Chef Sarah Wade is making good on the promise she made to herself—in front of the Food Network audience—a year and a half ago: She’s opening her own restaurant. The original chef of Lulu’s Allston and a Chopped Gold Medal Games champion, Wade is opening Stillwater in downtown Boston later this year, in the prominent space that was once Townsman.
Wade’s network TV win in January 2018 came with a $50,000 grand prize. “I told the world on TV I was going to take my money and buy a restaurant,” Wade recalls. “I have to make good on my word.”
Situated the edge of Chinatown and the Leather District at 120 Kingston St., the location is “a chef’s dream,” Wade says. “I was looking for a restaurant for nearly a year, and I was very excited” about the restaurant and bar that anchors the Radian apartment building. Townsman closed last July, after just more than three years in business.
“I love how much that neighborhood is growing. It really has a neighborhood feel,” Wade says. Not to mention the property’s like-new kitchen that was decked out by Townsman chef Matthew Jennings less than five years ago, she adds, and the outdoor patio near the Greenway. “Everything about it felt right.”
Stillwater will be a “hangout spot” for the neighborhood, from afternoon into late-night, Wade says. Named for a town in her native state of Oklahoma, the food will land in the chef’s “reimagined comfort food” wheelhouse. She is currently developing menus for quick-service lunch, weekend brunch, and full-service dinner, plus “sexy bar snacks,” she says. There will be a cocktail program, as well as 12 draft lines dedicated to craft beer.
Wade cooked all over the U.S. before moving to Boston in 2014 to open Lulu’s with owners Peter and Joshua Culpo and Justin Dalton-Ameen. As opening executive chef, she was responsible for the Best of Boston 2019 beer bar’s Southern-inspired, creative but approachable menu items, like short rib-topped Cajun-spiced tater tots, crispy fried chicken with anise honey butter, cheese sauce-laden steak bomb tacos, and more. Her winning stint on Chopped required Wade to fry something in every round, and she was delighted to showcase her homemade doughnuts on TV—such morsels could reappear at Stillwater, she says.
“I love doughnuts; they’re so fun and tasty and they make people happy,” Wade says. “Fun” is the goal for her menu development overall. “At the end of the day, [Stillwater] is a fun hangout spot with great food and great vibes; a place you just want to be.”
The chef has silent business partners, and she plans to hire front-of-house and bar managers, among other staff.
Wade successfully transferred Townsman’s licenses, including its full liquor license, to Stillwater last month. Designer Maggie Wraight is leading relatively minor renovations to put a Stillwater spin on things.
The former dining room “felt a little cold and cafeteria-like,” Wade says. While Stillwater is keeping with the modern-industrial aesthetic, “My goal with the dining space in the back is to warm it up and make it cozy,” she says. Plans call for blues, amber, and grays in the color scheme, and built-in banquettes and booth-style seating; plus a new, 18-seat private dining room in the back of the restaurant.
Stillwater is on track for a fall 2019 opening. Stay in the loop on the progress with @StillwaterBoston on Instagram.
Stillwater, coming fall 2019, 120 Kingston St., Boston, Instagram.
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