By Gail Ciampa
Journal Food Editor
BRISTOL, R.I. — In opening his second East Bay restaurant, Sam Glynn knew a few things about introducing the Statesman Tavern to the public.
"I knew we wouldn't be flying under the radar," he said.
That meant his staff and kitchen had to be ready right out of the gate. They were indeed prepared, just a few days into service as Glynn introduced the nicely named Statesman in the space where Persimmon thrived for more than a decade.
Glynn has made the Statesman space his own, and guests entering will know they are in a new restaurant. He did this by enlarging what was a small four-seat bar. It now runs almost the whole length of one wall, and the number of stools has more than doubled. Filament bulb lighting with simple copper shades create a charming look that evokes the name. A flag hangs on another wall as a statement piece.
The restaurant still seats 40 at tables and a few corner booths.
Pozole is a hearty Mexican comfort soup/stew made with pork and white hominy. It's served with chips and shredded cabbage. The Providence Journal/Sandor Bodo
Glynn is a beer geek so you can be assured of finding excellent, curated choices. Among the handful of taps are Proclamation Ale’s Tendril IPA from West Kingston and Overshores Brewing Farmhouse Ale from Connecticut. Other beers are bottled or canned, including Two Roads' Road 2 Ruin, a double IPA, from Connecticut.
There's a nice cocktail list as well, but I think the wine selection also shines with interesting, out of the ordinary choices. And the servers are well schooled in the list.
We started with a glass of Von Winning Riesling ($11) and Badenhorst Family Secateurs Rosé ($10). But I really appreciated being told about a second rosé, De Bos, from South Africa, that sounded very interesting because it's blended with 47 varietals.
Executive chef Chris Kleyla cooked in the South and brings some comfort food to the menu from those roots.
I adored his pimento cheese plate ($6) with a crock of pepper-loaded cheese, grated, not mashed, so it was as lovely as it was delicious. I inhaled it, and the pickled radishes that came with it. I enjoyed the cheese not just on the slices of bread that accompanied it, but also on the chips that came with hearty Pozole ($20) a soup-y stew or is it a stew-y soup. Describe it any way you like, but it had a fragrant chile broth that was spicy, but perfectly so.
It had tender pieces of pork that melted in my mouth. It also had white hominy, which I never had before, that I remember anyway. It's large kernels of corn, made puffy and chewy by a processing technique. It came with nicely shredded cabbage and a bowl of cilantro plus chips. Glynn said it's Texas comfort food, and also considered a hangover cure.
The Bacon Double Cheeseburger at the Statesman Tavern in Bristol comes with housemade potato chips. It's served on a hearty toasted brioche bun. The Providence Journal/Sandor Bodo
Of course we had to try the burger because that is Glynn's stock in trade — and it was divine. Here the Bacon Double Cheeseburger ($18) comes with housemade potato chips. It is indeed two beautiful burgers, with the bacon strategically placed between them. The bun was hearty toasted brioche, which was excellent.
Both the Pozole and burger are main dishes, but those seeking to eat lighter can enjoy charcuterie dishes or small plates of mussels (which looked quite tempting), bluefish, Gulf shrimp, chicken sausage or veggies.
There are also snack items beyond the pimento including popcorn, olives, nuts and pickles.
Checks are delivered in a little journal in which diners can sign a guestbook or leave comments.
Glynn has created Statesman as a neighborhood tavern where you can eat dinner or drop in for a drink and a snack, both quite successfully.
If you go: Statesman Tavern, 31 State St., Bristol, (401) 396-5115,statesmantavern.com. Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 5-9 p.m.; and Thursday to Saturday 5-10 p.m.