The Love The Ave dishes up community pride via North End Restaurant Week

Posted Aug 30, 2018 at 3:01 AM

Portuguese steaks and hot dogs. Oven-baked bread and pizza. Custard cups and clamboils. Lobster rolls and Cubano sandwiches. Antipasto and chicken Mozambique. Hamburgers and French fries. Egg rolls and conchas. Scrambled eggs and sweet bread.

It’s all on the menu at one unique destination in the city: Along Acushnet Avenue and in the North End.

Recognizing the city’s notable concentration of eateries from Coggeshall Street north is one goal of the Love The Ave & North End Restaurant Week, taking place from Saturday, Sept. 15 through Friday, Sept. 21.

It’s an effort that has grown out of the group Love The Ave, which is vigorously finding new ways to help promote economic development along the North End commercial corridor with public art and special events.

And in the process, is creating durable community infrastructure.

For the Love The Ave & North End Restaurant Week, a new website has been launched to spotlight all the eateries on and around Acushnet Avenue, lovetheave.com. It’s there that you’ll find a listing of North End bakeries, eateries and restaurants.

Many of them are, and will continue to be, featured in special posts through Sept. 21. Thereafter, lovetheave.com will be a permanent directory of the establishments as well as a means to share Love The Ave happenings and items of public interest.

On the group’s Facebook page, Facebook.com/lovetheave, all the posts are being shared — along with some mouth-watering pictures to whet the appetite for restaurant week.

The Love The Ave & North End Restaurant Week was dreamed up by Steven Froias, a member of the Love The Ave committee (and also a regular columnist featured in The Standard-Times).

Recognizing the sheer number of food establishments along The Ave and throughout the North End, he brought the idea for this special promotion to Angela Johnston at the New Bedford Economic Development Council. She also chairs Love The Ave steering committee meetings.

She loved the idea, took it to city hall, and got the enthusiastic support of the mayor’s office to move ahead with the project, which may be a pilot for a larger, city-wide restaurant week in the future.

Over the summer, Froias visited almost every place of culinary business along The Ave to lay the groundwork for restaurant week.

“It’s really been so much fun!” he said. “These are terrific small businesses which not only feed our bellies, but also our souls. They effectively function as community gatherings spots.”

It’s a diverse community, now, and that’s reflected in the food.

Alongside the many traditional Portuguese restaurants of distinction, and those highlighting New Bedford seafood, you find places like Dulce Mexican Restaurant and Sara’s Bakery, featuring cuisine that caters to a Latin American and Hispanic population.

They join iconic New Bedford eateries like Pa Raffa’s, which sits at the intersection of Ashley Boulevard and Acushnet Avenue and is the geographic end point of the restaurant week area, which begins at Coggeshall Street and runs from Ashley Boulevard west to Belleville Avenue east.

“Every time I post something about Pa Raffa’s, it breaks the Internet!” says Froias. “They’ve been great to work with and it’s fantastic that businesses that mean so much to so many are being acknowledged for what they represent in New Bedford with this week.”

In addition to encouraging residents and visitors to patronize Love The Ave & North End places during the week and more often afterward, the project is intended to create a sense of community and purpose among all the businesses.

“The bakeries alone along Acushnet Avenue — over a half dozen — lend distinction to the street. You can smell bread baking when you’re standing outside of Holiday Bakery or Padaria Nova Bakery,” points out Froias.

“Then, you have some of the best Portuguese and seafood you’ll find anywhere — all within a mile or less of each other! It’s really quite special.”

And, a destination in and of itself. Which is the whole point of restaurant week. Spotlighting what makes the area unique not only in the city, but in the region.

That, and of course, and the food.

“It hasn’t exactly been a heavy lift to spend the summer working on this project,” Froias said. “Especially when you also get to enjoy pumpkin ravioli at Cotali Mar; Steak Girassol at Girassol Restaurant & Cafe; French Dip roast beef at Endzone; tacos at La Raz; hot dogs at Dee’s; cacoila sandwiches at Cafe Portugal; bacalhau at Cafe Mimo; and many, many natas at Chocolate com Pimenta!”

Signature dishes and special restaurant week deals are all listed on featured posts on lovetheave.com and will also be shared via the Facebook page. Also, posters have been made available to all the places on which they can feature their specials during the week.

A goal of the entire Love The Ave project has also been to counter the perception that Acushnet Avenue faces a greater public safety challenge than other spaces within the city.

Walking up and down The Ave all summer, Froias said he didn’t find that to be true.

“All the places I visited were full of customers. All these people obviously don’t buy into the negative stereotype of The Ave,” he says.

He points out that the New Bedford Police Department started a “Walk a Block” program last year under Chief Joseph Cordeiro. That entails police officers parking the cruisers for part of every hour and visiting the small businesses along the street in order to make their presence felt.

“Any urban area can get gamey from time to time — The Ave is no exception,” he said. “But the reality is that it is a vibrant place full of people all day long. I term it ‘relentlessly urban’ — you get it all here and that’s part of what makes the area so interesting to so many different people.

“Last Saturday, I was sitting in Lorenzo’s Bakery — a fantastic place boasting Puerto Rican treats and sandwiches.

“As I was eating one of the best Cubano sandwiches I’ve ever had, I looked out the window onto the street and thought, ‘This is it. This is the urban ideal. Sitting in a neighborhood business like this in the company of people who make this city special.’

“Then I walked over to Lydia’s Bakery for a piece of cheesecake to savor the moment!.”

Again, information on the Love The Ave & North End Restaurant Week can be found at lovetheave.com. The week happens from Saturday, Sept. 15 through Friday, Sept. 21.

Original story here.