By William Rupp
“I’m not just swooping in from the big city,” said Stephen Johnson. “I’m familiar with the area. It’s a location I have admired for a long time.”
Mr. Johnson, who owns the Rendezvous restaurant in Cambridge, Mass., is referring to Tiverton’s former Stonebridge Restaurant site at 1848 Main Road. He received liquor and victualling licenses from the Town Council on Monday, May 12, to open The Red Dory restaurant.
Mr. Johnson, a long-time chef and restaurateur in the greater Boston area, opened Rendezvous in Cambridge’s Central Square nine years ago after operating another restaurant for nine years. He has rented a home in Westport, since 1984 and has plied the Westport River in boats for the past 20 years.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Mr. Johnson, who turned 58 this week. “I have wanted to transition to living in this area full-time. Then this opportunity came along.”
Mr. Johnson is selling Rendezvous. He plans to start construction on The Red Dory in early June with an opening date in late September.
“It will be a year-round business,” he said. “Not a seasonal restaurant. If the location was further down the peninsula, it would be more seasonal. But we’re at the head of the peninsula and closer to surrounding towns with easy access from Route 24 and Route 195.”
Mr. Johnson said he is “installing a fireplace to make the dining room more cozy” during the cooler seasons. The dining area will have seating for approximately 70 people; the bar area will seat an additional 16 diners.
The Red Dory will specialize in Mediterranean food, including meat, fish, poultry and vegetables. He expects to buy from local farmers and fishermen as much as possible.
“This location is really inspiring,” Mr. Johnson said. “I plan to cook with local ingredients, and tailor my menu to the area, with more focus on fish and seafood. It looks right out over the water.”
Mr. Johnson said he does not anticipate operating a large catering business, although he could accommodate smaller parties, such as pre-wedding rehearsal dinners.
“I want to focus on the restaurant itself,” he said,” especially nightly dinners.”
The restaurant will be open seven days a week in the warmer seasons: 11 am to 10 pm Monday through Saturday and 11 am to 9 pm on Sunday. He does anticipate scaling back to five days a week, probably Wednesday through Sunday, in the off-season for tourists.
“I’ve always wanted to operate a smaller restaurant,” said Mr. Johnson. “I like being able to focus on my guests. I’m very excited.”