STONINGTON — A two-star Michelin chef has opened Acadia House Provisions, a seasonal restaurant in the former Aragosta location on Main Street in Stonington.
Island residents and visitors have been feasting on oysters on the half shell and tucking into “butter burgers,” lobster rolls, lobster grilled cheese and “The Acadia Dog,” prepared by Chef Ryan McCaskey.
McCaskey has operated the Michelin-starred restaurant Acadia in Chicago’s South Loop since 2011.
“My plan for Acadia House Provisions is to have a bustling, seasonal restaurant,” said McCaskey. Opening day was June 29. The last day for this season will be Oct. 11.
“This property offers a balance and alternative to Acadia Chicago, serving great casual food,” McCaskey said. “I also wanted to give back to the community and help revive the area. I’ve joined the chamber of commerce and other organizations to firmly entrench myself in the community.”
The fare is decidedly more casual than at its Midwestern sister.
Entrees at the Stonington eatery include lobster pie, half- roasted chicken with roasted Charlotte potatoes, savory bread pudding and turnips, meatloaf, duck and a weekly pasta using produce from local farms.
McCaskey’s spokesman Brian Chan said the reception from customers has been “fantastic.”
“Chef had a feeling he would be successful but the welcome has been overwhelming,” Chan said.
Stonington may be more than one thousand miles from Chicago but McCaskey has childhood roots on Deer Isle.
“My connection to Maine goes way back,” McCaskey said. In fact, one of the first restaurants McCaskey worked at was at Goose Cove Lodge (incidentally where Aragosta has relocated.)
“We started vacationing as a family there since I was 9 years old,” he related. “Way before the internet, my parents picked up a Fodor’s Guide and took a chance on Maine. Initially we started staying a week at a time, which turned into a month, which turned into most of the summer.”
During that time, the lodge was owned by the Pavlov family.
McCaskey said he worked at the lodge as sous chef and pastry chef from 1993 to 1995 when it belonged to the Parisi family.
McCaskey’s family eventually bought a house on the island and he bought his own house about six years ago.
“Eventually I see my life headed there, hopefully buying a bigger house and retiring,” McCaskey said.
The chef called “life” the biggest influence on his cooking.
“The biggest thing has been life, from dining out to hanging out in great kitchens, to working under great chefs,” he said. “Life’s journey and the many elements along the way have influenced my cooking and continue to do so.”
McCaskey attended the School of the Culinary Arts at Kendall College in Evanston, Ill. While in school, he worked at the three-star Greenery in Barrington, Ill., and at the acclaimed Tuttaposto under Spiaggia’s Tony Mantuano.
He then accepted a position as sous chef and pastry chef, at age 20, at Goose Cove Lodge. That would have been 1993.
After graduating from culinary school, McCaskey moved to Wisconsin, taking a position as chef de cuisine and pastry chef at the Black Locust in Fish Creek.
While at the helm, the restaurant was named one of the top three restaurants in the state by the Milwaukee Journal.
McCaskey then returned to the Chicago area working as chef de cuisine at Vivere and then at the acclaimed Rushmore, where he returned to his contemporary American roots.
When Rushmore closed unexpectedly (due to a fire), McCaskey took some time off, to broaden his kitchen skills, staging at the four-star Trio under Grant Achatz and TRU under Rick Tramonto, as well as working at Les Deux Gras, Rhapsody, and Allen’s.
He next worked as executive chef at the Moroccan Tizi Melloul.
In 2007, McCaskey was the executive chef at the four-star Courtright’s in Willow Springs, Ill.
He opened Acadia in 2011. The restaurant is located at 27 Main St. in Stonington. For reservations, call 367-2555 and email [email protected]