Restaurant that transformed historic building into dining destination celebrates 9th anniversary

Restaurant that transformed historic building into dining destination celebrates 9th anniversary

Branch Line has transformed a former military weapons development facility into a dining establishment. (Courtesy of Branch Line)

Tucked away in the historic Watertown Arsenal, Branch Line is more than just a restaurant; it is a testament to community, perseverance, and the art of culinary craftsmanship. Celebrating its ninth anniversary in October 2024, Branch Line has become a beloved Watertown fixture, owing much of its success to its deep roots in the area and its commitment to quality and hospitality.

General Manager Andrew Holden, himself a Watertown native, recalls the serendipitous discovery of the restaurant’s location—a sprawling, historic space dating back to 1912. Holden said he was captivated by the building’s rich history, which had once been a center of industrial activity during the military and industrial revolutions that produced trains, weapons, and military equipment. Determined to preserve that heritage while creating a welcoming space, Holden envisioned Branch Line not just as a restaurant, but as a place where the community could come together and feel at home.

“I was looking around Cambridge and Somerville and came across this beautiful space. As soon as I walked in and saw this historic space, I knew we had to open a restaurant here,” Holden said.

Branch Line began its journey with a vision different from its original concept. Initially conceived as a beer-focused venue by its owners, Holden and his team pivoted toward creating a more eclectic, neighborhood-oriented venue. With the rotisserie as its focal point, the restaurant quickly became known for its rotisserie chicken, a main attraction visible from nearly every table.

Reflecting on the evolution of Branch Line, Holden emphasizes the importance of maintaining connections with the community and innovating to keep guests coming back.

“Restaurants are so humbling and have so many ups and downs, with staff changes and people moving in and out of the area, that you can never rest on your laurels,” Holden said. “You always have to work harder to connect with more customers and get to know people in the community.”

The Melissa Ostrow Branch Line opened at the former U.S. Army Arsenal in 2015.

In addition to serving as a restaurant, Branch Line is also intended to be a neighborhood space—a place where regulars meet guests from neighboring cities and even further afield, drawn by the restaurant’s warm atmosphere and consistently excellent food.

“As a nine-year-old now, you’ll see guys from Belmont, Arlington, Brighton,” Holden said. “I’ll run into tables that have come from the Back Bay and the South End, and that’s all great, but it’s all about Watertown. It’s about the town you’re in and the people you need to connect with.”

The journey hasn’t been without its challenges, especially highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many in the hospitality industry, Branch Line has struggled through uncertain times, dealing with closures and restrictions. With the support of loyal customers and the local community, the restaurant has adapted, utilizing its spacious patio and offering takeout options, even though Holden said he initially didn’t think takeout would work.

“It was a really scary time,” he said. “When we had the opportunity to open for takeout and delivery, I told the team, ‘I don’t know if there’s a business for casual fine dining like us,’ and the managers said, ‘We know there is.’ And then everyone in the community started ordering takeout from us.”

Looking to the future, Branch Line continues to evolve, embracing new culinary trends while staying true to its roots. As Watertown grows and changes, Branch Line grows and changes with it—a place where locals can bring their families for a casual meal or to celebrate special occasions.

“I just want to say thank you to the community,” Holden said. “If you haven’t eaten here in a while, everything is always evolving and getting fresh. I couldn’t be happier and prouder to be in my hometown, to be a resident here and have a restaurant that’s part of the community.”

For Holden and his team, Branch Line is not just a restaurant; it is a labor of love and a testament to the enduring spirit of community and hospitality. As Watertown’s culinary scene flourishes, Branch Line stands tall—a symbol of culinary excellence and a cherished part of the fabric of the community.