It's earned a slew of local and national accolades, including a spot on GQ Magazine's 2019 list of the Best New Restaurants in America, but make no mistake, at its core Restaurant Homer is a neighborhood spot.
"The concept of this place had been in my head for over five years," said Logan Cox, executive chef and co-owner of Restaurant Homer. "The reason I love the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean style of cuisine is that it's really focused on sharing. You're literally sitting down and breaking bread with people, dipping dips in the same bowls, and I think it creates a familiar atmosphere that isn't present in a lot of other cuisines."
The cozy, 49-seat restaurant in Beacon Hill is the brainchild of Cox and his wife Sara Knowles, who first met years ago in the other Washington: Washington DC.
"We actually met at a restaurant I was the chef of and she was a part-time server," explained Cox. "We both had the same starting day, so we bonded over that and it quickly blossomed into a romance."
"I worked at a furniture store at the time," said Knowles. "Logan would go buy furniture so he could hang out with me on his days off."
"It was more of a courting - I'd say," added Cox with a laugh.
Homer is a marriage of the couple's talents: Cox's creativity in the kitchen and Knowles' design and management skills. It's a decidedly personal place, right down to the name of the restaurant itself.
"We took a cross-country road trip and found this job running a lodge near Homer, Alaska," said Cox. "That became a very special time in our lives. We ran this lodge in the summer living in a 10x10 cabin with one outlet, no running water or anything. It really solidified out relationship as a couple."
Homer also happens to be the name of the couple's golden retriever. One his nightly walk, the pup makes a beeline to the restaurant to visit his favorite spot, the soft serve window.
"It was something we always wanted to do," said Knowles of Homer's soft serve. "It makes you stand out in terms of your dessert options, but also - who doesn't love soft serve?"
Folks can walk up to the window to grab a cone or sample the rotating flavors: always one dairy, one vegan and a swirl. If you're waiting for a table you can also grab a cocktail from the window, though, of course, you can't take your drink to-go.
In the kitchen, Cox and his team use the wood-fire grill and oven to turn out stunning shareable plates, many of them vegetable-forward. Most tables start with the housemade spreads; hummus labneh and a rotating seasonal option, served with fresh pita. During our visit, grilled beets braised in honey, sherry vinegar and spices sat atop a vibrant beet sauce and pepita cream. A colorful, flavor-packed example of the dishes that made Cox a James Beard Award semi-finalist for the second consecutive year. Another house favorite? The lamb ribs, a variation of which has appeared on the menu since Homer opened. This time, braised in yogurt then caramelized in a 700-degree oven and finished with lime juice, pistachios, lime zest and thinly-sliced Asian pears.
The success of Homer, the support it's received, seems in some ways like serendipity for Cox and Knowles. A professional milestone, made all the more sweet by a personal one, the recent arrival of their daughter.
"It really has been sort of euphoric in a way," said Cox. "The fact the restaurant has been successful allows us to take care of our little one, which I never really thought was going to be the case, honestly. I mean we chose [to open] a restaurant in Beacon Hill specifically because we wanted to raise a family."
"We wanted to be in our neighborhood because we wanted a neighborhood restaurant," added Knowles. "We're lucky to draw crowds from different neighborhoods obviously, but I think it resonates more because this is our neighborhood. It's been pretty amazing."
The couple isn't stopping with Homer. This summer they'll open Milk Drunk, in a space just a couple blocks down the street. The new spot will their famous soft serve along with fried chicken sandwiches and cocktails.