Eli’s Kitchen celebrates art of dining local

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Eli Dunn grew up in Seekonk, in the same building where his mom ran Phoebe’s Fish and Chips for many years. He’s 36 now, and as he prepares to open his own restaurant on Market Street, he’s taking inspiration from his mother’s style and philosophy of cooking and hospitality.

“She was farming organically before it was the trendy thing to do,” said Mr. Dunn, who will open his Eli’s Kitchen at 40 Market St. early next month.

“I remember being back there in the garden as a kid, eating parsley off the stem and blueberries. Everything was always really fresh, with seasonal home-grown food. Food was an emotional thing.”

Though he got away from food’s spiritual side in his early to mid-20s, Mr. Dunn has rekindled his romance with the art and wants to pay homage not just to his mom, but to the plate through his new restaurant, in the site of the former Bebop Burrito. The plan for Eli’s Kitchen is to offer first rate locally sourced food in a cozy, relaxed and inclusive atmosphere. Apart from the regular menu items, there will also be selections for those with food allergies, vegans and vegetarians.

Mr. Dunn worked for the past five years at the Beehive in Bristol, which started off as a simple coffee and breakfast cafe before growing into an innovative, busy restaurant. He ran the kitchen there and though he’s been away from the stove for several months getting his own place ready, he is excited to get back. Working the kitchen is exciting, and he loves to be in the weeds.

“I love it. There’s the adrenaline part of it, being on the line doing battle. I love that,” he said. “But I also love the aesthetic. I love smells and textures and flavors.”

His original plan was to have everything on the menu sourced locally, but he realized that isn’t possible. Instead, Eli’s Kitchen will focus on locally sourced foods that are available year-round, and he will bring in seasonal local sources when they’re available. His beef will come from Aquidneck Farms, his chicken from Bafoney’s Poultry, and seafood will come from a fishing cooperative run out of Point Judith. There will be local beers and wines as well.

“The menu’s kind of farm to table,” he said. “I have all these different influences, from New England seafood to a bit of New Orleans, cajun and creole. There are Thai influences, Indian influences … but the word I use a lot is ‘inclusivity.’ I really want to make everyone feel welcome, and to be able to find something they’ll love.”

Mr. Dunn lives on Federal Street in Warren. His fiancé, Pam Girard, owns Ananda Hair Lounge on Water Street. They plan to marry in September at Coggeshall Farm in Bristol.

Eli's Kitchen

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.