Ellis’s Progressive Dinner Shakes off the Winter Blues, Boosts Local Restaurants

By Seth Daniel

In Boston restaurant circles, outside of Valentine’s Day, February can be a hard month to make ends meet and keep plates moving.

In fact, the week just before Valentine’s Day can be the dreariest of the year, and especially early in the week when no one is going out in order to save room for cupid’s feast on Feb. 14.

That’s where the Ellis South End Neighborhood Association comes in, holding its Progressive Dinner every year the Monday before Valentine’s Day to bolster the bottom line for local restaurants in a quiet period of the year for the dining scene.

This past Monday, Feb. 6, the 12th Annual Progressive Dinner took place with a sold out crowd of 91 people attending and 11 restaurants offering samples of their food and drink. Those in attendance crowded into the Beehive around 5:30 p.m. and began mingling over appetizers and drinks.

Following that, the program includes visiting one restaurant for the first course and drinks, then moving to a second restaurant for the main course – “progressing” all the way across the South End. After it’s over, as tradition calls for, all congregate at Barcelona for dessert and to compare notes about the food, drinks and overall experience.

Bill Gregor of the Ellis Wine Group said he and the co-founder of the Wine Group got the idea 12 years ago. They started small and since then it has grown tremendously.

“The co-founder of the Wine Group proposed it to me,” he said. “We got a few restaurants to go along with it and we sold tickets to it. We had about four or five restaurants back then. The restaurants loved it because it was the slowest day of the restaurant year – the Monday before Valentine’s Day. Neighbors loved it because it was a way to get out on a Monday and try a lot of new restaurants and make new friends. We’ve grown a little each year and now tonight we are brining 91 people out.”

Ellis President Betsy Hall said it was the largest and most fun event the Ellis schedules every year.

She said the dinner sold out very quickly this year, and everyone who bought tickets showed up.

“This has really become our signature event,” she said.

This year, 11 restaurants participated, including:

  • Banyan
  • Metropolis
  • Barcelona
  • 647 Tremont
  • Aquitaine
  • The Gallows
  • Boston Chops
  • Frenchie
  • Coppa
  • Elephant Walk
  • The Beehive

“It’s a wonderful way to try a number of different restaurants,” said Gregor. “We end the night at Barcelona where we have coffee and dessert and compare notes on all of the restaurants we visited. It has become quite a fun time, and everyone seems to agree.”

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