a selection of takeout items from tempus photo by virginia harold, courtesy of tempus

2020 Best New Restaurants // No. 8 Tempus

A char siu lamb belly bun sits next to a McChicken clone. Polenta Bolognese is followed by black cod with kombu clam broth, potato and trout roe. A gin cocktail with oleo-saccharum, milk-washed Earl Grey and dehydrated lemon is listed alongside one with bourbon, vermouth and bitters. Tempus’ menu is all about combining the familiar with the unknown, the comforting with the contemporary. It really works. “I see Tempus as a place for all,” said chef-operator Ben Grupe of his first solo restaurant. “It’s an inclusive environment.”

chicken sandwich // photo by virginia harold, courtesy of tempus

While Grupe, who was nominated for a James Beard Award during his time as executive chef of Ben Poremba’s Elaia, worked for years to build out the perfect restaurant and plan a thoughtful menu full of unique dishes, he did not anticipate the kind of environment he’d be opening to. So, he and his team pivoted. “It’s been an exciting challenge to get across what we’re trying to do. The menu is designed for takeout - it’s designed to go in a box. We can’t really do these refined plate-ups,” he explained. “Our philosophy and ethos are still the same, but it’s different than what the original vision was.”

chef-operator ben grupe // portrait by r.j. hartbeck, courtesy of tempus

That said, the rich, balanced bacon sandwich (the restaurant’s take on a BLT), the creamy gnocchi blanketed with maitake mushroom and zesty preserved lemon, and the beautiful olive oil cake with strawberry preserves, pink peppercorn and yogurt prove that Tempus is already a serious restaurant full of radiant ideas, surgical execution and, most importantly, delicious food. “The menu is going to evolve as we evolve,” Grupe said. “We’re starting small, but we’re looking to grow.” Though we’re already well on board, we anxiously await Tempus’ next transformation, whatever it will be. We know that Ben Grupe is just getting started.