When the highly anticipated Beacon Hill Books and Café opens at 71 Charles St., (tentatively set for May), Colleen Suhanosky will be at the helm of its garden level café, marking a return to the neighborhood where the head chef and owner of Rifrullo Cafe in Brookline started her celebrated culinary career more than two decades ago working under Lydia Shire at her bygone Biba restaurant.
Bedsides working under Shire, Suhanosky baked with Gramercy Tavern pastry chef Claudia Fleming after graduating from New York’s esteemed Culinary Institute of America in 1994. She jointly launched Sfoglia restaurant on Nantucket and Manhattan’s Upper East Side six years later before opening Rifrullo in 2013.
At Rifrullo, the farm-fresh menu is “based on what’s local and what’s in season,” said Suhanosky, and diners can expect more of the same from Beacon Hill Books and Café.
“We’ll change [menu offerings] to keep things fresh,” said Suhanosky. “We get bored too, so we try to stay creative, and I think that’s how we stay current.”
Suhanosky also expects there will be a symbiotic relationship between the Bookstore Café and Rifrullo,
“We have a very capable team,” she said. “We’ve been open eight years in Brookline and have a good rhythm going that I feel will feed well into Beacon Hill.”
Additionally, Suhanosky said, “The Brookline location is really well supplied with baked goods and doughs – things we can’t necessarily produce on a high level at the Beacon Hill location in a very tight space.”
But as opposed to Rifrullo, the Bookstore Cafe will be “more refined, with slightly more concentration on table service and hospitality, but it [will still offer] food that’s still easy and accessible and obviously local.,” said Suhanosky.
Breakfast at the Beacon Hill outpost to start will likely include a homemade yogurt muesli bowl with blueberries, chia seed, as well as The BHB, the signature breakfast dish comprising scrambled egg with turkey sausage, cheddar, and caramelized onion jam on brioche, among other entrees, along with a bakery a la cart, with scones, blueberry buttermilk muffins, and lemon yogurt tea cakes.
Lunch offerings will include a roast chicken salad with local greens, Blue Hill cheeses, toasted walnuts, and flax cider dressing; the tuna salad sandwich, lightly dressed in olive oil, lemon, red onion, and olives on sourdough; cream of corn soup, with crispy bacon and a Mile High biscuit; and the house-roasted turkey club with bacon, tomato aioli, greens, and picked pepper.
In the evening, on only a couple of days each week to start, the Bookstore Café will also offer heavier fare, such as a classic chicken pot pie, with spelt flour crust and served in cast iron; and individual gouda quiche with apple and arugula.
Afternoon tea will also be served following lunch each day at the café – a custom that owner Melissa Fetter is eager to welcome back to the Hill.
“We’re bringing traditional afternoon tea back to the Hill, including scones and tea sandwiches, served in a traditional manner,” said Fetter.
In time, the Bookstore Café also plan to offer takeaway options, added Suhanosky, including frozen meals and soups to go.
Ultimately, however, the menu at the Bookstore Café will be catered and adapt to the whims of the clientele.
“Colleen and I have an idea of what we want to serve, but we’ll really respond to the interests of our customers,” said Fetter.
While the Bookstore Café’s seating arrangement is still something of a moving target, Fetter said, “We’ll have roughly 20 seats indoors and 12 more in the little courtyard.”
The Bookstore Café is also counting on repeat customers.
Suhanosky said, “Relationships and knowing people, that’s just how I do business, and by welcoming [customers] into our family so they’ll want to come back. We’re going to be small and can really take care of what we produce and create with so much more intention.’
As for how this partnership between Suhanosky and Fetter came together, Suhanosky was looking to expand her business to the Hill, while Fetter was looking for a chef with the experience to help open the Bookstore Café. A real estate broker, who was working with both of them then made the introduction.
“I had been trying over the past year to expand my business, and one of my desired locations was Beacon Hill, but I really struggled with how to finance it, especially since real estate is so expensive in the neighborhood,” said Suhanosky. “So in many ways, it seems like we were meant to meet eventually.”
Fetter added, “Colleen has a lot of supporters on the Hill, and I think people are going to be really excited when they find out they’ll be able to get her food [in the neighborhood].We’re absolutely thrilled to have Collen on our team.”
Follow “Beacon Hill Books and Café” on Instagram, and visit www.ColleenSuhanosky.com for more information.