Red Heat Tavern/VisitingNewEngland small business partnership - Local Small Business Stories
The Fire Inside Red Heat Tavern's Unique
American comfort foods and
backyard cooking get a mouthwatering makeover at this popular eatery
Red Heat Tavern in Bedford, Mass.
Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Article
created on 2/19/2019.
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The Red Heat Tavern, in Bedford, Wilmington, Milford and Westborough, Mass., and South Windsor, Conn., never includes the phrase "Been there, done that"
as part of its culinary vocabulary.
Unlike the traditional measures used to create grilled foods, Red Heat
Tavern heats up this food
genre with a cooking technique virtually unheard of in New England.
They employ a Josper Charcoal Broiler
Oven imported from Barcelona, Spain to sear the food, infuse with smoke
in bold flavors that taste unlike anything else in the grilled foods
category. With heat generated between 600 and 900 degrees, the
oven also uses a unique lump coal imported from Paraguay that burns
and prevents flare-ups -- the latter, of course, the bane of effective
Amazingly, Red Heat Tavern is the only restaurant in Massachusetts and
only one of three in New England that possesses this traditional
cooking oven. Roughly, 80 percent of the menu items from the Red Heat
Tavern enter the Josper Oven including chicken wings, ribs, turkey, red
meats, corn and even blueberries for the homemade cheesecake.
The Josper Oven. Photo credit: Red Heat Tavern.
The Red Heat Tavern experience feels like a lively backyard grill
gathering that happens to be indoors with the state-of-the-art
appliance serving as the
conversation piece of the neighborhood. The Josper Oven, however, isn't
that easily financed grill with low monthly payments. The cost
comes in at $24K. Alan Frati, Red Heat Tavern Director of Operations,
says, however, that the Josper Oven is worth every penny.
"There is an art to cooking with the Josper that is different than
microwaving, gas and electricity," said Frati. "There is a uniqueness
to the food and precise skill is needed to grill correctly. It's an
of equipment and the food comes out with an amazing flavor. Every dish
has a story."
Classic burger from Red Heat Tavern. Photo credit: Red Heat
Cooks have a strong fire inside to withstand working with
the high heat during shifts. This isn't after all, a typical grill.
but the staff wouldn't have it any other way. They love the opportunity
to work with a grill that other restaurants don't have.
Alan Frati, director of operations at Red Heat Tavern, brings
out a burger from the open kitchen.
"In the beginning, we were making
mistakes -- burning stuff --
but there is an
evolution to the process," said Frati. "There's extensive training to
everyone gets it right. Also, our managers go through a 10-week
program working every job at each station and going through online
The result: something very different and quite wonderful for lunch and
"We never use the term barbecue here to describe the Red Heat Tavern,"
said Frati, 33, a Salem, N.H. native and graduate of Johnson and Wales
University (renowned for its culinary programs) in Providence, R.I. "We
refer to what we do as backyard grilling. Not everything that comes out
of the grill is barbecue. There is so much more to it than that. And
experience is like a party in someone's backyard with, also, great
craft beers and music playing. We are family-friendly, too."
Love at First Sight and Whiff
Dining room and bar at the Red Heat Tavern in Bedford.
Walking from the parking lot to the entrance at the Bedford location
reveals a sign of
good things to
the smoky aroma escaping to the outside. Once in the restaurant,
it's not only love at first whiff, but also love at first sight. The
high industrial-style ceilings, wraparound bar and open kitchen create
a lively, fun scene that is also cozy and comfortable. High top tables
with thick block wood, red booths, big vertical picture windows, wood
floors and ambient hanging lights infuse together as nicely as the food
flavors. The "Charcoal Cooking" sign above the open kitchen with busy
chefs and cooks creating, innovating and producing remind
customers why they came here in the first place.
Many of those customers are true believers and even travel great
experience the one-of-a-kind food.
"I travel around New England for
work," said Paul Ardizozoniu, of Gilford, N.H. "Back in September of
2018, I stumbled on to the Red Heat Tavern in Wilmington. Since then I
have tried every single place at least once, if not two or three times.
Fantastic food, setting and service."
Timothy Moore, a Billerica, Mass., resident, lives closer to the Red Heat Tavern in Bedford and takes full advantage of the geographical proximity.
