The Blue Ox makes its presence felt downtown

There is a pulse. And it is strong and healthy. The Blue Ox of Oxford Street is resurrecting the idea that there can be an exciting nightlife in downtown Lynn. Coupling a high-quality but accessible menu with a well-stocked bar, the atmosphere is upscale but unintimidating, a place where you could celebrate an event or grab a drink with friends and watch the game on the big screens.

And the chef actually invites you to cook with him.

Bringing some Boston flair to Lynn, Matt O’Neil, Swampscott native and Nahant resident, hosts cooking demonstrations each month. Drawing from his experience in the kitchens of some of Boston’s best such as No. 9 Park, Prezza, and Copia, O’Neil encourages participants to make gnocchi as well as a mascarpone dessert or a spring risotto side dish. But if you don’t catch him at one of his cooking demos you can always wait to watch him at noon on Sundays on ESPN’s Fantasy Football Now where he coaches fans to create tasty tailgating treats all season long.

Since its opening in April, The Blue Ox seems to be humming along nicely. Manager Joanna O’Neil also recounts other events that keeps the people coming and coming back, “…Lobsterfest ‘09, (which was held in August), beer and wine dinners, as well as fundraisers such as our monthly ‘celebrity bartending night.’ We have many more events planned for fall/winter that will incorporate the community and other local businesses and restaurants. We are also experimenting with live music on Wednesday evenings.”

The Blue Ox was started by the Lynn Restaurant Group, Inc. Headed by Lynn attorney Mark DeJoie in conjunction with Chef O’Neil, the Group began with local residents and business people who saw the downtown area’s potential. Its goal was to provide “a community restaurant and meeting place in the downtown… for friends, family, neighbors and business associates.”

The community surrounding the Oxford Street location wanted to see it succeed; Joanna O’Neil credits their support as vital to the success of their opening, “There were a number of community organizations that helped us open our location in downtown Lynn. The loft community in the neighboring streets has been really helpful as well. I think they all want to see the neighborhood defeat its reputation. Places like The Blue Ox and now Turbine (a long-anticipated wine bar scheduled to appear on Central Street in the coming months) will bring in more and more people. It will become a destination.”

According to The Blue Ox’s reputation growing from positive reviews from the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald as well as TV Diner, and most notably a Best of Boston 2009 “Best New Restaurant – North of Boston” award from Boston Magazine, it already has. O’Neil has had tables from New Hampshire, Western Massachusetts and the Cape, as well as what she calls “a regular crowd from Boston that travel to Lynn to eat” but they do not undervalue the local residents. “Our main customer base is from Lynn, Nahant, Swampscott and Marblehead. “We believe the value of our menu is driving them to us and the high quality of our food, as well as the friendly staff, is bringing them back again and again.”

O’Neil hopes that they will be able to expand the restaurants hours in the fall and host more events for the public. “Our main goal is to keep hosting the community and build more friendships as we build our business.” Any business person who is savvy enough to appreciate the architecture of the old city buildings, understand the prime location of public transportation, value the fierce loyalty of the locals while helping to revive the nightlife around town will always have a friend in the city of Lynn.

The Blue Ox is located at 191 Oxford Street, for more information visit , or for reservations, call 781-780-5722.

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