The Beat Hotel can be a little hard to find. It’s tucked down a set of stairs in Harvard Square, but once you’re in, the place is anything but quiet. There’s free live music every night and a widely varied menu courtesy of chef Ignacio Lopez. Born in Mexico City, Lopez ventured out to the West Coast after a few years in Boston, but ended up coming back to Boston because “I loved it too much.” We asked him what brought him back to the city and how he keeps the menu unique.
As a transplant, what inspired you to stay in Boston?
I love the people, actually. I love the people, I love the culture. It’s very, very distinct. I love all the different lovely things about Boston, you know? The people are very intellectual about what they do. They’re very sharp, they’re very aware – particularly when it comes to food, they’re very aware of what they’re eating. … I love the whole Red Sox nation of all, and the rivalry with the Yankees. You know, in San Diego we don’t have any rivalries or any very very strong passions about sports. Here it’s almost like a part of your blood, right?
It’s nice to hear you say that. There’s a stereotype that Bostonians are unfriendly.
The thing with Bostonians is that they’re sharp. They don’t just open up to anybody. They’re also very loyal. Once you’re in, you’ve got a friend for life and there’s nothing that people won’t do for you.
The Beat Hotel’s menu is pretty eclectic. How do you describe it?
I would describe it as a market-driven menu that is both globally and regionally-inspired. You have dishes that are Latin American to Italian to Moroccan, you name it. There’s Greek items, we have some Spanish items.
We’d describe the Beat Hotel’s menu as eclectic. How do you decide what to put on the menu?
By the season and really how I’m feeling. If it starts getting cold outside, I’ll put something hearty on. When we first began fall and it was 80 degrees outside, 70 degrees outside, and everyone was putting squash on their menu, I just wasn’t feeling it yet. I wasn’t feeling like doing the butternut squash. … Sometimes I’ll go to the market and see something absolutely fantastic and I’ll just put it on the menu.
There are a lot of vegetarian and vegan options on the menu. What made you decide to do that?
I think a lot of that is because nowadays there are a lot more vegetarians and a lot more vegans as well as a tremendous amount of people who are avoiding gluten, people who are avoiding hormones and so on and so forth. … For the longest time, vegetarians and vegans would come into a place like this and the only choice for them would be pasta with marinara with some sort of a grown vegetable. … I like when vegetarians come in and can really be wowed by the choices and by what’s available to them as vegans or as vegetarians.