"My wife and I have been to Red Heat Tavern in Bedford on a few occasions and have always had a great experience," said Moore. "The atmosphere at this location is really great, the food is amazing, and the drink selection is great, too. There are many excellent choices on the menu and we’ve tried numerous items. You really can’t go wrong and won’t be disappointed. Everything is very tasty and always really fresh. The restaurant has a real warm and cozy feel and the service quick and attentive. We will be returning to this location soon!"
The Smokehouse: All natural pork smoked for 12 hours, bread and
butter, fried pickles, Granny Smith apple coleslaw, chipotle barbecue
sauce on grilled ciabatta with sweet potato fries on the side.
The Red Heat Tavern culinary team makes everything in house from
including its own barbecue sauce. The steaks, chicken and fish are cut
fresh with nothing ever frozen. They also embrace the farm-to-table
movement tapping into locally-sourced foods whenever possible.
Fresh greens from the Red Heat Tavern.
The foundation for the Red Heat Tavern's commitment to excellence has
deep local roots. Burton's
Grill, an outstanding and innovative group of restaurants
based in Andover, Mass. that opened in 2005, owns the Red Heat Tavern.
Like Burton's, the
Red Heat Tavern might initially seem like a chain given its several
locations. It is anything but, according to Frati.
"Our CEO, Kevin (Harron), wanted the Red Heat Tavern brand to have the
same value that made Burton's successful, but at a lower price point,"
said Frati. "That was the initial thought and then we expanded from
there with this unique concept... We are not a
chain. We are founded in New England. We change
the menu every six weeks and the core menu twice a year. We tap into
local bakeries and farms and have fresh seafood delivered six days a
Additionally, like Burton's, Red Heat Tavern makes a full commitment to
being an allergy-friendly certified restaurant with, soon, the ability
to be a 100 percent gluten-free facility. Burton's Grill, named "#1"
for the most allergy-friendly restaurants in 2018 by Allergy Eats, has certainly gained
a stellar reputation for excelling in this sector of restaurant
operations and the Red Heat Tavern faithfully follows suit.
"We bread in 100 percent corn flour," said Frati. "Nothing here is
Wonderful Tavern Experience
Dining room scene at the Red Heat Tavern.
In Bedford, the day has begun long before the
customers arrive. An Ipswich Shellfish representative delivers fresh
seafood from its truck to the Red Heat Tavern. A team meeting takes
place inside. Not one of those phony chain restaurant meetings where
everyone must conform to a sterile standard and false enthusiasm, but
rather a group of seasoned industry workers and junior staff blending
in so well amongst each other with spirit, professionalism and
personality. The kitchen staff prepares with hard work ethic and
precision in a spotless environment that everyone can see, given the
open concept. Frati arrives and starts the day right away speaking with
his staff and vendors with the polish, assertiveness and civility of a
high-performing executive, while also coming across like someone who
forgot where he came from. He has worked virtually every job
in the restaurant field, including as executive chef to help kick off
the grand Red Heat Tavern concept at the original Wilmington location
several years ago.
"We have a great team," said Alan. "That's what separates us. There's
great pride here. All managers, chefs, everyone is passionate and that
is a big part of what makes the Red Heat Tavern so special. We share
All walks of life arrive for lunch including military and civilian
employees from nearby Hanscom Air Force Base, working professionals
from myriad private sector businesses, families, and senior
citizens. The local crowd from Bedford -- an extremely tight-knit small
town -- has embraced Red Heat Tavern since its opening
A nice way to start off the one-of-a-kind food experience: the handmade
jumbo tater tots stuffed with applewood smoked bacon, smoked Gouda,
provolone and American Grana cheeses accompanied by housemade ketchup
and beer cheese.
Jumbo tater tots from the Red Heat Tavern.
The Red Heat Tavern realizes, also, that daily greens don't have to be
boring. Case-in-point: the Thai chicken salad with chopped romaine,
Thai basil, red peppers, edamame, red and green cabbage, shredded
carrot and cucumbers with cilantro peanut dressing.
Thai chicken salad from the Red Heat Tavern.
If wanting something more American traditional, the mesquite chicken
Caesar salad stands as a popular choice with its romaine, American
Grana cheese, housemade croutons and homemade dressing.
Mesquite chicken Caesar salad from the Red Heat Tavern.
The mesquite wings start with an all-natural chicken marinated with 13
spices for 24 hours and then slow cooked over coals at
600 degrees. The smoke rolls over the wings and is charred, seared and
then tossed with homemade barbecue sauce.
Chicken wings from Red Heat Tavern.
