The mood and decor at the newly opened Old Fields Barbecue in Setauket hits you from the get-go.
There’s the heavy wooden front door, the exposed, slightly hacked and purposely unfinished barn-wood beams on the ceiling, and rails that separate areas of the restaurant yet allow for a line of sight from the bar to the back dining room.
The air smells of new wood, tinged with the slight scent of barbecue drifting from the kitchen around back. Johnny Cash is on the radio. The wait staff is dressed in rock band T-shirts. A big TV sits over the wall of bottles behind the bar, but seems as if it doesn’t belong there, an anachronism in this rustic place. (Scroll down for more photos.)
The owner’s collection of wooden crates were cut up and hang along one wall in the dining room. The long tables and booths were hand made by the head chef, along with another one of the founders.
The place has that boot-stomping feel but without the honky tonk, an artisanal country vibe without sliding too far into hokey.
On a recent visit, owner David Tunney proudly pointed to the little things he loves so much about his new restaurant.
Tractor gears on the wall. A WWII airplane jump door. Lamps made from vintage campfire toasters. And the artwork hanging around the dining room, which was produced by his brother, Peter.
“He’s a famous artist,” Tunney said.
Tunney already had a collection of seven antique-shop lights he picked up for $500 somewhere at some point in the past. His wife asked him what he was going to do with them.
“We have seven tables,” he said, a wink within the statement.
They were waiting just for this moment.
and the food
In the kitchen, he led us past the bustling servers and cooks to show off his pride and joy.
“Let’s take the picture by the smoker,” he suggested when asked for his favorite place to pose for a photo.
Tunney, his partner Rory Van Nostrand and Chef Israel Castor worked together to make the Setauket restaurant a success with blood, sweat and tears. The building was completely renovated and many of the accents they did themselves by hand.
Not that he has a favorite out of all the Old Fields he owns (there are now four), but Tunney had been eyeing this location for years. He snatched it up once the opportunity presented itself to open a restaurant in his hometown.
Tunney is unwittingly obsessive about specific locations. It comes through when he talks about his acquisitions, telling the story about how he coveted the original Greenlawn location of Old Fields for years before he was able to acquire it and launched his string of eateries on the North Shore. There are now Old Fields in Port Jefferson, Huntington, and the first one is still operating in Greenlawn.
“They hate it when I do this,” he said as he opens the two silver doors of the smoker to expose briskets being slow-cooked for the night’s menu.
As they have said before, brisket keeps the lights on. It’s a popular menu item.
Folks come in and line up by the host station. A menu board hangs above where you place orders, picking from a meat and side. The hostess that night suggested one meat and two sides for one person.
The prices won’t break the bank. Brisket is $13. Chorizo Sausage is $5. Pulled Pork is $9. Mac & Cheese is $5 for a side. Slaw is $4.
The hostess then hands you a number in a silver holder. You seat yourself and wait for the food to arrive.
It gets busy and people line up by the bar to place orders. So far, business has been good. This is only the second full week the restaurant has been open.
“We served over 2,000 people last week,” Tunney said. “We’ll do the same this week.”
if you go
You can visit Old Fields Barbecue by heading to 130 Old Town Road in Setauket. Right now they are only open for dinner from 4 to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 4 to 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 4 to 9 p.m. on Sundays. They plan to begin serving lunch in April.