By Joseph Winters ’20
“One thing is guaranteed: this will be energetic, personal cooking that’s truly one of a kind,” wrote Bon Appétit this year in the magazine’s roundup of the fifty best new restaurants in the United States. Also featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, Travel + Leisure, and Food and Wine Magazine, Juliet, the eight-month-old Somerville restaurant, has made quite a loud entry into the Boston area food scene. Juliet won the Improper Bostonian’s Best Breakfast award earlier this year, and the restaurant is currently one of five nominees for Eater’s Best Restaurant 2016 award. I got to stop by for breakfast this week and see it for myself.
Juliet is right in the heart of Union Square in Somerville, in what seems like a foodie hotspot. Nearby is the famous Union Square Donuts, which sells its donuts every Tuesday at the Harvard Science Center Plaza Farmers Market; Bronwyn, a specialty beer garden; the upscale Bergamot; and others.
Juliet’s interior is minimalist, with some modern decor and a very airy feel—you can watch the cooks preparing your food from either the main seating tables or the bar. Standing behind a glass case where there were a few pastries was the hostess, Joanna. She welcomed me to Juliet and suggested a few breakfast options. I scanned the a la carte menu that was printed and posted to the wall: toasts with different toppings, egg sandwiches, yogurt bowls. Not a huge selection, but varied. I chose a quinoa bowl and toast with cured salmon, tamarind, and yogurt, paying at the counter with a Square transaction—sort of unexpected in such an up-and-coming restaurant. The price, however, was not unexpected: $16 for a relatively small portion of quinoa and a piece of toast (it did have cured salmon on it, though).
As I learned later, though, there was much more to this pricing model than was immediately apparent. Although I didn’t get to speak with co-owner Katrina Jazayeri, her vision for Juliet includes not only great food but great social justice. In fact, she studied health care inequalities and got a degree in social justice from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2011. Her background has made her look beyond food at some of the overlooked parts of the restaurant industry. The reason my transaction was a little more expensive than usual, and the reason I did it at the front counter through Square, was that tipping isn’t allowed at Juliet. Gratuity is automatically included in all the set prices, and a calculated amount of “tips” is distributed equally amongst both the hosts and the kitchen staff. This, to me, was an innovative business model, and it probably played a large part in Jazayeri winning the 2016 Eater Young Guns—a national award “recognizing individuals setting themselves apart early in their careers.”
I sat with my bowl of breakfast quinoa at a counter facing the street. The quinoa, dotted with chunks of squash and carrot, was perfectly moist. Some crisped rice-like addition gave it texture, and a soft-boiled egg oozed into the grains. The toast was delicious, as well—homemade bread sliced thick and slathered with yogurt, then heaped generously with cured salmon and a schmear of tamarind paste and what looked like a sprinkling of dill. I savored every bite. Not at all a traditional breakfast, but that wasn’t was I was looking for. I wanted something interesting and unconventional, something I would never think to make at home, and that’s exactly what I got.
I just had breakfast, but Juliet serves lunch and dinner, as well as a special weekend brunch. The lunch options are mostly sandwiches and soups, but dinner gets very interesting. They have an a la carte menu for a more walk-in style dinner, or they have their prix fixe dinner available in four different seating, either with three courses ($60) or five courses ($83). Menu items featured on the prix fixe menu include things like endive salad with treviso condiment, roast freedom ranger chicks with fennel and chili jus, and tarte tartin.
The variability of Juliet was really interesting to me. As Joanna put it, this is a part of their role in the community: by offering a variety of price points, they are able to be an accessible option for more people. In practice, I don’t know how much this has yielded the desired result, but it’s certainly a great idea.
I left Juliet very happy to have enjoyed an amazing breakfast, and excited to be back for an a la carte lunch or dinner—I’m not sure about the prix fixe dinner (it’s certainly outside of my price range!), but maybe when my parents visit…