PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Stacy Deetz has been working in restaurants for the last two decades — from running the kitchen at The Inn at Hastings Park in Lexington, Mass., to the now-shuttered Liquid Art House in Boston. She cooked at The James Beard House in New York City, and competed on the television show “Top Chef” about a decade ago.
In 2015, Deetz (then Stacy Cogswell) published “The New New England Cookbook: 125 Traditional Recipes,” which she considers her “love letter” to the region she’s known all her life. Recipes include roasted monkfish with farro risotto, braised pork shanks with spinach dumplings, and desserts like a walnut brown butter cake with roasted apples.
After leaving New England for Virginia during the pandemic, Deetz has returned to open the Hangry Kitchen in Pawtucket this month with her husband, Robert. It’s a new American bistro serving neighborhood comfort dishes that speak to her love for New England’s quintessential bites. They’ll have 37 seats, and will be open Tuesday through Sunday, giving all the employees two days off each week. Her chef de cuisine and other staffers are some of the same people she worked with up in Boston.
“There are so many issues in this industry. I’ve been burnt out more times than I can even describe,” she said. “To be honest with you, 10 years ago, I was a nightmare to work with, but because I was burnt out.
“We want to make it employee-friendly, make it non-toxic, and we’re paying very high wages so people can actually live. That can be hard in this business,” she said. “But we’re going to do it the right way.”
They’ll be “constantly” reinventing the menu to cook with the seasons, she said. “You will see something new every time you come in,” Deetz said.
As for the opening menu, expect squash dumplings with savory bacon and miso; pumpkin bisque with roasted garlic marshmallow and pepitas; and beets with fennel, apples, mustard greens, candied bacon, and farmers cheese.
Entrees include a jambalaya with Rhode Island style: clams, mussels, calamari, linguica. The peppercorn butter steak tips are a must-try.
“When I left New England, I realized that steak tips with mashed potatoes were just a Massachusetts thing — well, I’m not going to live without them again,” said Deetz. She’s serving the Brandt beef and aligot potatoes with cheese from East Side Cheese & Provisions.
Her menu pays homage to Lynn, Mass., which is the founding place of marshmallow spread Fluff. For dessert, she’s made a Fluffernutter French toast with maple pound cake, peanut butter mousse, house-made marshmallow creme, and toasted peanuts. “Another thing where I just didn’t know what I had until it’s gone,” said Deetz on the gooey marshmallow Fluff.
They’ll have a curated wine list of organic and women-owned or -produced varietals.
The space pulls from Deetz’s personal style, featuring industrial elements, like steel and wood to evoke the mills of Pawtucket, but with pops of color, antiques, and old-school comic books displayed everywhere. A mural of Julia Child and Anthony Bourdain will be painted on one of the back walls.
“We’ve been talking about this concept for a very long time. We knew what we wanted to do,” said Deetz. “For me: I just want to be me. I just want to cook like I want to and have fun.”
This story first appeared in Globe Rhode Island’s Food & Dining newsletter, a free weekly email about Rhode Island’s restaurant industry that also contains information about local events, Q&As with chefs, dining guides, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail each Thursday, you can sign up here.