A Sneak Peek Inside Matt Jennings’ Townsman
When the husband-and-wife duo of Matt and Kate Jennings announced that they were closing their James Beard Award nominated restaurant, Farmstead, Inc., last June, they broke the collective heart of Providence, Rhode Island. Although the two chefs had fallen in love with their adopted new state, they felt the pull of home calling them back. Lucky for us, as the two talented chefs are now back in Boston and set to open their stunning new restaurant, Townsman, today, February 25.
Located on the ground floor of the Radian Building at 120 Kingston Street, the 4,500-square-foot restaurant pays homage to their roots with locally driven, New England brasserie-inspired fare.
“When I was growing up in Jamaica Plain, I feel like one of the worst things you could call someone was a ‘townie,'” says Matt, “A townie was a person that was uncultured or whatever. But I always thought it would be a great name for a restaurant or a bar. So, I looked it up in the dictionary one day and a synonym for it was ‘townsman,’ which was defined as ‘somebody native to place.’ I thought, ‘Ah, that’s me. I’m from here, I like to use native ingredients, that’s going to be the name of Boston restaurant.”
Townsman’s gorgeous interior is as personal as the cuisine, with features like a sprawling tile mosaic taken from one of Jennings’ favorite vintage cookbooks, sustainably foraged walnut tables made by a friend and furniture-maker in Rhode Island, ceramic dishware crafted by local potter Jeremy Ogusky, and a boar’s head procured from one of Matt Jennings’ past hunting trips. Other touches include blackened barn board and charred woods on the banquettes, all sourced from a farm in Texas, a 10-seat butcher block-topped crudo bar, which Matt says is “a nod to New England diner culture,” and a leather, granite-topped cocktail bar with antique glass mirrors, co-designed by Jim Meehan of PDT fame.
“We really aiming for levity with the space,” Matt says. “So the goal was that if you’re one of the 17,000 people working in the area, you get out at 5 o’clock, you come in here for a cocktail and a burger at the bar and have it be really casual. Or you have the opportunity to come into the 75-seat dining room and have a full blowout $130-a-head experience. We wanted both of those things for this neighborhood. We’re big on creating community, and knowing there wasn’t a restaurant down here that could do those things, that made us realize it was a tremendous opportunity.”
The Jennings, along with pastry chef Meghan Thompson (formerly of Steel & Rye) and sous chefs Brian Young (Post 390) and Matt Leddy (Farmstead, Inc.), have forsaken the small plate trend to create a friendlier, easy-to-navigate dining experience with traditional categories such as hors d’oeuvres, appetizers, and entrees. The menu begins with a selection of crudos such as fluke with sesame purée, dukkah, and green apple; and Sparrow Arc carrots with stracciatella, smoked cippolini, and farro. Jennings’ robust charcuterie program offers national as well as house-made selections, available a la carte or in a brasserie-style board alongside local shellfish. Three cooks will be stationed at the charcuterie counter serving up country hams from Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky, artisanal cheeses, and a range of exclusive, long-cured items developed by Joshua Smith from Moody’s Delicatessen in Waltham.
A section of hors d’oeuvres features small bites like beef cheek and apple pierogies with cultured cream and togarashi. Appetizers include a root salad with herbed labneh, and what’s sure to become one of their signature dishes: charred baby octopus with sumptuous, crispy smoked potatoes, blood orange, and aioli. Mains range from a stuffed duck breast, to fisherman’s stew with pork belly, to a 32-ounce rib steak for two with chimichurri, collards, and ‘dirty’ frites. Thompson’s desserts round out the menu, and include creations like her steamed Meyer lemon cake with concord grape and shiso leaf.
Bar manager Sean Frederick (formerly of Citizen Public House) has designed Townsman’s craft cocktail program using local brands and seasonal ingredients with offerings like the Kingston Cup (Pimm’s No. 1, Jamaican rum, citrus, fennel, and Szechuan ginger beer), Indian Pudding Milk Punch (corn whiskey, aged rum, muscovado, whey, vanilla, and spices), and a mean Old Fashioned on draft. General manager and wine director Meredith Gallagher’s (Menton) eclectic wine list highlights small, old world producers with a focus on French, biodynamic, and organic bottles. Additionally, a selection of craft beer is available from local brewers such as Notch and Jennings’ personal favorite, Pretty Things.
A lunch menu will be rolled out at the end of March and Jennings’ says he’ll be introducing different nightly specials, including items like a quail schnitzel and seafood pot pie. A bar menu, featuring burgers and pastas will be available after 10 p.m. on weekday, and after 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Townsman is open for dinner from 5:30-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5:30-11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. See below for the full menu.
120 Kingston St., Boston; 617-210-4743 or townsmanboston.com.