| Kinston/Jones Free Press (kfp)
Editor’s note: This story is No. 7 in a series looking at the top 10 stories of 2020 for The Free Press, counting down from 10 to 1 from Dec. 23 to Jan. 1.
The Boiler Room Oyster Bar has permanently closed in Kinston, but its sister restaurant and neighboring Chef & the Farmer will become “stronger” than ever in one building.
Vivian Howard, owner of the Chef & the Farmer fine-dining restaurant and the Boiler Room, recently made the decision to close the popular oyster bar amid the COVID-19 crisis and to combine both restaurants inside the Chef & the Farmer.
“I ultimately made the decision to close the Boiler Room because we have struggled to run two juggernaut restaurants in a small town forever,” Howard said. “It’s so much more flexible with the Chef & the Farmer with the dining room, kitchen, event space, and wine shop. We will not open the Chef as it was before. We have decided to combine the efforts and the Boiler Room’s menu to make it stronger in one building.”
The Boiler Room opened at 108 W. North St. in the alley across the street from the Chef & the Farmer in the summer of 2012. After a fire broke out in the Chef & the Farmer earlier that year, the idea hatched to open an oyster bar.
For eight years, the Boiler Room invited guests for drinks, burgers, and oysters while people waited for a reserved table at the fine-dining Chef & the Farmer.
“It will not be a fine-dining restaurant moving forward. We will revamp the inside and make it more casual with a more family feel,” Howard said. “It will represent the Boiler Room with extended business hours.”
Howard hopes to see the new Chef & the Farmer open this fall as she makes sure her employees and customers are safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We will watch and wait to see what the community looks like,” she said. “My hope is the fall, but I want to be certain we reopen stronger with a new look that fits the tone of the moment.”
As Howard moves forward with her restaurant she created in 2006, she will remember the oyster bar in the alley.
“It is heartbreaking to see the space not be the Boiler Room,” Howard said. “It makes me really sad that I will not have Sunday afternoon lunches with my family at the Boiler Room. My kids have taken it harder than I have. I love the Boiler Room, and it’s so sad. It’s a swan song.”
The location transformed into a new restaurant, Jay’s 108 by owner Jay Shin to serve burgers and sushi.
“My name is on the restaurant, so I had to make it right,” Shin said. “One of the hardest parts about this construction was there was a Boiler Room here. Remodeling a restaurant is always harder.”