“When you take your family out to eat, there are memories to be built,” said Liu Vaine, owner of Molly’s Tavern and Restaurant in New Boston.
Molly’s is the newest member of Ignited Arrow, a consortium of restaurants that focus on casual family-style dining.
Molly’s opened in July, resurrected from its past as the Molly Stark Tavern. Formerly the New Boston Tavern and Kiki’s, it now has been bought by Vaine, Ignite Bar & Grille owner Neville Pereira and Red Arrow owner Carol Sheehan. The three restaurateurs collaborate while maintaining their sites’ individual identities.
Sheehan and Pereira have talked personally and professionally for many years and began collaborating officially about a year and a half ago under the Ignited Arrow name. Vaine and Pereira had been friends for several years when the Molly’s property became available, and Vaine partnered with the Ignited Arrow family to buy it.
“Our goal is to make our town a dining destination,” Pereira said. “We asked Liu to join us and he was interested in coming in with us.”
The New Boston icon is an oversized farmhouse, with huge beams, fireplaces and brickwork, and a sports bar atmosphere with big-screen TVs. It joins other Ignited Arrow sites, each with its own personality, including Hooked, serving fresh seafood in Manchester; the Red Arrow 24 Hr. Diner, serving throwback diner food in Manchester and Milford; Sizzle, serving Mediterranean bistro food; Divots on the River, offering country club fare; plus Ignite, J’s Tavern and the Midtown Café at the Beacon. The group employs about 300 people.
With a century’s worth of restaurant experience between them, Sheehan, Pereira and Vaine draw on a kind of “human capital,” Pereira said, which helps them put out quality service and weather tough economic times. The trio meets to talk about menus, training and ongoing revisions of their package of 11 restaurants in and around Manchester.
“It’s evolving,” Pereira said. “We’ll do whatever it takes to sharpen our skills, and it seems it’s such a trying time that if you don’t have experience, you’re in trouble.”
According to Pereira, two to three offers per week come to Ignited Arrow, from places looking to link up or be bought outright. In the future, Ignited Arrow might offer consultation services.
Sheehan said the menus at all the Ignited Arrow restaurants are “tweak-as-we-go,” depending on what customers want. Health foods, goat cheese, scallops, sliders are all in play at different times, Pereira said. Given New Boston’s size, Vaine said he wants to make something a small population would enjoy and make Molly’s a destination.
“You can’t force people to come in and buy off a menu...,” Vaine said. “I opened and began asking, catering to what the town wanted.”
A straightforward two-page menu of tavern fare with nods to different world regions is up now at Molly’s. The Mahi Reuben, one of two Reuben sandwiches, with blackened with Cajun spices and Swiss cheese ($11.99) and the Frenchman, grilled chicken breast with bacon, Swiss and honey mustard ($9.99), are accompanied on the sandwich menu by classic cheddar bacon burgers ($10.99) and patty melts ($10.99).
Buffalo and lobster mac and cheese ($11.99, $17.99) and Mussels pasta, over linguine with garlic butter, white wine, crushed tomatoes and herbs ($13.99) are a few pasta dishes. There’s also a selection of flatbread pizzas, salads and appetizers from fried pickles and wings to calamari and crab and cakes.
Sundays have been designated as charity days. Ten percent of the meal price goes to a select charity — for October, it is the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer fund for the American Cancer Society.
A kids’ menu ($3.99) features mac & cheese, popcorn chicken, hot dogs, grilled cheese and pasta and butter. Kids younger than 5 eat free — as a man with a young family, Vaine said, he understands checking to see how pricey meals are before ordering. The free-meal deal “takes families away from the worrying and onto having a good time,” Vaine said. “Pricey kids’ meals drive me nuts ... if it’s good food and a good time, we are creating memories that are going to bring people back,” he said.
Sheehan’s experience is not just as a diner owner but as a restaurant guest: “My husband and I eat out almost every night,” she said. “We love the choices and fight about where to go around here. I like sitting at the bar, feeling out the restaurants. You see servers talking to bartenders and relationships that form. I love the scene.”
Ignited Arrow’s future is bright, Pereira believes, because with “there is going be a turnaround in the economy, and we are positioning ourselves to be ready for it.”