WALTHAM - Located on Moody Street in Waltham, Bistro 781 is lively spot where families can gather and eat in the comfortable dining room, and folks out for a night on the town can sip on craft cocktails at the energetic bar. You'll always find owner Jeff Abelard out front working the room, where everybody seems to know him.
"Everybody comes in and says, 'Oh I know Jeff. I know Jeff. I've seen Jeff here, or went to high school with him, or elementary school together, or parents, or friends," he said. "It's kind of crazy, but it works."
Back in the kitchen, Executive Chef Jason Duffy works some culinary, with a menu that has everything from big bowls of pasta and crispy flatbreads, to creative spins on sushi.
There are snacks including truffle chips, fried pickles, soft pretzel bites and beef jerky, that are perfect to nosh on while you wait for your meal. For something to share, order Jeff's personal favorite, the nachos. When Chef Jason was creating this dish, Jeff had only one request: they had to be BIG.
"He was insistent upon nachos from the beginning, and I have to agree that he was right. They are delicious. They're awesome. They're huge and they sell like crazy," Jason said.
Other apps include indulgent Mac N Cheese spiked with spicy chorizo, fiery wings slathered in hot sauce, steak and cheese egg rolls, and a British-Japanese fusion dish known as the Fish and Chips Sushi Roll.
"It is all the elements of a Fish and Chips. It's got your cod. It's got your potato. It's got pickled cabbage and carrot on the inside. Then rolled in sushi rice, and dipped in beer batter, and the whole thing is fried and then sliced with some tartar sauce for dipping," Jason described.
When it comes to burgers, there's no mistaking 781's, served on a branded English muffin.
"That is actually due to my mom," Chef Jason explained. "Growing up we'd often have family night burgers and it was just on an English muffin and was delicious then, and it's delicious now."
"I think people get a kick out of it being an English muffin. It's a different texture. It's a different taste. It's a different look of the burger, so people really enjoy it," Jeff added.
"Instead of doing our burgers on the grill, we do them on the griddle. They're actually seared in bacon fat, goes on the English muffin with lettuce, tomato, onion, and what we call a zesty remoulade. It tastes like heaven," said Jason.
When it came to the entree section of the menu, Jeff insisted on serving steak. Their 10 ounce sirloin, served with Yukon Gold and Goat Cheese au Gratin in a Red Wine Reduction, really is cut above.
If short ribs are your thing, Bistro 781 offers them in two styles. You can get them slow-cooked and fork tender, smothered in BBQ sauce and served over a smoked cheddar fondue with brocolli rabe. Or, there's the less traditional Grilled Korean BBQ Short Rib.
"The Korean style that we've been serving is not braised. It's just marinated for 48 hours and then grilled off like a steak tip," Jason explained. "Then it is topped with a Korean barbecue sauce that we make from scratch. It's just a nice tender, but not fall apart, piece of meat."
At the end of the day, for Jeff and his team, there's simply no place like home at Bistro 781.
"There's a lot to be said for being able to come home and run a business and open a business," Jeff said. "There's a gratification to it that is unparalleled, that you don't think you can match with doing anything else. You see so many faces that you see them growing up and you've seen people grow. People have seen you grow. It's just an amazing feeling."
You can find Bistro 781 at 336 Moody Street in Waltham, and online at bistro781.com.
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