Travel

Inside a Connecticut Tavern That Turns Dinner into an Idyllic Getaway

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Nestled alongside the Silvermine River in Silvermine, CT, just an hour’s drive from New York City, the Tavern at GrayBarns offers diners the easy charm of an old-time American inn in a fresh and updated setting. It’s everything you want in an escape from the city—and with the GrayBarns Inn (take a tour here) just steps away, it’s all too easy to make a night of it.

Like that of the inn, the tavern’s interior is clean, comfortable, and cozy. Rustic-chic touches such as soft sheepskin hides, classic Windsor chairs, and handcrafted plates make a perfect pairing for the menu—a rotating roster of seasonal dishes rooted in the New American culinary tradition (duck breast with parsnips, oysters with uni butter, roasted cauliflower). And in a nod to the property’s long history, the restaurant has worked to develop and sustain relationships with local farms and purveyors, keeping ingredients close to home.

We spoke with GrayBarns chef Ben Freemole to discover more about that special connection between meal and decor, the inspiration behind the menu, and why he does what he does.

A farm table custom-made by local craftsmen acts as a welcome station. Behind, shiplap walls and a Windsor bench exemplify country chic.

A farm table custom-made by local craftsmen acts as a welcome station. Behind, shiplap walls and a Windsor bench exemplify country chic.

One Kings Lane: How would you describe the food at the tavern?
Ben Freemole: I would define our food as New American cuisine. Fusing history and traditionalism with powerful flavors, the tavern showcases relationships with local farms and purveyors. The juxtaposition between comfort and surprise embody our culinary experience.

How do you know when you’ve done your job?
Our job is never done! From sourcing to execution, there is always something that can, and will, be better. The best feeling as a chef is having a customer enjoy a great experience on the same night as our staff is clicking.

Was there a person who inspired you to become a chef?
After culinary school during my second run at college I worked in kitchens. I met a chef named Paul Meyers, who opened a restaurant in Montana. He was both a technician and an artist. His food, from top to bottom, changed the way I approached cooking. There was something exotic and familiar about everything he did—his ability to skate the line between craft and trade was very uncommon and admirable. I decided to try to aspire to achieve the same.

Adding to the homey vibe, a baby grand piano rests on a patchwork rug in front of bookshelves outfitted with library lights.

Adding to the homey vibe, a baby grand piano rests on a patchwork rug in front of bookshelves outfitted with library lights.

A stairway leading to the kitchen is accented with vintage artwork and mirrors. The portrait at bottom left was repaired with a Band-Aid—a cheeky solve that turns a traditional touch into a contemporary showstopper.

A stairway leading to the kitchen is accented with vintage artwork and mirrors. The portrait at bottom left was repaired with a Band-Aid—a cheeky solve that turns a traditional touch into a contemporary showstopper.

Are there any food trends that you’re incorporating into the tavern’s dishes?
The locavore movement has a huge influence on our kitchen at GrayBarns. There is also a sense of nostalgia that has crept into American cuisine, as we have forged a sense of place throughout the regions. As American cooks we can finally say, “My great-great-grandmother made this, now I am.”

What’s your take on the relationship between food and the environment in which it’s served?
The best dining experiences I have come across are immersive ones. From the chairs and flatware to the food served and music played, allowing someone to give in to a beautiful complete experience is what a restaurant is all about.

A custom island acts as a wine station amidst tables laid with handcrafted plates and black-and-white gingham linens.

A custom island acts as a wine station amidst tables laid with handcrafted plates and black-and-white gingham linens.

Sheepskins add softness to the glossy dining chairs, painted to achieve a lacquerlike effect.

Sheepskins add softness to the glossy dining chairs, painted to achieve a lacquerlike effect.

The locavore movement has a huge influence on our kitchen at GrayBarns.

— Chef Ben Freemole
Charmingly rustic vignettes—like paperwhites atop an antique basket—are a GrayBarns signature.

Charmingly rustic vignettes—like paperwhites atop an antique basket—are a GrayBarns signature.

A bar perfect for a solo meal or for a signature Grayhound cocktail—made with Ketel One vodka, grapefruit juice, and fresh rosemary—while you wait.

A bar perfect for a solo meal or for a signature Grayhound cocktail—made with Ketel One vodka, grapefruit juice, and fresh rosemary—while you wait.

From the chairs and flatware to the food served and music played, allowing someone to give in to a beautiful complete experience is what a restaurant is all about.

— Ben Freemole

Shop the look of GrayBarns→

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