The Papken Suni Social Club is living up to its name these days. It’s gone kef the third Friday of every month and is drawing a crowd.
Thus far, it’s working like a charm as hosts Kevork and Mania Boyajian are greeting an extended clientele in what’s being labeled a “kef and kebab” atmosphere. For a slight cover charge, one gets the best of both environments: good food and good music.
As mentioned in an earlier column, the new-looking Agoump could very well be the best-kept secret in town, But not necessarily from the ARF-ARS crowd, which has quickly hopped aboard. One regular happens to be popular oudist Richard Berberian, who’s also among the performers.
It’s been an aggressive transformation of its once-tired self where men gathered to smoke cigars and play tavlou or pinochle. The place is oozing with personality with artwork gracing the walls. The Boyajians have been diligent at work the past year, getting the reputation out. Much of it has been word of mouth.
“Everyone who comes inside here is like family to us,” says Boyajian, who left his job as an auto body mechanic. “We wouldn’t want it any other way.”
The Boyajians are doing whatever it takes to solidify their presence and make it work. When the opportunity came to introduce a musical evening, they jumped at the chance. The two hail from Aleppo and settled in Watertown 15 years ago.
Below is a Q & A with Richard Berberian and host Kevork Boyajian.
Q: What other musicians are playing? Are services being donated or rendered at a discount?
A: Richard Berberian is joined by Mal Barsamian (clarinet), Ron Tutunjian (dumbeg), and Stepan Megerdichian (bass). They’re performing at a heavily discounted rate to get the establishment going, joined by guest artists/vocalists.
Q: Cover charge? Menu? Other amenities?
A: There is a fixed price of $40 a person, which covers an extensive menu and all entertainment. Menu includes mezza with kheyma, tabouleh, hummus, olives, cheese, Syrian bread, along with one or two other viable items like imam bayaldi (eggplant). Dinner would include kebab, pilaf, salad, and grilled vegetables, served family style. There is a full bar and table-side bottle service at reasonable prices, basically all you can eat.
Q: What’s been the response thus far?
A: ‘Kef & Kebab’ takes place the third Friday evening of every month. The response has been pretty good with 50-70 guests attending. The next event will be Jan. 18. Because of the limited capacity (100), reservations are important to ensure a seat. Those interested in attending may call (617) 924-9678.
Q: What’s the atmosphere like?
A: Very informal and family-oriented. In September and October, the evenings happened to coincide with Boston AYF Junior meetings so the place was filled with parents who took their children to the meeting, then came by to enjoy dinner and music. The kids came after the meeting (at no cost) and spent some great family time dancing. This is not a dark, nightclub atmosphere. If one is looking for that atmosphere or a more formal restaurant, it’s not here. This is intimate and the food has grown very popular. The music is varied in style. A lot of requests are honored and much of it is the traditional stuff. The band also uses the opportunity to work on new material.
Q: Your feelings about the place and how the event happens to be a continual work in progress?
A: People have grown very comfortable here. The music is not loud. The focus is on hanging out with good friends and family members, enjoying high-quality, home-cooked Armenian food, and dancing when the mood dictates. In the coming year, other musicians may join the ensemble, including Onnik Dinkjian, Khoren Mouradian, and Arthur Apkarian. Great entertainment to complement the food and atmosphere.
Q: Anything else you wish to add?
A: We think it’s great to see the Papken Suni Social Club hosting these events and providing such an opportunity for the community. It’s a great deal and an opportunity to hear a first-rate Armenian band inside an intimate setting. ‘Kef & Kebab’ has the potential to become a wait-list monthly event as we move forward. One price covers everything. No one is asking for additional donations by pitching their organizations or various causes. Just food and fun!