Francophiles and foodies, rejoice: Saus is breathing new life into a part of Boston often dominated by the city’s past. The restaurant, located just a few steps from Faneuil Hall, offers Belgian-style pommes frites, waffles and beer, alongside other international classics like poutine. Run by three local college grads, it’s a microcosm of the kind of optimistic growth Boston is now experiencing in the aftermath of the 2008 recession.
Chin Kuo, who founded the restaurant alongside Renee Eliah and Tanya Kropinicki, pinpoints the recession as the moment that birthed Saus. “In 2008, we all worked at the same software startup,” he remembers. “For the three of us, it was our first full-time job after college, [and] we got laid off basically six months into our job.”
The experience turned out to be a blessing in disguise. “Our favorite time of the day was lunch,” says Kuo, and “being able to leave work and try new things to eat.” As they explored Downtown Crossing, where their office was located, “we thought, well, wouldn’t it be cool if we brought something new to eat to Boston?” As Saus turned from daydream to business plan, the co-founders took restaurant jobs to better learn about the industry, and found that they enjoyed the hectic pace, so different from their old office.
Three years later, Saus stands out amongst the traditional pubs that line Union Street. Cheerful Tintin cartoons line the walls, a nod to their fries’ country of origin, and during a weekday lunch the space hums with the chatter of its patrons. The restaurant has been lauded by the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, and food bloggers alike, but now Saus’s founders find themselves troubled by a new question: authenticity.
“People come from overseas,” says Kuo, “or they had been there, and they just have a certain expectation. It’s almost too difficult to meet sometimes. It’s just not the same potato! It’s not the same oil! It’s not the same people serving the food, it’s not the same…we’re in America.”
How to compare to someone’s beloved childhood memories, or college-aged study abroad adventures? “Those are tough memories to beat!” says Kuo. Instead of trying to compete with these experiences, Saus has chosen to offer an alternative, and expand their menu to encompass different street foods from across the globe. Already, a more American pairing, in the familiar form of chicken and waffles, has made an appearance.
As the Saus menu changes and the brand expands, one thing will remain constant, Kuo promises: “We make everything in-house.” They aim to have something for every palate, along with the more elusive goals of satisfaction and community. Simply put: “We want to make people happy,” says Kuo.