Authentic Southern barbecue is coming to Setauket thanks to the same restaurateurs who brought Old Fields to Port Jefferson Village.
Set to open in January 2020, the building at 130 Old Town Road is completely remodeled from its time as home to Indian food restaurant Raga.
As a Setauket native who graduated from Ward Melville High School, co-owner David Tunney has had this exact location in his sights for a long time. He said that he originally negotiated for the space to open what eventually became the Port Jefferson Old Fields, but the deal fell through.
“These are my old stomping grounds,” Tunney told GreaterPortJeff. “For four years I wanted that building and it finally came to fruition.”
Four years ago, Old Fields in Port Jefferson opened, replacing Paces Steakhouse. About two-and-a-half years ago he and his partner, Rory Van Nostrand, opened an Old Fields Barbecue in Huntington. There’s also an Old Fields in Greenlawn — the one Tunney took over which begat the brand name he’s been using to expand across the North Shore.
“We cook everything with love,” said Tunney. “It’s so important.”
The owners are bringing what they learned in that location to their new place, everything that they found appealing while traveling across the southern U.S. to cities like Nashville, Tenn. and Austin, Texas while figuring out how they do barbecue. They took that knowledge back to Long Island to make something that will feel and taste authentic.
With a New York City twist, of course.
Tunney says they were also influenced by the Brooklyn barbecue style to give their place a little bit more of an industrial vibe to go along with the authentic barbecue.
The building has been transformed.
Patrons will get a rustic feel from the get-go coming up on stacks of firewood and a red 1956 tractor sitting outside on the front lawn.
Inside, vintage items that you might find at a barn sale upstate are creatively applied to the decor. There are vintage chicken feeders and toaster ovens upcycled into lighting, old farm beams, and 1950s shop lights. Tunney even donated his wooden crate collection that was cut apart to create an artistic wall.
“It looks amazing inside,” said Tunney.
Like they do in Huntington, the food will be an authentic barbecue with smoked meats like pulled pork, corn beef, chorizo sausage, and half chicken, as well as burnt end baked beans, cornbread, and mac and cheese all on the menu. There will be a full bar with craft cocktails like jalapeño tequila, banana bourbon, and applesauce gin.
Everything is going to be served a la carte, with what Van Nostrand called Texas-style ordering at the counter.
“Almost to a T, in every place you go to counter, order food, and go sit down,” he explained.
That self-serve ordering process is altered a bit. After ordering, customers will sit and be served food, drinks, and get the check at the table.
“It’s a little of that, New York service, and Old Field hospitality,” said Van Nostrand.
To get the barbecue cooking style right they were able to get the techniques right from the source.
Israel Castor is the executive chef in Setauket. He started with Tunney from the beginning of Old Fields and build the kitchen in Huntington. They spoke to a lot of pitmasters and for authentic barbecue, the meat is dry rubbed and then smoked. The diners put the sauce on themselves.
“In Texas, that’s how it goes,” Van Nostrand said.
Old Fields created special sauces for their everyday menu. The Smokey Sticky is their most popular. Then there are the bourbon, peach habanero and vinegar sauces, which Van Nostrand said was a Carolina style and very vinegary.
The restaurant has some additional attractions planned.
A shipping container on site will house a putting green and in spring they plan to put in a food truck during the week for take out or sit-down lunches. The restaurant will be open for dinner seven-days-a-week and lunch on weekends.
Van Norstrand said for his taste, the smoked corn beef is the best thing they do but it’s the brisket that people like the most.
“Brisket keeps the lights on,” he said.
Top: Exterior of the soon-to-be-opened Old Fields Barbeque in Setauket (credit: Lon Cohen).