As the café’s managers see it, the Charles River Bistro serves two primary functions: to feed visitors to the Esplanade, and, perhaps just as importantly, to function as the de facto community center for the park.
“We like being a community hub, and the Bistro has become a destination,” said Christopher Sinclair, who along with Corey O’Neill, manages the café located on the banks of the Charles River Lagoon for the Boston-based Anthem Group. “We want to draw people in from all around Boston who wouldn’t have thought of coming to the Esplanade otherwise.”
The Bistro currently provides 14 public programs, including a recently completed science-education series for children under the tutelage of MIT grad students that O’Neill likens to TV’s “Bill Nye, the Science Guy.” Topics, focusing on elements of the park, included “why flowers are different colors” and “why ducks’ feet are red.”
Free music lessons were offered on Tuesday nights for people of all ages. Instruction on over 18 instruments, including brass, guitar and bass, was made possible through a partnership between the café and Musary, a Massachusetts non-profit that promotes music and other performing arts.
The Bistro’s weekly jazz and soul brunches on Saturday and Sundays continue to feature local musicians performing in trios and quartets. The centerpiece of these live performances is the café’s “piano in the park,” which is available to the public when not in use by the professional musicians.
Also, the Bistro provides a free library of around 20 lawn and board games, which has been used by more than 1,000 non-café patrons to date, Sinclair said.
The Bistro has worked with local non-profits that serve inner-city youth, offering amenities and hospitality to chaperoned groups from MassHousing, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Cradles to Crayons – a Boston-based organization that serves low-income and homeless youth. The café has also took part in disability outreach through a partnership with Easter Seals
In a show of appreciation for the loyal patronage it receives from residents of Beacon Hill, Back Bay and other nearby neighborhoods, the Bistro will be among the sponsors of the Beacon Hill Civic Association’s “Neighborhood Block Party” on Sept. 20.
“We want to help the neighborhoods grow, and for them to help us grow,” Sinclair said. “We look forward to becoming a pillar of the community”
MaryLee Halpin, the Civic Association’s executive director, expressed her gratitude to O’Neill and the Bistro for donating food for the organization’s upcoming event.
“We were thrilled when Corey agreed t
o help us with the ‘Block Party,’” Halpin wrote. “It provides us with a good food option and gives the Charles River Bistro some nice visibility in the neighborhood.”
For its last event before closing for the winter, the seasonal Bistro is planning a special Veteran’s Day celebration in November to welcome those who have served their country to the Esplanade. Sinclair and O’Neill are presently working with Department of Recreation and Conservation (DCR) Commissioner Carol Sanchez and Francisco Urena, the state’s Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs, to finalize the event details.
“It’s a beautiful public park that should be utilized by and accessible to everyone,” Sinclair said. “We truly enjoy being here and hope people enjoy us being here, too.”