5 Corners Kitchen

5 Corners Kitchen

“I love the place,” Escobar says. “It is completely different than any place else I’ve ever worked. 5 Corners Kitchen is full of people with heart—people who really want to be in the restaurant industry.” From kitchen staff joking around to servers taking handstand breaks in the basement, everyone recalls 5 Corners as a big happy family—and diners enjoyed that vibe.
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5 Corners Kitchen

5 Corners Kitchen’s particular combination of urbane cuisine and casual-yet-sophisticated ambiance has made it a beloved institution among North Shore diners. The Marblehead restaurant, which was rebuilt and expanded in 2012 after a devastating fire, has won a loyal following with its eclectic menu that’s got something for everyone.
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5 Corners Kitchen

5 Corners Kitchen’s particular combination of urbane cuisine and casual-yet-sophisticated ambiance has made it a beloved institution among North Shore diners. The Marblehead restaurant, which was rebuilt and expanded in 2012 after a devastating fire, has won a loyal following with its eclectic menu that’s got something for everyone. Though the menu is decidedly French-leaning (chef-owner Barry Edelman worked at Aquitaine and Lumiere before branching out on his own), Edelman’s focus is more on creating amazing, memorable meals from whatever’s fresh and local. He takes full advantage of his seaside locale and incorporates the day’s catch whenever he can, alongside specialties like housemade charcuterie and pasta.
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As if the prospect of building a restaurant from scratch twice in two years wasn’t daunting enough, Edelman faced several unexpected delays. First, the insurance claim took several months to process. Next, in December, just when the architectural plans were ready, the building department informed the restaurateur that he would need to install handicapped restrooms to bring 5 Corners up to code. As it was, the 40-seat bistro barely accommodated a tiny kitchen (13 feet by 13 feet), an eight-seat bar, and, of course, Lilliputian restrooms.
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By all accounts, Julian Edelman had a terrific eighth birthday party. He and his friends got to make their own pasta at one of the North Shore’s hottest restaurants—5 Corners Kitchen in Marblehead. Of course, Julian had a special connection—his dad, chef/owner Barry Edelman.
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By around 1 p.m. that sunny Wednesday last July, the final guests had filed out. A half hour later, firefighters were called to the restaurant. “I didn’t even have time to clean out the pasta machine,” Edelman recalls ruefully. But it turns out the scrub-down required for the kitchen equipment—the only thing salvaged from the fire—would be the easy part. What Edelman thought would be a three-month process has turned into an 11-month ordeal to reopen the restaurant that routinely drew diners from Boston and even Philadelphia to sample his elegant French-infused cuisine. There is, however, a happy aside: 5 Corners was named one of the best new restaurants in Boston in the 2011/2012 Zagat Guide.
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This transcript comes to you courtesy of 5 Corners Kitchen, producing appealing and delicious fare in Marblehead since May. Not every visit here is as all-around enjoyable as the one discussed above. But any restaurant capable of offering a meal of total satisfaction, from start to finish, deserves plaudits. Here they are.
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The name 5 Corners Kitchen is taken from the major intersection at which it’s located. It’s a soothing and comfortable space, painted in beige with clean white wainscoting, a cozy bar area, banquettes stocked with plenty of fat cushions, and overhead shimmering chandelier shades cut in light, lacy patterns. The decibel level shatters this visual serenity. This doesn’t look like it would be a loud restaurant, but it is.
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At a party in late July, 5 Corners honored the patrons who helped finance the rebuild. “It was a thank-you to all of the people that supported us during our very tough time,” says Edelman.
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Edelman admits that getting to this happy spot has been a rough road. The first hurdle? Insurance companies. Edelman says he was unknowingly underinsured—probably by about 75 percent. But that was just the beginning. His business, along with Terry’s Ice Cream Shop next door, were the only ones damaged in the fire, but that meant that three different insurance companies—one for 5 Corners, one for Terry’s, and one for the building’s owner—all had to agree on who should pay what to whom.
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But plans quickly hit another snag. The damage was so extensive that the rebuilding had to be renovated up to current code. Among other things, that meant Terry’s Ice Cream Shop, which formerly had no bathroom, and 5 Corners, which had two small ones, had to install handicap-accessible facilities.
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“You might think that, after a fire, you have the right to rebuild it as it was,” Bloom says. “But treat it more as if you chose to have the fire and are now sinking money into your business to improve it. When you do that, you have to upgrade to full code.” In 5 Corners, the new bathrooms required four times the space of the old ones, but there wasn’t an ounce of room to spare.
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Edelman is especially proud of the fact that his entire staff will return when the restaurant reopens. First in line is sous chef Julian Escobar, who is so loyal to Edelman that he didn’t even want another cooking gig while waiting for 5 Corners to reopen, instead opting to learn more about the restaurant business and even working as a bartender.
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Several pieces of good news: Much of the kitchen equipment was salvageable. In the dining room, chairs only needed to be reupholstered. To finance the remaining expenses, Edelman, who lives in Marblehead with his wife, Emily (she owns Two Girls Shop in Salem, a women’s clothing store), and their two children, took out loans and raised capital by asking supporters to buy large-quantity gift certificates. He also drew upon the creativity that had helped him the first time around. He, his family, and the kitchen staff made the dining tables. “For a couple of days we set up stations on the sidewalk and we sanded, varnished, and constructed,” says Edelman. “It was a complete team effort.”
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While Edelman says the dining room will have a similar feel to the original space, it will be more refined and will offer a window into the new kitchen. “I want people to be connected with the fact that we’re in there, cooking their food. It doesn’t just magically appear,” Edelman says. The kitchen will also be custom-designed to deliver the kind of food that Edelman is preparing. “I had 14 months of real-life experience to learn exactly what I need in the space,” he says.
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At the time of the disaster, it had been barely a year since Edelman, 33, had transformed an old bakery into a buzzing bistro on a shoestring budget. This first-time restaurateur traveled all over the state collecting used kitchen equipment. He did much of the construction himself with the help of his father-in-law, Greg Donovan, a furniture maker. Edelman’s French-Italian country cooking — he had worked at Lumiere and Aquitaine — including favorites such as skate wing, and smoked garlic sausage with lentils, soon became a hit. He got his start as a teenager in the Berkshires, in the kitchens of the Boiler Room Cafe and John Andrews. He considers his style, making “simple, humble food,” to be a return to those formative years.
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Today’s dining room, says the chef, “is a hipper, more refined space,” where features like black steel beams, subway tiles, and funky lighting fixtures are set against clean white walls. The kitchen, bar, dining area, and restrooms are now amply sized. The establishment even includes a separate bar-dining area.
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Edelman marks the time that has passed since the fire as a rundown of a restaurant’s busiest times. “At first,” he says, “we were sure we’d be open by the holidays. Then we were sure we’d be open by Valentine’s Day.” Now, it appears that the restaurant will reopen around Independence Day. And when it does, it will be double in size, with a kitchen nearly three times that of the original.