Pull the large wooden door open and you will find a room filled with warm, amber light reflecting off of golden wooden panels and an old map of Texas, birthplace of Jason Ladd, head chef and co-owner.
Ladd recalls, “I discovered cooking as a deep love when I was a very young lad, my teen years, and stuck with it ever since.” Ladd was influenced by the Tex-Mex cooking of his homeland that you can taste in his signature dish, pork meatballs with cheddar grits in barbecue sauce. He uses a combination of cumin, cayenne, and ground chile peppers and is ever refining his barbecue sauce.
In his travels and work, he was influenced by the tastes of many places. The southwest, French creole and cajun is expressed in the jambalaya, and in the Louisiana cajun dish, shrimp and grits. House-made linguine with milk braised pork, from the Portuguese influence in Providence, Rhode Island and from Europe, French cuisine is revealed in the pork rillettes, lobster bisque and baked raclette.
He went to the culinary school, Johnson and Wales University where in Rhode Island he learned the basics of traditional American cuisine. There he met his wife, Shannon, a pastry chef, whose specialty is French pastry and prefers creme brulee and pots de creme. Ladd says, “We definitely try to bring all of our experiences together, so, whether it be a beer on tap or a certain dish, we try to pay homage to all the things we’ve experienced.”
Eventually they moved to Malden and after 15 years, in May of 2014, opened their first restaurant, Ferry Street Food and Drink in the French bistro style, Shannon says, so they can serve a wide range of choices from fine French cuisine to chocolate chip cookies and milk. John, Ladd’s brother, joined them as co-owner and bartender where he offers about 16 local craft beers that are all made within 50 miles of Malden: with 11 brewed in Massachusetts and a few in Maine. They describe the restaurant as Malden’s first gastro-pub and Ladd adds, “I would describe it as contemporary American cuisine … an amalgam of a lot of the places that I like to frequent.”
Burgers are the specialty at Ferry Street Food & Drink. On a recent trip they were served with caramelized onions on a homemade roll. The fries, pickles and even the mustard, freshly ground, were also made in house. Ladd’s food philosophy emphasizes the quality and freshness of locally grown food that is served seasonally. “Simple ingredients served well,” as Ladd describes it. When the season changes and summer rolls around, Shannon hand picks the strawberries that go into her cakes and homemade ice cream.
Ferry Street Food & Drink revolves around the community. Ladd says, “Being a long time Massachusetts resident, I try to include as much local produce, local product and that local flair as I can but staying true to my roots as well.”
The meat is purchased at Dom’s Sausage Co. and Maplewood Meat Market, both in Malden, and the produce at nearby Wilson Farm. The walls are often hung with the work of Malden artists, it serves as a host site for Malden Reads, and actively supports Bread of Life, the local food pantry. That map of Texas, along with the row of one-of-a-kind antique chairs and the bicycle that greets you at the door, were all purchased in Malden at an antique store.
When you dine at Ferry Street Food & Drink you become part of that community circle. –Elizabeth Scorsello
This is the first in a series featuring Malden-based chefs. It’s a collaborative effort of Elizabeth Scorsello and Natalie Hill as they take readers on a cultural tour through Malden’s diverse restaurants.