I’m meeting restaurateur Christopher Myers for an evening of bowling. You know, the usual. Hearing about his reputed adventurous, offbeat proclivities (for example, his résumé includes a stint as Ava Gardner’s housepainter), I thought a good friendly gutter-ball-ass-whooping would be just the thing. As we meet up at Kings, Myers looks down at his hoodie-and-jeans ensemble and remarks (not without concern), “I just saw the dress code, hope I’ll be OK.” Though, as we slip into a luxurious sized-for-six booth and order drinks—he snags a fruit-adorned sangria—I’m pretty sure they aren’t kicking us out. Not quite yet.
Wrangling three estimable restaurants in the city—Radius, Via Matta and Great Bay—Myers is on the cusp of opening his latest eatery with his fiancée (and Flour proprietor), Joanne Chang. Myers & Chang, opening next week, adds a dose of inventive Asian dining to the insatiably hungry South End. The site’s curious signage—”Confucius say: House of Yum come soon”—has been keeping us at Dig HQ salivating (if scratching our heads) for weeks. Cue more drool upon hearing that almost all of the offerings will be under $13.
“There’s beer and wine, which is fine for the food, though the musical slant might require stronger drink,” jokes Myers. “My favorite things are Chinese food and rock concerts.” (Last night he chilled at the Willie Nelson concert. “Ray Price sang great. But they all were utterly… ancient,” he reports.) In the new spot, he’s fusing his two loves: “Our place is like half the size,” his arms gesturing about Kings’ cocktail room, “with twice the speakers.”
“Joanne’s really pissed at me; she hates loud music,” he confides. The dining soundtrack—everything from surfer rock to Motown—will be at conversational levels, but “Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays after 9pm will be our noisy nights.” Clarifies Myers, “Not annoyingly, but compellingly, loud.”
As we attack our calamari plate, Myers continues, “I’ve always been obsessive about Asian history, Asian food. I’ve always wanted a Chinese restaurant.” He then straightens and looks me in the eye: “Are you one of those crazy Asian girls?” I blink. “Crazy about food?” Ooooh, yes, I certainly am. “I think the food culture in Chinese [communities] is even stronger than in Italian, Jewish and Latin communities,” declares Myers. He adds, “In my time at six colleges and two grad schools”—including pursuing a doctorate at Harvard—”nobody’s quite as cliquish as the Asians. Either out in LA or NYU, how do you get in? I wanted to find out where to eat!” He wisely seeks chow-worthy places through their prolific Asian clientele. “In our Chinatown, that definitely holds true. Just look in Taiwan Café, or Hei La Moon.”
We’re nibbling through overstuffed lettuce wraps when Myers asks, “Why do people blog?” He then confesses, “I’ve never been to Chowhound.” I let out a stifled gasp. “I think it’s a generation thing,” says Myers. “But I’m a fanatical texter. My fingers were tingling, and my doctor made me switch from my Blackberry to an iPhone.” On a napkin, I scrawl for him a slew of favorite websites, including LaTartineGourmande.com and AreYouEye.com. With a bit of encouragement for the interwebs, he exclaims defiantly, “I’m going to Chowhound tonight!” Attaboy.
If you’ve ever seen a print ad for Via Matta, you’ve witnessed a bit of his idiosyncratic style. With odd photographs and witty text, it’s one of the most cleverly audacious—and controversial—campaigns in Boston. Myers has no formal advertising background (instead, he boasts an “incredible training in being bored easily”), yet he’s been coming up with restaurant marketing ideas for 20 years. Although a recent ad featuring a girl clad in BDSM-style fetishwear lapping at panna cotta raised a few eyebrows, Myers says, “If you’ve ever watched European ads, theirs make ours look like kindergarten.” Provocation conveniently garners feedback, be it outrage or praise: “It’s the only way I can tell if advertising works.”
As we’re duly fueled up for slinging some balls, Myers trades his white snakeskin slip-ons for a pair of bowling shoes. Both of us are self-proclaimedly bad at this whole bowling thing, getting our collective share of spares and gutter balls. The screens overhanging the lanes alternate between the Sox and manically old-school music videos; do not underestimate those asses gyrating to Sir Mix-a-Lot. We polish off shots of Patrón Silver tequila, to which I naïvely ask, “Will this make us play better?” He responds, “It’ll make us not care!” Blessedly, the latter is true, since the former is not.
As the black lights start to glow and the game screen animations get more surreal, the experience all coalesces. “People should try to find excuses to do the otherly. This [interview] should be in a coffee shop. In the daytime. But this is so fun, bowling and yelling over Guns N’ Roses,” Myers says. “You try to avoid being controversial in the restaurant industry. But I don’t want to be under the radar. I am at the radar.”