Smithsonian Cafe and Chowder House prepares to open at Roundhouse Plaza in Northampton

Thursday, March 06, 2014
HATFIELD — For the third time in three years, a popular Hatfield soup shop known for its fresh chowder and other hearty soups is expanding beyond its borders — this time to Northampton.

After scouting Paradise City for some time for the ideal spot for the restaurant’s soups, sandwiches and bakery items, including a line of cupcakes, Smithsonian Cafe and Chowder House owner Peter Langlois believes he’s found the right spot to fit the eatery’s quick-serve concept on the ground floor of the Roundhouse Plaza.

“We wanted to be close to the mix but we weren’t sure the business model would support Main Street economics,” said Langlois, who runs the business with his wife, Terrie, and three sons.

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Langlois hopes to open the new restaurant this weekend or early next week. The Smithsonian will occupy 1,200 square feet of space on the main floor of the Roundhouse building, next to Forget me not Florist and opposite the Peter Pan bus terminal. The space, formerly occupied by Damn Good Haircuts, faces Old South Street and the entrance to the rail trail next to the Round House parking lot.

Langlois said Northampton is the Smithsonian’s first attempt at opening “non-destination” restaurant in a populated area. The cafe’s flagship location, which opened in at 1 West St. in Hatfield two years ago, is targeted at customers who visit to eat or grab a quick to-go meal. A second location called the Smithsonian Chowder House Express opened a year later in the Arts Block Building in Greenfield to cater to a lunch crowd.

Like its Hatfield location, the Smithsonian in Northampton will feature eight varieties of soups including Langlois’ popular chowder recipe that he developed at the Smithsonian Neighborhood Grill and Bar, a full-service restaurant he operated in Hatfield with his wife for 11 years before selling in late 2010. The chowder, lobster bisque and beef chili are soup mainstays, with other flavors rotating depending on the season and demand. Many of the soups are made with locally-grown vegetables such as asparagus and squash.

“We are a full-blown soup concept,” Langlois said.

The Northampton location will also offer an assortment of freshly made cupcakes made daily by Kim Scribner, a baker Langlois convinced to come out of retirement when he started the Hatfield location in 2012.

The Northampton eatery will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. While the cafe does a majority of its business at lunchtime, the restaurant also serves a morning menu with items such as breakfast sandwiches, muffins, cinnamon buns and organic coffee out of Maine called Wicked Joe’s Coffee.

The new cafe will be larger than its other locations, with 30 to 40 seats including window seating, iPhone charging stations and a Wi-Fi hot spot.

A career chef and restaurateur, Langlois has also owned Smithsonian Catering for years. The idea for a chowder house cafe had been in his mind long before he sold the restaurant on Elm Street in Hatfield. Not only did he believe the idea would succeed, but Langlois also wanted to cut back on the long hours the restaurant required.

The small chain restaurant has become a family affair. In addition to the Peter and Terrie Langlois, the couple’s three sons — Zachary, Nikolas and Benjamin — are also heavily involved in the business. Benjamin will manage the Northampton cafe, while Nikolas runs the eatery in Greenfield and Zachary runs the production facility in Hatfield with his father.