Matt Jennings prefers the term “family man” over “three-time James Beard Award finalist.” But both titles seem to fit equally well for the chef/owner of the forthcoming Townsman, opening on the ground floor of Radian in February.
The fingerprints of a few generations of Jennings are on the restaurant. There are his kids, who, now reaching school age, were the impetus for him and his wife, Kate, to close their well-regarded Providence restaurant, Farmstead, and move back to the Boston area. Then there are all those childhood trips across New England that Jennings took with his own father, stopping at diners in New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Those long-ago outings served as the inspiration for the heart of the new restaurant, a 10-seat counter that Jennings calls a crudo bar. It will serve cheeses, charcuterie, tartares, ceviches and raw bar selections—some of the fare that gained Jennings his James Beard recognition.
“It’s kind of a tip of the hat to the diner culture of New England,” Jennings says. “It was a part of growing up around here. I kind of wanted to extend the philosophy of being able to sit across the counter from whoever is making your food and have a conversation with them about it.”
Certain to start some conversations at Townsman are the signature plateaus. Created in the style of a brasserie shellfish tower, the bottom tier will feature seafood preparations such as oysters or clams on the half-shell, seafood terrine or marinated scallops. The second tier will include charcuterie, some made in house, others custom made for Townsman by New England Charcuterie’s Joshua Smith. And the plateau will be finished with pickles, relishes and condiments.
“It’s kind of all the things I like to eat when I go to a restaurant. I’d order one of these and maybe have a little bread, a couple of beers,” Jennings says. “It’s definitely for two, or maybe four as an appetizer. It’s around $120, but it’s very substantial.”
There will also be vegetable-driven dishes such as cauliflower and broccoli topped simply with herbs and spices and cooked on the plancha, and an in-house handmade pasta program is planned for lunch and dinner. But Jennings made his bones with meat, which will have a strong presence on the menu.
“We’re no stranger to the swine,” Jennings says. “We’ll be bringing in whole lambs, whole pigs, whole goats. We’re doing a lot of butchery in house and showcasing the beautiful meat.”
It’ll be served in a 100-seat space decked with white subway tile, Parisian wallpaper, recycled paper lights, cement floors and handmade walnut tables. Near the entry is the bar and lounge area, and Jennings hopes to add a remote bar to the patio that sits on the Greenway once spring arrives. While it might have the feel of a beer garden with a trellis and some herbs growing, Jennings stresses that the main beverage focus throughout the restaurant will be seasonal and local cocktails from Sean Frederick (Citizen Public House).
“I think his forte is taking those traditional American drinks and bringing a modern spin to them, having them fresh and reinvented,” Jennings says. “And that’s really the direction for dinner, dessert and drinks.”
Townsman 120 Kingston St., Boston (617.993.0750) townsmanboston.com