A look around Five Horses Tavern on a Wednesday afternoon reveals business suit clad patrons enjoying a comfortably sophisticated lunch hour as well as a what appears to be a couple of girlfriends sharing stories and appetizers.
It’s the diverse kind of crowd that makes Five Horses owner Dylan Welsh smile. And it’s the kind of crowd that he hopes to see in the restaurant he and fellow restaurateur Thomas Oliveri will open at the revitalized Finnerty’s Village site in Cochituate.
“It’s going to be a local gathering place,” Oliveri said. “A place where everyone feels comfortable, with good food at a moderate price.”
Welsh and Oliveri are under agreement to bring a Five Horses-style restaurant, with outdoor seating, a modern American menu, and an approachable price point, to the long-vacant corner of West Plain and Main streets.
“One of our main objectives when we bought the site was to bring amenities to the area, to the town,” said Matthew Levy, a Wayland resident who, along with fellow resident Jesse Adelman, purchased the Finnerty’s property in early 2011. “One of those amenities was a good local restaurant where families and friends could go to congregate and meet, with good food and a good atmosphere.”
An inviting atmosphere and unique, but approachable food are exactly the things the Welsh and Oliveri said they intend to bring to their as-yet-unnamed Wayland restaurant. The two restaurateurs bring years of experience to the business, though the Cochituate location will be their first together.
Oliveri owns and operates a brewery and restaurant in the Worcester area as well as a restaurant in Milford, and Welsh worked in the industry for years before opening Five Horses last year. In both cases, the men are quick to emphasize that operating restaurants is a career path they relish, not one they stumbled into.
In fact, while the Wayland restaurant will be their first together, the two actually met 15 years ago when Welsh was working at Bukowski Tavern in Boston. Oliveri’s brewery created a house beer for the Inman Square hotspot and the men were introduced.
When Oliveri learned of the opportunity in Wayland, he sought out Welsh for the partnership.
“He’s 15 years younger, and I saw his work ethic and knowledge of the restaurant business,” Oliveri said. “[Welsh] creates a culture within the restaurant that I think will resonate wherever you go. He reminds me of myself 15 years ago.”
And Welsh was excited about the opportunity.
“There are not a lot of places like [Five Horses] in Boston,” Welsh said. “And there certainly are not a lot like this out there. We’re bringing a little bit of Boston to Wayland, while maintaining that community feel.”
A community feel is clearly something they already know a little bit about. Five Horses Tavern earned Boston Magazine's Best of Boston 2012 title for Best Neighborhood Eats in Davis Square.
The business partners said the Wayland restaurant will resemble Five Horses in ambiance, menu and quality, but the owners are also open to adapting to what works in Wayland.
Welsh said he creates his menus around locally sourced foods and carefully chooses everything he carries in his restaurants from the meal ingredients to the offerings at the bar.
“It’s not all about the price point,” Welsh said. “It’s about quality.”
Levy said he and Adelman were more than pleased with the quality when they “interviewed” Welsh and Oliveri as potential tenants at the site. Levy said he and Adelman visited Welsh’s and Oliveri’s existing restaurants and then asked them to come up with a sample menu for the Wayland spot.
While the menu will likely be slightly different in Wayland, it will take cues from that at Five Horses, which includes everything from lamb bolognese to kentucky fried Cornish game hen with jalapeno cheddar mashed potatoes. And for the vegetarian set, there are options that include okra gumbo, a variety of veggie pizzas and more.
"We wanted to get a feel that their thought process is what we wanted to go with," Levy said, pointing out that multiple potential tenants approached the developers. "We weren’t looking for a chain. We were looking for proven restaurateurs that understood our vision for the site. In speaking with them, they had a similar vision with what our thoughts were.
"I'm very comfortable with these guys in this location."
Welsh and Oliveri said they are excited about bringing their vision to Wayland and hope to appeal to a diverse group of patrons who are looking for a great place for lunch, dinner or weekend brunch and for a great spot for a date, dinner with friends, or a meal with the family.
"We’re committed to serving the community and creating a place for people to come," Oliveri said.
An opening date for the new restaurant has not yet been determined, and its coming to the site remains conditional on the developers securing the necessary permits.