They’ve done it again. Restaurateurs Scott Beck (The Chelsea) and partners Kevin McHugh (Spotted Horse, The Gray Goose and The Chelsea) and business partner Steve Calzone opened Little Barn on the Post Road in Westport in early December, with Chef Jeff Spence at the helm.
Once more, they’ve tapped into the public zeitgeist, this time creating an instantly popular rustic pub that offers casual fare in a setting that blends the charms of a rural ski chalet with a Vermont barn.
The idea to create a new pub concept within a barn was sparked when McHugh sold his interest in Little Pub in Ridgefield. Beck says, “When we found out that the Swanky Frank’s space was possibly available, we moved quickly. We played with a few different concepts, capitalizing on the barn feel that we were going to bring to the space. Kevin loved the roofline of the building and saw something utilizing a barn from the get-go. The next question was which concept to put into it and make it work. Ultimately, we decided that this would be a great pub location, and we would create a pub within a barn. We had other concepts in mind, but I thought a pub would have the widest appeal.”
But it wouldn’t be just any pub. They put their stamp on Little Barn, utilizing faded red barn siding and incorporating signature elements—weathered barn wood, a stone hearth, exposed rafters and repurposed fixtures—all hallmarks of The Spotted Horse, The Chelsea, Little Pub and The Grey Goose.
When it came time to do the build-out of Little Barn, Beck and McHugh called in Westport architect Rick Hoag to help bring their design concept to fruition. Beck recalls: “After we came up with the concept, Rick was instrumental in the design. Each place develops its own feel based on the concept, the space, the materials we want to use and the flow of the space that we want to create.
“One of the most fun parts of putting a project like this together,” Beck says, “is sourcing materials from all over. For example, Kevin found the barn siding, the antique roof vents and the aged roof in various states—Vermont, Montana and Illinois. I found a bunch of the finishes, like the 1950s antique neon liquor store sign in Florida, the steel chicken wire window from the old Con Ed building in Manhattan, and the old tractor grill that was built into the hostess stand in Chicago. Kevin and I went up to Brimfield Antiques Fair twice this year, as well as to the largest outdoor garage sale in the country up in Lake George. We love going up to these fairs. So much stuff to sort through, but we always find some great pieces.” In a clever twist, the rustic “wood” flooring is actually tile, which withstands the daily beating better than the real McCoy.
A toasty hearth warms up the indoor dining area, and outside, a native stone fireplace, flanked by Adirondack chairs, adds an unexpected glow after dark. The outdoor patio, facing the Post Road, is sure to be a big draw in the spring and fall, when patrons will be dining on crispy calamari and sipping Smoky Margaritas and Georgia Lemonade alfresco. In a clever move, they installed French doors in the bar area, which will open to the patio, virtually doubling the space and enhancing the flow during peak hours.
Beck and McHugh both grew up in Westport, so they got a kick out of transforming the old Dairy Queen, a big Staples High hangout back in the day. Beck jokes, “I’m not sure how many people from the Dairy Queen days are still around but, still, it’s fun to see the transformation from DQ/Swanky Frank’s to how it looks now.”
The Little Barn’s menu is true to the concept. While Chef Spence offers a rounded casual menu that includes a tuna tartar, veggie spring rolls and Thai lettuce cups, as well as down-home chowder, potpies, meatloaf and even fish ’n’ chips, the most popular items are the hefty burgers, tacos and fresh salads. The menu also offers a range of options for kids, all fairly priced.
It seems so simple: Build a friendly neighborhood restaurant/watering hole. Serve up reasonably priced pub grub and a range of drinks in a casual, rustic setting. That’s the winning formula for the team behind the Little Barn. Judging by the full house at lunch and dinner, they’re clearly onto something.