Lexx Restaurant Continues to Evolve

Lexx logo est 2004 (5)By Jim Shaw

As a community, Lexington continues to evolve on many fronts.  From real estate development and our public schools, to local government and commerce, the complexion of Lexington is changing.  There has been a great deal of discussion lately about the business mix in Lexington Center.  One of the most significant changes over the past ten or so years has been the increase in up-scale casual dining options.  While several new restaurants have opened in Lexington Center, Lexx Restaurant essentially paved the way and helped to put Lexington on the map as a destination for dining.

It must be said that Lexington is home to several very good local restaurants that have served this community well for many years.  Among them are Mario’s, Yangtze River, Dabin and Via Lago.  However, Don Rosenberg and Chris Bateman wanted to introduce the concept of an up-scale American fare menu with a casual atmosphere here in Lexington.  Towards that end, Lexx was opened in October of 2004, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Chris Bateman, Lexx co-owner and managing partner.

Chris Bateman, Lexx co-owner and managing partner.

Rosenberg, the son of Dunkin Donuts founder William Rosenberg, had previously established and operated Aesop’s Bagels for several years at the same location as Lexx.  Lexx managing partner/owner Chris Bateman explains the transition from Aesop’s to Lexx. Chris says, “I was original hired to be the general manager to help fix an opening that wasn’t quite perfect and run the restaurant the way a restaurant should be run. I came from Vinnie Testa’s where I saw the company grow from three restaurants to a chain of eleven restaurants.  I managed their Lexington location for five years before Don asked me to join him at Lexx.  I knew I wanted to work with Don.  He was a visionary and an entrepreneur with lots of experience.  I knew I could learn from him and help him bring structure and organization to Lexx.  Don had decided that it was time to shift concepts from Aesops’s Bagels.  He thought that Lexington needed an upscale casual restaurant that served cocktails and craft beer. Lexx ended up paving the way for Lexington to become a dining destination.”

Apparently, all did not go well when Lexx first opened.  Operations needed to be revamped and wait times needed to be reduced.  Chris explains that his first challenge was to right the ship.  He says, “In the beginning, the buzz about Lexx wasn’t so good.  People thought the waits were too long and they weren’t completely happy with the menu.  That was the real challenge.  Getting people here in Lexington to be open-minded about giving Lexx another opportunity.  Don and I had a long interview and he saw that I could bring the systems and operations that was needed at Lexx.  In the beginning, I spent a great deal of time in the community.  We wanted to partner with great community organizations like the Lexington Symphony and help other organizations.  In fact, each year we donate about $5,000 in gift certificates to local charitable organizations.  I think our sincere commitment to the community has helped to breed good will.”

Chris explains that while Lexx was always a good restaurant, it needed to go to the next level.  While he was good at operations, he wasn’t a trained chef.  So he set out to find one, and he did.  Chris says, “We were really never a chef driven establishment.  Over the years our menu has morphed with changes that we thought were good.  We wanted to move from being a good restaurant to a great restaurant, and now in year eleven I hired a chef that can help us achieve that goal.  Chef Jonathan Post was brought in because of his culinary prowess. He’s going to do great things here.  His new menu items have been off the charts. Our guests love them. I would honestly put his dishes up against any of the great Boston chefs.  So, I’m excited about what the future will bring.”

Working with a new chef can be an adjustment, but Chris decided to trust in the recommendations of his new chef.  Chris says, “From day one, we were focused on fresh, quality ingredients. But when chef Jonathan arrived six months ago, he was adamant that everything should be made from scratch.  Right down to the ketchup.  I know it sounds silly to be so concerned about ketchup, but Jonathan made the argument that ketchup can touch off allergies for sensitive people, and that making our own ketchup would illustrate our commitment to offering truly fresh food.  I was concerned because people have been using Heinz here for eleven years, but it only took three months to move people towards our fresh ketchup.  Now they love it, and it contains no sugars, preservatives or coloring.  It’s as fresh as it can be.”

