tour de France as possible—no crazy speeds, no glaring at the upstart about to pass you, no hyper-competitive peloton groupings. The annual Father’s Day tradition (except for two bye years due to that pesky pandemic) went off without a hitch, and raised nearly $10,000 to fund college scholarships for Natick students through race entrance fees and the event’s 20+ generous sponsors.
Rotary Club president Mark Canegallo said, “We’re super thankful to our sponsors. Middlesex Savings Bank has been with us every single year for 19 years. TJX stepped up as a new corporate sponsor for us, and Bernardi Auto is a major sponsor as well. Coach & Carriage Auto Body has always been a sponsor.” In addition, Wegman’s donated the food for the post-race bar-b-que.
In addition to the scholarship program, the Club gives a dictionary to each of Natick’s approximately 300 third graders. Over the past 15 years over 8,000 dictionaries, each one personalized with the receiving student’s name, have been donated.
The IMAX theater in Jordan’s Furniture reopened on May 27, and so Natick Report took it upon itself to check out the larger-than-life screen (76×55 -foot, to be precise).
When buying tickets I was a bit disappointed to see that the only available movie for the weekend was Jurassic World Dominion, the third entry in the popular dinosaur series. I’d seen the first movie years ago, but I had skipped the second one. On top of that, I hadn’t heard very good things about this one, and the sci-fi/adventure flick clocked in at 2h 26min. Hmmm—well, no one said that reporting Natick news would be cushy.
I bought two tickets ($18.50 each), and prepared to go to the theater. Driving to Jordan’s is dramatic in its own right, as it is perched on top of a hill overlooking route 9. After summiting the hill, parking was an easy affair. The entrance to Jordan’s promotes IMAX theater prominently, but once inside I was a bit lost as to where to go. If you were wondering, Jordan’s no longer hands out bead necklaces when you walk in; the Mardi Gras theme has been thoroughly exterminated.
In all likelihood I missed a sign, but I decided to guess which way to go, which resulted in some wandering until I found a helpful employee who pointed me in the right direction. When you first enter the store what you should do is walk straight to the back and then turn right into the leather section. From there, follow signs until you see an escalator.
The escalator gives the proper red-carpet treatment to IMAX movie-goers. The paparazzi mural, famous in its own right, is on both sides as you ascend, cameras flashing, making the entrance feel extra-special.
After the excitement of the escalator, the theater entrance is pretty basic: black walls, movie posters, and a snack bar with expensive popcorn. You come in at the back of the theater, with it sloping down from the entrance. The screen is truly big, and the seats are fairly comfortable, but they’re not miniature beds like in the nearby AMC theater.
Immersed in the experience
The movie itself was not very good, but if there was anywhere I would have wanted to see it, it would be in an IMAX theater. It was slightly too loud at some points, but the surround sound and giant screen made the dinosaurs and the action feel immersive.
The audience was a challenge at times. A gaggle of middle schoolers began a full volume conversation about halfway through the movie, and needed shushing from the rest of the crowd before they quieted down.
After the movie ended several audience member attempted to leave the way we had come in, before being herded to a second door on the opposite side of the theater. From there it was a quick exit through some more furniture galleries before heading home.