Think of Café Green Light as the Aquitaine Restaurant Group’s factory outlet store.
Granted, the delicious food served at the café is by no means irregular, nor does it qualify as overstock. But it’s essentially the same upscale product you can find at the group’s larger, more formal venues ( , and, of course, all of the s) for less money in a substantially more casual feeling environment.
“We are the Clark Kent of Gaslight,” General Manager Izzy Berdan told me over the phone. “It’s Monday through Friday, it’s breakfast and lunch. It’s coffee, breakfast, sandwiches, pastries, fresh salads, and fruit. But it all comes out of Gaslight’s kitchen. From four to five in the afternoon we have ‘happy hour’ and everything we have left is discounted.”
To the many nearby business people that frequent Green Light during their work days, the café—located at 560 Harrison Avenue near Union Park Street—is something of a well-guarded secret. In fact, South End residents seem largely unaware of its presence nearly four years after its opening. And yet, folks not in-the-know are missing out on high-end eats from Chris Robins and Seth Woods, two highly regarded names in the world of urban dining.
“We don’t advertise the Café like we do our other restaurants,” Berdan said. “The clientele we have has grown largely from word of mouth. And admittedly, we don’t have the best storefront since you enter through the building lobby.”
But what Green Light lacks in storefront Berdan makes up for with social media savvy, which he uses to engage the regulars. For instance, daily soup and sandwich specials get posted via Twitter feed (Coq au Vin sandwich anyone? Or how about some Chicken Olive soup?).
Actually, Berdan was originally hired to oversee the Aquitaine Group’s marketing strategy while creating all related graphics and photography (another of his passions – check out his work here). Managing the café came along organically.
“It was a happy accident, but I love my job,” he said. “I’m fortunate enough to work for a company that puts out consistently great food. Basically, I open the café every morning, make sure the kitchen is up and running and then for the bulk of the day I’m working behind my laptop, at my desk—which is really just a café table.”
Berdan’s a marketing natural, given his background in entertainment (you might recognize him from a previous life as a nightclub manager on Lansdowne Street) and retail (for seven years he owned a Newbury Street furniture shop). From that perspective, he applauds the ongoing development of the South End’s restaurant culture despite some rumored residential rumblings that it’s somehow gotten out of hand.
“For me it’s always been about creating an environment,” he said. “We definitely don’t need more sub shops. But as a company we never frown on new, quality venues opening nearby—they draw more people to the area. So, I think the South End can always use more distinct, specific restaurant and café environments that buy local food and have a sustainable vision."
"I see so many people on a given work day coming and going with all different sorts of food needs and wants," he added. "There’s always room for more variety.”