Oliver Wendell Holmes, the geek laureate of Boston, once contended that the city was the very “hub of the solar system.” While today’s MIT astrophysicists may take umbrage with the scientific validity of that contention, a selection of Boston’s students of science, heretofore known as geeks, are using their talents to render Holmes’ words true—true at least, in the cosmos of beer and food.
Drawn by the brew and bite over the quark and quasar, Boston geeks have been establishing some of the city’s most innovative and appetizing breweries and restaurants. From microbiologists turned brewers to robotically automated kitchens, here are five of Boston’s best geek-run breweries and restaurants.
Lamplighter Brewing Co.
It’s evident where microbiology, biochemistry and math align, but slightly less so how beer factors into that equation. Oddly enough, the point of convergence is a former Cambridge auto body shop, at a place called Lamplighter Brewing Company. Founders AC Jones and Cayla Marvil, both holders of degrees in the above mentioned disciplines (beer included) use a deep bench of biochemists, physicists and microbiologists (wonderful geeks, every one of them) to brew up some of the most distinct and drinkable beer in the city.
Bent Water Brewing Co.
At Bent Water Brewing Co., it’s all about the science of H2O. A background in molecular genetics taught founder Aaron Reames that you can’t make the best beer if you don’t start with the best water. Brewed in Lynn with water from the city’s famously clean reservoirs, Bent Water’s beer is “brewed with science and crafted with heart.” Bent Water proves what any proper geek knows: hypothesis + experimentation + analysis = beer.
Clover Food Labs
Ayr Muir, MIT graduate of Science and Engineering, wants to make fast food something that is fresh, locally sourced, and environmentally sustainable. It’s a concept that started as a food truck experiment and has since expanded to eleven locations across Boston: food sourced fresh from local farms, whipped together as quickly and cheaply as Burger King can serve you a Whopper. The menu is inked up daily on a geek-friendly whiteboard, the video display and food data system is state-of-the-art, so the restaurants have the feel of a laboratory on a lunch break. It’s a concept Muir believes can be scaled globally: at an average of five dollars per sandwich, Clover is well on its way to usurping the Burger King’s greasy crown.
Where there are geeks there are robots, and at Spyce there are only robots. Coming to Downtown Crossing this spring is an idea initially workshopped in MIT dining halls: a fully automated and robotically operated restaurant. Headed up by four MIT graduates, Spyce uses a system of ingredient dispensers and rotating metal drums to mix and heat meals. Renowned French chef Daniel Boulud, a proper geek of the kitchen, has joined the team and is helping to develop the healthy gourmet meals that will be cooked—robo-assembled rather—at this one-of-a-kind restaurant.
Cambridge plays home to Harvard and MIT, the world's Mecca of geekdom. Outside the academic quads, the city’s hip and youthful neighborhoods contain some of the strongest restaurants in the Boston area. The geek and the hip converge flawlessly at Café ArtScience, a restaurant that combines scientific experimentation and education with fine dining. Born from the fertile mind of David Edwards, a Harvard writer and lecturer with a background in biotech and applied math, ArtScience uses scientific experimentation and technology to create their dishes. This combination results in the likes of Le Whaf, a machine that delivers the full taste and smell of food through inhaled vapor. With its apt location, ArtScience is a meeting ground for the geek and the gastronomic alike.