The Brookside area around the Brewery Complex finally welcomed a neighborhood restaurant with the June 11 opening of Ula Café at 284 Amory Street, next to the large parking lot at the entrance to Mike’s Fitness.
“We really thought this area was underserved,” said owner Kate Bancroft, who has lived in JP for six years. “We read about that a lot in the Gazette, then talked to the JPNDC [Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation, developer of the complex].”
The “we” includes partner Korinn Koslofsky, baker and chef who “runs the back of the house and tastes new recipes,” Bancroft said.
“Yes, we’ve had a lot tasting parties,” said Koslofsky. “The menu is very thought out. We want to respond to customers’ demands and change things if needed.”
Inside, the spacious U-shaped café wraps around a center bar, offering a sunny side facing the outdoor tables, and a more intimate space in the rear, decorated with work of local artists.
The word “ula” has 20 different meanings, which are posted in the café, but the owners’ favorite is “sacred red” in Hawaiian.
Ula serves bake goods made-from-scratch, homemade soups, robust sandwiches, a variety of fresh salads, fair trade coffee and espresso and lots of different loose-leaf teas.
“We try to use the freshest food possible and local ingredients whenever we can,” Koslofsky said.
The partners started off as roommates. “My dream was to go back home to Detroit, but when I Kate said she wanted to open a café it sounded like the perfect marriage,” Koslovsy said.
For the last year-and-a-half the women worked side by side with the contractor renovating the space.
“It’s been exciting and scary, like birthing a baby,” said Koslofsky.
“We had so much fun with the build-out, but it was also hard at times.” Bancroft added. “I think it turned out even better than we expected.”
Asked if she was worried about the lack of foot traffic along Amory Street, Bancroft noted Ula has a built-in customer base because “there are so many businesses in the Brewery now, with over 200 employees. And our business has really been picking up from just word of mouth. We feel confident customers will come for the quality food, free parking and free WiFi.”
Bancroft, who worked for the past 10 years at the Boston Public Health Commission, added that her job as a research associate gave her “useful insights into how neighbors work together for the community’s interest.”
She went on to say she is “starting conversations with other Brewery companies about co-marketing the complex as a destination point.”
“This is our first time here, and we like the place a lot,” said Jacob Ocharan, having lunch with his wife Marie Mateu and their daughter Julia, 3. “The food is very good, very fresh.
“The café is also well located. The Brewery is kind of like a community center with all the services here. Julia, in fact, will be taking dance lessons soon with Tony (Williams) at the JP School of Dance,” he said.
Ula Café is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends. For more information call 524-7890 or visit www.ulacafe.com.