After achieving the level of success that has sustained them over the last few years, Chris’ challenge had been about keeping regular customers satisfied.  He explained that their always seeking new ways to keep things fresh without letting go of what works.  He said, “I always said that we had to have enough items on the menu so people can visit us on multiple occasions.  During the week, if they want to stop by for a burger and a beer that’s great.  If a couple wants to come in on a Friday or Saturday night and have a more upscale meal, or if someone wants to have a business meeting here or celebrate a special occasion, we need to be able to have enough offerings.  One thing that I’ve noticed at other similar restaurants is their limited menu selection.  Often I’ll see only five or so entrees or only a couple of salads to choose from.  For us, we try to bill ourselves as the neighborhood restaurant with a great selection where you can spend as much or as little as you want.”

Chris continued, “The challenge for chef Jonathan is he’s always looking to introduce new things to the menu, but I say that our formula has always been to have a much broader menu.  We literally have guests who eat here six or seven times a week.  We have to keep our selections fresh, but consistent with a broad selection.  I know we can’t be all things to all people, but we have to try.”

 

Mediterranean Hummus _ Lexx-1

Mediterranean Hummus

Lexx4

Beet Salad

Lexx5

Lemon Bar

When asked about where he thought he’d be after eleven years in business, Chris was pretty confident that he has risen to the challenges he set for himself.  He says, “I think we’re about where I expected us to be after eleven years.  For me personally, I thought I’d only be here for a couple of years.  I wanted to put structures in place and get the place where it needed to be.  However, after the original chef left, I accepted the challenge of seeing just how good we could become.  As I said, I originally came on as the GM, but after a few years Don gave me equity in the company.  I then became managing partner, so now I’m one of the owners of the company. Don has now pretty much retired and has left 100% of the day-to-day operations to me. We talk several times a week about the business and how to always keep things fresh and interesting.”

Clearly, Lexx has become a staple for local dining.  It’s where you go to be seen and to see others.  Rarely do you go to Lexx without bumping into someone you know.  That’s a tribute to the success they have achieved and their commitment to the community.  When asked about the future Chris smiled and said, “I hope that our menu will grow and that we always seek to improve all facets of Lexx. We’ll always have our Lexx classics like osso bucco, the burger and our Moroccan stew, but the challenge has always been and will continue to be our focus on offering the very best food in a warm friendly atmosphere to our friends here in Lexington.”

 

Executive Chef, Jonathan Post

Chef Jonathan Post

Chef Jonathan Post

Executive Chef, Jonathan Post, by way of Nashville, Tennessee, brings his seasonal, locally-inspired, New-England-through-a-Southern-lens style to Lexx Restaurant’skitchen and hopes to make the next ten years there even more successful than the past decade.

It’s easy to glimpse the influence of the down-home cookin’ on which Jonathan was raised when he’s in the kitchen.  Whether it reveals itself in the myriad of pickles and preserves, or in the multitude of containers of bacon drippings and animal fat stacked in the cooler, there’s no doubt that Jonathan carries his heritage close to him like a tattered old wallet photo.  His simple, approachable food isn’t fussed over, just presented honestly with the ambition of doing justice to the raw product, and the people who cared for it.

The people responsible for his ingredients are never far from Jonathan’s mind.  Being in close contact with the farmers is a priority, as they are the ones who really dictate the menu.  Often, on the few days that he’s not in the kitchen, Jonathan is on his knees with his hands in the dirt, helping to transplant seedlings, or hand-weeding a bed of carrots.

In the decade that Jonathan has been in New England, he has been blessed to have spent time in the kitchens of some exceptionally talented chefs.  There was a several-year stint at Blue Ginger, the flagship restaurant of celebrity chef Ming Tsai, where he was exposed to exotic ingredients, but most importantly to the Asian philosophy of balance.  Jonathan was on the opening management team at 80 Thoreau, where he honed his attention to detail, refinement, and realized the significance of impeccable technique.  At Moody’s Delicatessen he was given the opportunity to witness, and absorb the knowledge of a master charcutier.  All of these experiences, among others, are visible in his approach and deliberation, and ultimately his food.

Jonathan is thrilled with the new opportunity to be heading up the kitchen at Lexx  Restaurant and just as eager to get to know all of his new neighbors.  So, even if he looks busier than a cat on a hot tin roof, be sure to stop by the kitchen and say hello!

 

 

Lexx logo est 2004 (5)

Click image for LEXX Menu

Lexx is located at 1666 Massachusetts Avenue in Lexington Center.  Call them at 781-674-2990, or visit them at LexxRestaurant.com for more information about their menu and hours of operation.

 

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