Among all other things up and coming in Watertown
is a restaurant scene that is poised to give our neighbors a “bite” for their buck.
Word spread quickly that Raider Tavern closed last August and rumors swirled around town over what would become of the space formerly occupied by Orchard Park Grill (OPG) and Raider Tavern .
Meanwhile, insiders knew that something big was in the making, and locals were more than ready.
Ritcey East opened its doors in September 2017 to the fanfare of self-proclaimed foodies and townies alike. Neighbors were thrilled at the refreshing and much needed full-service restaurant [watering hole!] on this side of Watertown.
An anomaly between everything hipster and your typical mom & pop spot in Watertown, Ritcey East is the place that definitely offers something for everyone.
After following Ritcey East on Instagram, and after MULTIPLE recommendations from friends who had already tried the place, it was time to pay Michaela Ritcey a visit.
It’s All Fun and Games
Followers of Ritcey East on Instagram and Facebook are privy to witty in-your-face info graphics and hilarious memes announcing theme nights; featured specials and promotions; or the cleverly-named craft cocktail of the moment.
Michaela’s expert use of social media has captured a swell of millennials who use these alternative outlets to share and discover new places to go, things to do, and products to try. Following businesses on social media is relatively common for this generation as the consumer is able to acquire more information on a business or product before choosing to engage.
When I finally sit down to chat with Michaela and manager, Chelsea, I quickly realize that Michaela’s online persona is not just a guise, but is her actual larger-than-life personality. Her sense of humor lends itself to a unique marketing approach that stands out and is what many may say is part of the draw.
In my efforts to get a community blog up and running that highlights the local flavor of Watertown's businesses, products and services, I introduce myself and immediately propose the idea of hosting an event together that would get women from the area out for a casual and informal night of networking, food, drinks and fun.
Michaela and Chelsea both grin.“I love it!” Chelsea exclaims, and both were ready to pull out all the stops.
“Totally!”, Michaela says, when I ask her if we can create a specialty cocktail for the evening. Like a wizard, she rattles off a potion that would later be called “In the Still of the Night Sangria”, but she has me at PROSECCO. “Bisol is our favorite”, Chelsea says. A quick peek at the beer and wine list reveals a carefully-curated line up of beer and wine. These selections rotate, and any staff member is willing to provide an individualized recommendation depending on your taste.
After going back and forth with our ideas, we finally turned a firework of an idea in to a reality in February. A typically slow Tuesday night became a frenzy and was standing room only when Ritcey East hosted the first of many events for local ladies who are a part of The Real Housewives of Watertown, a female-focused networking and meet-up group for women who live or work in Watertown.
Guests were able to try a few items found on the menu, and the crowd went wild when Michaela made the rounds with a platter of full sized candy bars- their usual dessert.
Everyone mingled and was encouraged to meet and strike up a conversation with someone new. The night would not have been complete without giveaways from some generous local sponsors, including:
“It’s all about community”, Michaela tells me, who says she chose the location for her restaurant in Watertown after about a year of consideration and staying in contact with the previous owner.
“Watertown just felt right”, she says. And right she was.
What’s in a name?
After stumbling upon a Facebook mention of “Ritcey West” which had been previously unknown to her, she said it clicked then that “Ritcey East” should be next in line. It was a pivotal move in paying homage to Ritcey Seafood Kitchen, her family’s longtime restaurant which once stood at the corner of Moody and Cherry Streets in Waltham.
When pressed about some of her favorite things about owning her own neighborhood restaurant, Michaela confides that building relationships and getting to know her customers is her “why”. She’s also not afraid to share that being a “control freak” drives the business. A small kitchen can create limitations, but, not for Ritcey, who uses the tight work space to provide a “small and fresh menu; sourcing local ingredients as much as possible”. “I’m able to focus on presentation and ensure that each piece has detail…”.
Located at 208 Waverley Ave, the restaurant space was fairly turn-key and waiting for a breath of fresh air. Enter Michaela Ritcey, youngest daughter of Kevin Ritcey, and multiple generations of restaurateurs behind them.
Not technically a new-comer to the biz, and aside from growing up in her parent’s restaurant, Michaela bar tended throughout college and did a couple of stints managing some well-known restaurants in West Newton and Assembly Square before deciding to branch out with her own concept: comfort food reminiscent of your childhood in a place you can “feel comfortable going in to by yourself”.
Fun and creativity radiate through Ritcey East from the quirky menu with not-to-miss items like “Ain’t EZ Being Cheese-Z” (a wicked creamy-dreamy mac & cheese topped with Doritos) and “Return of the Mac” (Michaela’s take on a favorite sold by the burger chain with the golden arches). There are also mainstays like the “best ever” Fish Tacos that are served in an adorable taco truck, a Fish Fry which originated from Ritcey Seafood Kitchen, and my new personal favorite, a simple Brussels Caesar Salad.
It’s still a family affair at Ritcey East whose small but mighty staff includes her brother and a nephew. On any given night, you will find Michaela expediting or working the line in the kitchen and her fiance, Chelsea, managing the front of the house and graciously schmoozing with patrons. Michaela’s father also clocks in a few times per week to prepare his famous tartar sauce, coleslaw and onion rings.
At the end of our successful event, Michaela pours me a glass of Bisol.
“This was all you”, she says. “If I can get just six people through that door who haven’t heard of this place before, that’s all I could ever ask for.”
Ritcey East is located at the intersection of Waverley Ave and Orchard St.
open for dinner and drinks
Monday-Saturday from 3pm-12am
208 Waverley Ave
Watertown, MA 02472
Ashley Morris is a Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage affiliated Real Estate Agent/REALTOR® and writer for The Watertown Line, a lifestyle and community blog.
If you have any Real Estate related questions OR know of a local business, product or service that deserves to be featured in our “Community Spotlight” series, or if you have an idea for a unique event, please send inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.