"We just got the keys a week ago!" exclaimed restaurateur Sam Glynn. He was in the midst of a series of transitions earlier this month that would take him from being the owner-operator of a single standalone restaurant (Chomp in Warren), to what the industry considers a "multiunit operator." Glynn had just acquired the restaurant space of the former Persimmon, in Bristol, which is moving to Providence. Glynn has christened the new place Statesman Tavern, after its address on State Street.
The restaurant is on its third iteration. It was known as Hotpoint until 2005. Then it was acquired by local celebrity chef Champe Speidel and underwent a major makeover before becoming Persimmon. National attention followed, and the space soon was due for another change.
Not only is change in the wind for the soon-to-be Statesman, but it is all around in both towns. "There is a resurgence in the restaurant community in these towns," said Glynn. "We have restaurants [in both towns] that people can take pride in, both the businesspeople who opened them and the guests. These are chef-driven, owner-operated places and the food is incredible!" He talked enthusiastically about the caliber of restaurants – both established and new in both towns.
Glynn analyzes his guests. "So many people who live in town work in Providence," he said. "They don't want to come home and then go back to the city for dinner. And they don't have to." He estimates that the traffic patterns are actually reversing themselves, with 10-15 percent of his nightly business at Chomp from Providence and nearby towns in Massachusetts such as Swansea and Somerset.
Patrons have traveled to Glynn's "better burger" concept from a distance. Last summer, two men walked in and announced they had just driven in for dinner – from Brooklyn. They had followed Chomp and Executive Chef Chris Kleyla on Instagram. The two sat on Chomp's patio for two hours, paid for their dinner, got in their car and drove back to New York. "That's the power of social media … and food!" declared Glynn.
So what will the menu and cachet be at the Statesman Tavern? One thing it will not be is a burger place. "That's what we have Chomp for," explained Glynn. "This will be an opportunity to apply what we have created [at Chomp] to different vehicles – chicken, seafood. We'll be using Blackbird Farms [local beef], fresh fish, interesting vegetables from the local farms and some different touches." Glynn's concept is to bridge the gap between fine dining and casual, which is the popular style in restaurants in 2016.
Kleyla is an up-and-coming young chef who is poised for success. He spent time in the burgeoning food city of Austin, at a couple of equally up-and-coming eateries in that hipster capital. Glynn says his new chef will find and prepare the best food he possibly can.
The new restaurant is in testing mode, with Kleyla tweaking his menu and Glynn making adjustments to the culinary-friendly kitchen he acquired at Statesman Tavern. "This [facility] makes the process so much easier!" he said, calling the kitchen "top of the line." The Statesman crew will make some cosmetic adjustments to the dining space in Bristol, including extending the bar. Glynn is a believer in dining as entertainment. One of the most popular features at Chomp is the open kitchen, which he plans to make part of the Statesman experience.
"When we get cooking, that's when the real show starts!" he said. The Statesman Tavern has a target opening date in late spring. •
Bruce Newbury's Dining Out talk radio show is heard on 920 WHJJ-AM, 1540 WADK-AM and on mobile applications. He can be reached by email at Bruce@brucenewbury.com.