Our Story, by Chris Schlesinger, 2005

“The East Coast Grill opened its doors on August, 18, 1985. At that point it seemed a pretty risky venture. Although my partner, Cary Wheaton, and I had plenty of restaurant experience, we had no business experience. Restaurants have high failure rates and a lot of folks didn’t think Inman Square was that good of a location. And you know what? If I had known then, what I know now, I definitely would have talked us out of doing such a crazy thing – but we were young, fearless, and had a dream of opening a restaurant.

Timing was everything. Our concept of a casual neighborhood restaurant featuring bold flavors and wood grilling would soon be very popular as the seemingly incongruous concept of casual ‘fine dining’ was becoming an increasingly common expression of a new generation of cooks.

After having worked in a wide variety of kitchens from hotels to hash houses to 4 star restaurants, Cary and I strongly agreed on a couple of fundamental concepts, namedly that we would put equal attention on having outstanding food and a ‘relentlessly friendly’ staff. I was totally frustrated with the pretense of food, and Cary by the formal style of service at some of the restaurants where we had been working. So the East Coast Grill was born and, as it turns out, I’d like to believe that our values have survived 20 years and that the Grill is still known for its lively food and conscientious staff.

Our food philosophy is inspired by a couple of different things. The ‘big flavors’ profile comes from my misspent youthful travels in the tropics searching for waves and temperatures in the low 80’s, where I came to understand a diametrically different flavoring profile from the one typical of the classical European cuisine I was educated in.

My strong affection for seafood comes not only from my childhood years in coastal Virginia but also my relentless travel to different beaches of the world and the endless hours I’ve spent on the ocean in a feckless manner hoping to capture sea creatures.

As far as our reliance on grilling, I’m basically a pyromaniac who has managed to channel my habit into a socially constructive activity. My dad was a classic griller who taught me the fundamentals: It is always fun and it always tastes great. After a childhood of eating steaks burnt on the outside and raw on the inside I finally came to agree with my father, who proclaimed each and every meal off the grill to be the best yet.

Growing up in the South, it was impossible to avoid a strong connection to the regional foodway of BBQ. From eating at our local joint to my parents yearly pig pickin’s, the flavor and the technique and the associated good fellowship were indelibly wired into my culinary consciousness.

So you throw bright flavors, super-fresh seafood, live fire, and BBQ into a big pot and mix it up and you have the East Coast Grill… Over the years, we’ve been very lucky to work with many talented, dedicated, and hard-working folks who have gone on to distinguish themselves, not only in the food business, but also in a wide range of pursuits from writing to painting to acting and more. It is the spirit of hospitality that lies at the center of our success, along with a tolerant, curious, and diverse group of customers who over the years have given their support to us.


-Excerpt and images courtesy of the Internet Archive, “EastCoastGrill.net/main/story.htm,” October 25, 2005

General Info

-Images courtesy of the Internet Archive, “EastCoastGrill.net/main/general.htm,” October 25, 2005

Hell Night

On the eve of this unprecedented 3-night over-the-top fiery food challenge between the East Coast Grill and our heat seeking public, I think it’s important to remember the exact nature of our original dispute.

“…I’ve always liked spicy food and, in the early days of the East Coast Grill (circa 1986), we had gained a little reputation for serving some spicy dishes, which was a little unusual outside a Thai or Mexican restaurant. Unsuspectingly, I was baited into a culinary dare by a small, sick sect of the dining public whose taunts of ‘that really wasn’t that hot’ finally got the better of me and my formal training. I could not control the burning desire to silence at least a few. The resulting creation was the now infamous Pasta From Hell, fueled primarily by the original Inner Beauty Hot Sauce. Customers dropped like sweaty, panting, weak little flies. The kitchen howled at their tormentor’s agony. But when the smoke cleared there were a few left standing, a crazed, goofy, half smile on their faces and a faraway look in their eyes, and, as I looked out from behind the grill, I would get an almost imperceptible, knowing nod. Their fix had been had and, lost in that chile stupor, they acknowledged the contest was a draw. But, like a gunfighter in the Old West, I knew this was only the beginning. They would return, they would bring their friends to face the true test.

Word spread until there was an actual demand for a night when only wicked hot food was served. The brave and the super freaks came in droves to feed their strange and weird addiction. The first Hell Night was born. More came and we created the Hell Doubleheader and today, for the fourth time in world history, you are participating in not 1, not 2, but 3 straight nights of pure atomic cuisine — the only Hell Tripleheader known to humankind. Chefs Eric and Jason do battle today with recipes handed down by chefs before them. The legends of past fire eaters are whispered to new staff. So here we are in continuation of the eternal struggle. New dishes are designed, new chile mixes created, gas masks distributed. The kitchen is ready… are you?

We won’t stop until you do.

Good luck,

-Excerpt and images courtesy of the Internet Archive, “EastCoastGrill.net/main/hellnight.htm,” October 25, 2005

Press Information

ZAGAT Survey

The Boston Globe

The New York Times

GQ Magazine

-Images courtesy of the Internet Archive, “EastCoastGrill.net/press/press.htm,” October 25, 2005

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