For years, Westporters have passed the Redding Roadhouse — the restaurant/bar with live music and a casual-but-almost-biker’s-hangout vibe on Route 53, past Devil’s Den and the Saugatuck Reservoir — and wondered, “What’s up with that?”
For years, they drove on by.
A group of Westporters plans to change all that.
Earlier this month Ted Stonbely, his wife Colleen Cook, and her brother Wirt Cook took over the place. When they reopened 3 days later, they’d already made tweaks.
Bigger changes lie ahead. Including more outreach to folks down in these parts.
Ted — he would have been a 1998 Staples graduate, but got shipped off to the Gunnery, then attended culinary school and worked for Daniel Boulud — and Colleen (Staples ’95) had wanted to open their own place for years.
But, he says, the New York restaurant scene is “difficult, expensive and frightening.”
A year ago, after their 2nd child was born, Ted and Colleen moved to Weston. Two main reasons: quality of life, and restaurant opportunities.
Last July, Ted heard the Redding Roadhouse was available. But the space — including a huge dining area, bar, outdoor patio and little-used upstairs room — seemed daunting.
Ted and Colleen looked some more. Nothing clicked.
But when Wirt and his wife Karen said they’d help, the challenges of the Redding Roadhouse seemed manageable. Fortunately, it was still available.
Since opening July 5, the owners have pared down the main menu; added local produce; introduced a bar menu; painted the outside, and erected a fence.
They’re tackling the upstairs space — the “Mark Twain Room,” named for Redding’s most famous resident, which had been mostly dark.
They’ll redo the dining room, tap room and patio too. “We’re giving this a new identity,” Ted says.
He calls the new Roadhouse “modern casual American. There’s no airs. Wirt has worked in New York kitchens for 10 years — places like Butter and The Darby — so he brings a great touch to comfort food. He’s got a nice, elevated style.”
Ted says that in recent years, the Roadhouse “moved away from families.” With 2 kids of their own, he and Colleen knew exactly what was needed: a kids’ menu. It’s already very popular.
The owners are moving the live music from the bar in front to a secondary room. “A lot of people like music. But you shouldn’t have to listen to it if you don’t want to,” Ted says.
Added to the roster of rock and country bands will be local favorites like Dylan Connor, Mark Mollica and Merritt Jacob. In addition to being great musicians, they’re Ted and Colleen’s friends.
The Redding Roadhouse traditionally drew from surrounding towns like Bethel, Danbury, Ridgefield and Easton.
“We’re looking south too,” says Ted. “We want to get Westport and Fairfield involved. There are plenty of people there who know and appreciate good food, and want to have a good time.”
One of those good times is Oktoberfest. Redding Roadhouse did it in the past.
Ted, Colleen, Wirt and Karen have their eye on that too.
“We’ll make it even bigger,” Ted says. “We’ll have an outside beer hall.
“And it will run all through October.”