Smalley’s Caribbean Barbeque and Pirate Bar, a Stillwater fixture for nearly a decade, will shutter this week.
The restaurant, which once appeared on Food Network’s Diners Drive-Ins and Dives, has struggled in recent years, owner Tim McKee said, so he and chef Shawn Smalley made the decision to move on.
“It has been reported that we’re being forced out and I want to clarify that’s not the case,” said McKee, who also owns Lowertown’s Octo Fishbar. “Stillwater is just a really difficult environment to run a restaurant in and it wasn’t working for us.”
Smalley’s debuted in 2008, touting American takes on Caribbean barbeque – such as jerk chicken, brisket and wings, and was known for bringing a heat to its sauces that bellied the Midwest norm.
“We were doing something that no one else, in our minds, had done,” McKee said. “It was kind of a unique thing.
McKee and Smalley first started making the kinds of food that would eventually end up on the menu while working together at the former La Belle Vie, and serving it to the staff.
Soon, they decided it was worth a landing spot of its own.
“It was refreshing when we first started, being known for high-end cuisine, to do something dive-bar style with plastic baskets and paper,” McKee said. “I really loved that.”
The lease for Smalley’s ends in March, McKee said, but the building owners gave them a chance to leave early.
Saturday will be the last day of service.
“It’s incredibly sad,” he said. “I think the concept is so good and the product is so good. To have a run of 10 years in that town is pretty spectacular. But now unfortunately it’s coming to an end.”