‘Papken Suni’ Social Club Celebrates 5th Year

Kevork and Mania Boyajian

At a time when ethnic clubs and restaurants appear to be teetering or at least mired in uncertainly, here’s one that’s celebrating a fifth anniversary and venturing forward.

We’re talking about the Papken Suni Social Club. If you didn’t know otherwise, you might think it’s a place where people gather to drink a few libations and engage themselves in a friendly game of tavlou and pinochle.

Beneath the veneer is a restaurant managed by Kevork and Mania Boyajian, who hopped aboard five years ago in a venue initiated by the Boston Gomideh.

The question remained—and it was a valid one: How would people gravitate to an eatery if the concept remained a social interlude?

Well, it’s the age-old success story. Word of mouth. Little if any public advertising. Let the food and the people do the talking. Reputations are created by good behavior and an even better product.

In some ways, it’s still the best kept secret in Watertown at 76 Bigelow Ave., which leads to another assumption. The reputation of any business depends largely upon what the public hasn’t found out as yet, unless, of course, you’ve tried it.

“Everyone who comes inside here is like family to us,” Kevork says. “We wouldn’t want it any other way.”

One day last week, he catered to a large crowd. At one end was a group of 20 enjoying the festivities of the day. They ate and drank to heart’s content. At the other end, the Lowell Gomideh with 13 members had just adjourned a meeting downstairs and was ready for some serious eating.

Wine and appetizers set the palate for individual entrees that covered the gamut. I chose the chicken kebab, which is always prepared to delicacy. Others said the same for the beef, lamb, and kheyma. I could become a food critic here but that’s not my business.

I’ll tell you this much. The “agoump,” as it is affectionately known, is a dining experience and has only gotten better with time. Weddings and socials. Mercy meals. A businessman’s lunch. Or just a humble family gathering. The Boyajians serve any occasion at any time and become part of your family.

It never used to be this idyllic. Kevork left his job as an auto body mechanic to pursue his dream. The two are from Aleppo and settled in Watertown 18 years ago, 3 years after they married. Managing a restaurant was the furthest thing from their minds.

The story gets even better. The “agoump” goes back to my AYF days. We met downstairs at the absolute height of the AYF as I knew it, and people like James Mandalian and Jimmy Tashjian would drop by and give one of their proverbial talks. Every Armenian VIP stopped here to recharge.

General Dro Kanayan had his Armenian coffee here with a good 5-cent cigar. Hard to believe it’s been 50 years since his death. He always took the time to greet you.

Call me far-fetched. The “agoump” would have been a perfect setting for a Norman Rockwell illustration. The characters that romped around here were icons in our community, blue collar types, kids looking for guidance in a new world.

And now, it’s a place where you can secure a good meal without the hubbub of Boston, speak your Armenian if that’s your choice, read a periodical, hold a meeting, celebrate a birthday or other special occasion, or mourn your dead.

I like it casual. I don’t enjoy a whole lot of hoopla and nonsense. But most of all, I like a good, quiet, home-cooked dinner. The table often sags with food. The bread is always fresh. And the wine chilled.

In some ways, Kevork reminds me of epicurean/restaurant guru George Mardikian. You may associate him with the Omar Khayyam Restaurant in San Francisco. This, too, was confined in space, not food. George could be found roaming from table to table, greeting his clientele, wondering how they enjoyed the food, and moving on. There were no strangers here, only friends waiting to meet.

The Boyajians are parents to two children, Koko and Mary. Quite often, you’ll find them pitching a hand. Two sisters have also been on call.

Among our own gathering this evening was Richard Berberian, a favorite customer and musician who’s played here with his band. He’s drummed up some support from the Council of Armenian Executives, a business network.

Berberian tells us, quite frankly, “For the price and quality, how can you go wrong here? The hospitality is only surpassed by the cuisine.”

So I got to thinking, what about the other groups and associations out there? Every little bit counts in keeping a business solvent.

We left the establishment (617-924-9678) whistling a happy tune, knowing the evening was well spent—and digested.

Source: Armenian Weekly
Link: ‘Papken Suni’ Social Club Celebrates 5th Year

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