Lately, Somerville residents have been wondering what’s been going on at the upper floors of 1 W. High St., where Tapastre, an intimate tapas bar featuring Mediterranean small plates, rotating craft drafts and patio seating, has established itself downstairs through the past 10 years as the go-to spot to grab a beer in the borough.
For about a year, Mike Proske, founder of Tapastre, has been working hard to open his new bar and restaurant, Project P.U.B., which takes the concept of pairing beer with food to a whole new level as a “pop-up brew pub,” which is also the eatery’s namesake.
Each month, Proske’s team will select one brewery — the first one being Founders Brewing Co. — and dedicate all of their taps to them as well as create a food menu with items cooked with the beer as well as those that can be paired with the beer.
On Wednesday, Proske’s dream finally became a reality when Project P.U.B. celebrated its grand opening at 41 N. Bridge St. at 6 p.m. alongside about 20 people, including the Downtown Somerville Alliance, Mayor Brian Gallagher, the Somerville Borough Council, local business and property owners and Somerville residents.
“I think it was Benjamin Franklin that said, ‘Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,'” said Gallagher. “Thank you for bringing happiness to Somerville.”
Following the ribbon cutting, friends, family and customers headed inside Project P.U.B. to sample the new eatery’s entrees as well as Founder’s beers.
“It’s great to see all the hard work and planning being appreciated by customers, but it’s basically out of the frying pan and into the fire,” said Proske. “Now is when the real work begins.”
Ever since Proske purchased the singular building from his father in 2010, the upstairs floors have remained vacant following its stint as an Italian restaurant as Proske debated how to use the space. He toyed with the idea of opening a brewery before coming up with the much more distinctive concept for his building and then starting renovations and building, all while managing Tapastre full time.
“There was a balance between waiting for the concept to develop enough to be proud of having customers in, and satiating the hundreds of people who were constantly asking about it,” said Proske. “Also, one of our biggest issues as we approached our opening was finding qualified and reliable employees to join our team. I feel we have a great crew now and I am looking forward to facing the challenges ahead with them.”
For the food menu, the restaurant is pulling some of the selections from a given brewery’s food menu and is also creating appetizers ranging from $5 to $19 and entrees from $12 to $25.
A steady pub fare menu with about 15 to 20 items will always be available with items such as roasted beef marrow, thick-cut roasted pork belly, ahi tuna crudo and P.U.B. nuts and baked olives that range from $4 to $15.
The restaurant is a completely separate entity from Tapastre. Project P.U.B. has its own entrance and features a rustic and industrial vibe, similar to an upscale gastropub, including exposed brick, reclaimed wood tabletops and Weyerbacher beer barrels as trim, many features that Proske built.
“The restaurant industry is unique in that you have one chance to make a great first impression. Very rarely do people give a restaurant a second chance if they had a less than desirable experience on their first visit for whatever reason,” he said. “With so many restaurants around, it makes it even more important to ensure a positive guest experience the first time and every time after that.”
Where: 1 W. High St., Somerville (above Tapastre)
Contact: projectpubnj.com, 908-393-5211
Cost: Appetizers ranging from $5 to $19 and entrees ranging from $12 to $25