Cambridge, MA - Chains are inevitably a sore spot for both independent restaurateurs and patrons alike. For the former, it means marketing competitiveness, a drain on qualified help and more often than not a substantial loss of profits. People are invariably hard wired to expect the familiar—be it Christmas carols or a $3.99 lunchtime Bloomin’ Onion special. And the latter recognizes chains mean a sacrifice of a unique identity in the name of bland homogeneity.
Christina Tosi and Michael Lastoria are hoping to change that perception with their bakery/pizza experiment Milk Bar and & pizza, which opens their first New England Branch in Harvard Square this Saturday, February 2nd.
“We’re sitting in the middle of an old school quick service restaurant combo play with a modern food hall,” Lastoria said. “I think when people come into this space, they’re going to see that there’s an authenticity.”
Founded in 2008 by Tosi in Washington DC, the Milk Bar concept—a seemingly disparate hybrid of a pizza shop and a whimsical dessert bakery—spread like wildfire to 14 locations in cities including Las Vegas, Toronto and NYC, earning Tosi accolades from the likes of Forbes, Entrepreneur and Variety as well as a series of best selling cookbooks, a James Beard Rising Chef award, appearances on Master Chef and partnerships with JetBlue and Glossier.
“Life is as fun and hilarious as you make it, and the fun part doesn’t take any effort; it just takes the spirit of wanting to reach a little bit and let the grown-up-ness wash away,” said Tosi in an LA Magazine profile last year.
So if the first thing that sprang to your mind when you hear the words “Milk Bar” is a vision of Alex and his droogs trying to make up their rassodocks about what to do with their evening, you may be in for a let down.
“The spirit of this store is meant to be a combo store, which is super-duper old school,” said Tosi.
So what can you expect from Milk Bar when it opens up on Saturday? In addition to the birthday cake truffles, patented “crack pies” and cereal flavored soft serve ice cream that has made Tosi a social media sensation, you can expect a purposeful delve into a saccharine-laden childhood revelry; an interior design described by Entrepreneur as “a sweet-treat kingdom built on American nostalgia.”
And in Cambridge? Apparently, pizza; ranging from American honey-baked pies to traditional meat lover offerings. Each Milk Bar location is designed to offer non-pastry choices reflective of their host cities’ food culture.
“As a kid, I was like, I want my own bakery. But it was a pretty selfish vision -- I never thought about the kind of impact that might make on people’s lives. It’s been incredible to create this community of empowerment and connectivity,” said Tosi.
Milk Bar and &pizza is located at 1 Brattle St in Cambridge. Hours are Sunday - Thursday from 7:00 am - 12:00 am and Friday - Saturday from 7:00 am - 2:00 am. For more information, visit milkbarstore.com