Everything Old Feels New Again at 1928 Beacon Hill
Before you go to a restaurant, what do you want — or need — to know most? In this series, dubbed The Rundown, we’re sharing all the essentials about newly opened (as well as favorite) Resy restaurants.
This time, we’re at 1928 Beacon Hill, the bar and restaurant of antiques-dealer-turned-restaurateur Kristin Jenkins.
This hidden gem of a spot, situated in one Boston’s most historic districts, is the realization of her longstanding dream. “I really wanted to create a restaurant where the neighborhood could dine a few times a week,” Jenkins says. Nothing too fancy, she explains, but a friendly “where-everybody-knows-your-name kind of place.”
1. To get acquainted with 1928 Beacon Hill, get to know Kristin Jenkins.
Jenkins is owner and president of Leonards New England, a 90-year-old family business specializing in resizing antique beds, located in Seekonk, Massachusetts. Her early training at the New York School of Interior Design in Manhattan set her on a path that has taken her around the world, attending European auctions and working with high-end clients. So she was well-positioned to breathe new life into a Beacon Hill property that for a hundred years has housed a succession of dining establishments. (Most recently, the location housed Persian restaurant Lala Rokh, which closed its doors in 2018 after a 24-year run.)
Today, when you step inside 1928 Beacon Hill, Jenkins’ influence is everywhere you turn. Every nook is curated with antique furnishings and examples of art she herself has restored. She refurbished a vintage mural of a coat check boy that lay hidden behind a wall for decades. It’s an artifact from Au Beauchamp, the French restaurant that occupied the space in the 1940s. As one who endeavors to preserve the past, Jenkins is delighted to be in a neighborhood whose roots reach back before the American Revolution.
2. The restaurant is tucked away in one of Boston’s most historic neighborhoods.
As you might guess, 1928 Beacon Hill is located in the historic neighborhood of the same name. The area itself is named for the site of a sentry tower that, in the 1630s, was set atop Boston’s highest hill. Today, the district — known for its stately federal-style architecture and brick-paved sidewalks — is delineated by some of the city’s best known landmarks. The golden-domed Massachusetts State House anchors its eastern boundary, while the Charles River Esplanade lies to the west; Boston Common and the Public Garden hug the neighborhood’s entire southern flank.
Jenkins had long imagined that the area would be a wonderful setting for the restaurant she hoped to open. But it wasn’t until the height of the pandemic, when she happened to walk by 97 Mount Vernon Street — located just off the bustling Charles Street corridor — that her dreamed-of venue began to take shape. “I saw a little handwritten ‘for-lease’ sign in the window,” she recalls. “I called, standing right in front of it, and the landlord answered, and we started chatting.” That conversation led to top-to-bottom renovations, resulting in the debut of 1928 Beacon Hill in November 2021.
3. The name of the place pays tribute to Jenkins’ grandfather.
When you ask Jenkins about the name of the establishment, she shares that 1928 is the birth year of her grandfather. He was a wholesaler, she explains, who sold food to restaurants throughout southern New England. As a youngster growing up in Taunton, Massachusetts, she often accompanied him on his rounds. “He was a big personality,” she says, fondly recalling how he would banter with chefs as he unloaded his wares in their kitchens. “I just thought it was fun and exciting,” she says. “My grandfather had a great time with it, and it piqued my interest.”
So it seems almost pre-ordained that Jenkins would one day own a restaurant. And happily, by the time she did so, she was already familiar with many of her neighbors. Several of her antiques clients live within walking distance of the restaurant and now sip drinks at her bar. “Many of my customers at 1928 will come in and say, ‘Oh, we have nine of your beds and we’ve been buying things from Leonards for years,’” she says. “Being in the antique business, you work with the same clients for a long period of time, which is wonderful — but I do like the fast pace of the restaurant business, with customers in and out, and things always changing.”
4. Tuck into upscale comfort food inspired by childhood favorites.
Jenkins regularly asks head chef Victor Valencia, formerly of Grill 23 & Bar in Back Bay, to recreate dishes from her childhood. “Victor is fantastic,” she says. “I give him ideas and he runs with them, as well as comes up with ideas of his own.” As an example, he implemented her suggestion of corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day, and also came up with a fish-and-chips special for the occasion. He also whips up another nostalgic dish: “My grandmother was from the South, and she always made deviled eggs,” Jenkins says. “So I said, ‘We have to have those on the menu.’ We top them with caviar to step them up a notch.”
Classic American fare is also an organizing principle at the restaurant. The dinner menu includes a Waldorf salad with goat cheese medallions and sugared walnuts, a sirloin burger with house-made aioli and fries, and roasted cod plated on bourbon butter. New England seafood, showcased in a raw bar tower as well as folded into lobster bisque and a classic clam chowder, is also a staple of the menu. And for brunch on the weekends, you can dig into French toast adorned with berry compote and Nutella-ricotta cream, or a hearty pork-and-veal hash with two eggs, any style.
5. Cocktails are reimagined for the neighborhood.
Peruse the drinks list, and you’ll notice that cocktails play up their Beacon Hill environs. A libation called Pinckney Pear — combining tequila, prickly pear liqueur, and a splash of prosecco — is named for a street north of the restaurant where literary luminaries Louisa May Alcott and Nathaniel Hawthorne once resided. Maple Old Fashioned riffs on the classic, blending the quintessential New England syrup with bitters and bourbon.
The restaurant doesn’t have a beverage director, Jenkins explains, so everyone on staff pitches in with their ideas. “We have the best bartenders — I can say that,” she says proudly. “It’s a collaboration. We literally sit down and brainstorm on a piece of paper, coming up with names for drinks, and changing things seasonally.”
6. Four distinct dining areas allow you to choose your own adventure.
The restaurant offers four distinct dining spaces, each offering its own yesteryear vibe.
The Lounge, located just off the entrance, is anchored by a gleaming marble-top bar. A handsome banquette, upholstered with tufted English leather, lines the opposite wall. Adjoining that space is a room called The Plaza. Handprinted Italian wallpaper, displaying a Rorschach-like pattern, catches the eye, as do the British colonial-style rattan chairs and light fixtures. The Library in the back is illuminated by sultry lamp light that bathes painted portraits in a warm glow. That room practically begs to be booked for a private party of up to 35.
The Ship Room deserves special mention. Its walls are decorated with looping nautical ropes and 19th century maritime art. When you’re settled into that dining area, sipping a glass of wine and digging into an excellent crab cake, you are sure to feel transported when Frank Sinatra’s “Beyond the Sea” begins to play on the sound system. Be sure to look up: a jaunty American flag, draped like bunting, hangs in the rafters above.
When you ask what it’s like to finally have her own spot on Beacon Hill, Jenkins can’t say enough about the community that surrounds her. “There’s no place like it, really — it’s a special place,” she says. The same can be said about the cozy establishment she has created for the neighborhood.
Ellen Bhang is a Boston-based food and wine writer whose work appears regularly in The Boston Globe and The Food Lens. Follow her on Instagram. Follow Resy, too.