Although the Red Heat Tavern is a relative newcomer to the Boston area
dining scene, the steak tips have to be considered among the best in
the region -- noteworthy, given all the legendary places that serve
this classic comfort food. The Red Heat's version features 3/4 lbs. of
coal-fired tips marinated in-house, garlic, housemade steak sauce and accompanied
Parmesan fries. In a way, it's not fair to
compare the steak tips with others because the Red Heat Tavern creates
a flavor that can't be experienced anywhere else, courtesy of the
Josper Oven and skilled chefs and cooks.
Steak tips from the Red Heat Tavern.
The BBQ burger also features that one-of-a-kind Josper Oven flavor and
includes applewood smoked bacon, Vermont cheddar cheese, onion strings
honey barbecue sauce on a toasted bun. The charred-meets-juicy-flavor
offered at the Red Heat Tavern puts
many of those burger chain gourmet burgers to shame.
BBQ burger from the Red Heat Tavern.
For the more health conscious, try the Mediterranean Rice Bowl. This
mouthwatering dish features lemon rice and fresh spinach tossed in
Greek dressing with coal fired Portobello mushrooms, mesquite grilled
tomatoes, charred red peppers, Harissa chickpeas, balsamic smoked
olives and Narragansett feta cheese. Yum!
Mediterranean Rice Bowl from the Red Heat Tavern.
Burton's offers wonderful local seafood, so it's no surprise that the
Red Heat Tavern follows suit. This Kettle Chip Atlantic Baked Haddock
has a kettle chip crust, sun-dried tomato beurre blanc, lemon rice and
grilled asparagus from the Josper Oven.
Kettle Chip Atlantic Baked Haddock from the Red Heat Tavern.
Photo credit: Red Heat Tavern Facebook fan page.
The Red Heat Tavern also features homemade desserts like the
aforementioned blueberry cheesecake. For those who like an adult
beverage, the Red Heat offers 24 draft beers (with the exception of the
Connecticut location), and an extensive wine and cocktail list.
"We also feature seasonal brews at all
restaurants," added Frati.
Bar scene at the Red Heat Tavern in Bedford.
Comfy red booths at the Red Heat Tavern.
The "Been there, done that" familiarity of restaurants that
do the same thing over and over isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long
as the food and overall dining experience is a good one. It's just that
the thrill of finding a style of comfort classics completely
different -- yet received well by the general public -- is a
Red Heat Tavern does just that, and then some, by journeying into
virtually unchartered food territories in New England with a
vacation break from the typical. Additionally, while many restaurants
just plain weird with combinations of ingredients that don't always
work together (all in the name of "creativity"), the Red Heat Tavern
seems to hit a home run with each meal by
taking backyard favorites and traditional comfort foods and taking them
to the next level with the Josper Oven.
"I have worked in the restaurant industry for years, but like this
experience best," said Jerome O'Donnell, a manager at the Bedford Red
Heat Tavern. "It's a good place to work and the customers seem to
really love the food. I know I do!"
Jerome O'Donnell, a manager at the Red Heat Tavern.
Up to 5,000 guests a week arrive at the Wilmington location with
between 2,500 to 4,000 at the other locations. It's also a fabulous
place for catered food. Ultimately, the build-it-and-they-will-come
theory certainly applies at the Red Heat Tavern, and with good reason.
Here's to Josper Oven-style grilling and the staff that loves cooking
for the public with this medium!
Red Heat Tavern Locations
Wilmington 300 Lowell
St., Wilmington, MA. Tel.978-447-5669. Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/RedHeatTavern.
Instagram page: http://www.instagram.com/rhtwilmington.
Bedford 152 Great Rd., Bedford, MA. Tel. 781-538-4330. Facebook
fan page: http://www.facebook.com/rhtbedford.
Instagram page: http://www.instagram.com/rhtbedford.
Westborough 227 Turnpike Rd. (Stagecoach Plaza), Westborough,
MA. Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/rhtwestborough.
Instagram page: http://www.instagram.com/rhtwestborough.
Milford 124 Medway Rd., #1, Milford, MA. Tel. 774-462-5990.
Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/rhtmilford.
Instagram page: http://www.instagram.com/rhtmilford.
South Windsor 400 Evergreen Way, South Windsor, CT. Tel.
860-432-5563. Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/southwindsor
Instagram page: http://www.instagram.com/southwindsor.
Red Heat Tavern web site: http://www.redheattavern.com
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