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A Tale of Two Brothers

After putting in years of work at square establishments, Lawrence and Brendan Hopkins open a place of their own

By Daniela J. Lamas, Crimson Staff Writer

It's Saturday morning and Lawrence Hopkins is on his hands and knees in sawdust.

Sanding a doorframe, Hopkins seems at home in the Mount Auburn Street construction site, with its boarded-up windows and makeshift plywood door.

For the past two months, Hopkins and his brother Brendan have been working daily to help Daedalus--a Square restaurant and bar slated to open later this month--take shape.

"We're really putting our heart and soul into this place," Hopkins says, gesturing to the ongoing construction around him.

It is this care and attention to detail that Hopkins hopes will distinguish his restaurant and help it survive in the often-cutthroat Square market.

A Life-Long Dream

The Hopkins brothers are not strangers to the restaurant business.

Since Lawrence's move from Galway, Ireland in 1989, both he and his brother have worked in the Square's Border Cafe, Grafton Street and in Temple Bar on Mass Ave.

But while they enjoyed bartending, Lawrence says, having their own restaurant has been a life-long dream.

"It has always been our goal to get a restaurant together," Hopkins says, speaking in a soft Irish accent. "We started saving about a decade ago and this year, we were just able to pull it together financially."

Finding space in the Square--in the location previously occupied by Siam Garden--was a stroke of good luck, Hopkins says.

"We were looking in Boston, all over the area," Hopkins remembers. "Then, out of the blue, our restaurant broker told us about this space. We looked around and really got a sense of what we could do with the place."

As he describes the layout of the restaurant, Lawrence gestures excitedly.

The first floor will be separated into a restaurant and bar. A narrow staircase leads to the second floor, which boasts a domed glass ceiling.

On the second floor, the Hopkins brothers sit together at one of the few booths, smoking cigarettes and surveying the space. In the corner of the room next to a second bar, Lawrence says, he hopes to have a lounge with armchairs and couches.

For the second floor, he envisions a more casual, comfortable feel. Hopkins says he has applied for a permit for a fireplace.

"When the rain beats down on the roof, you feel like you're in a waterfall," he says. "With a fire going, it would be perfect."

Although Daedalus--an upscale restaurant and bar--seems similar in its style to Grafton Street, Hopkins says he does not think his restaurant poses any threat.

"There's so much room for more restaurants and bars in the Square," Hopkins says "People just get tired of the same stuff all the time."

Grafton Street owner Patrick Lee--whose restaurant will move to another spot in the Square later this year--says he agrees.

"The more places there are in the Square, the better it is for everyone," Lee says. "More restaurants bring in more clientele. I wish them luck."

Hopkins says he hopes that the restaurant will cater both to Cambridge residents and students starved for a change of pace.

"There's going to be a very eclectic crowd," Hopkins says. "Everyone can come here."

Hopkins describes the food he will serve as "contemporary American cuisine."

He plans, however, to supplement the more traditional fare with a special menu featuring obscure meats, like anaconda and boar.

"Those unusual sorts of meats are very popular right now," Hopkins says.

All in the Family

But Hopkins says he hopes that his restaurant will be distinguished by more than obscure meat.

"We're unique in the sense that this will be completely family-run," Hopkins says.

Last month, for instance, two more Hopkins brothers came to Cambridge from Ireland to help with the gutting and the second floor construction.

"We have been here seven days a week ever since we got the keys at the beginning of November," Hopkins says.

Even the name of the restaurant--Daedalus--is a personal touch. The reference to the main character in James Joyce's Ulysses speaks to the brothers' Irish heritage.

And the Greek mythological tale of Daedalus and his son Icarus appealed to Hopkins because it lends itself to a creative, winged restaurant logo.

"We liked all the tie-ins," Hopkins says. "The name really seemed to work for us."

Hopkins says he hopes that his restaurant--a small, family-owned business--might help turn the tide against national corporations replacing long-standing Square establishments.

Brendan Hopkins says that while working in the Square off-and-on for the past six years, he has seen the neighborhood change.

"It's been slowly losing its identity," he says.

Lawrence Hopkins says he agrees.

"With us coming in to the Square, we're trying to give a little bit of its identity back," Hopkins says. "We'll work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to make this place succeed."

Pralhad KC, owner of the neighboring Prem-La Market, says he hopes that the restaurant's success will revive the often-neglected corner of the Square, which includes Tommy's House of Pizza, Prem-La Market and Christian Bazaar.

"I'm really looking forward to it," KC says. "I hope there will be more traffic in this area. I think the restaurant will be very nice and classy. We'll welcome it."

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