Stillwater’s Beloved Smalley’s Caribbean Barbeque is Closing

One of downtown Stillwater’s most beloved restaurants is closing this weekend.

Smalley’s Caribbean Barbeque and Pirate Bar will close on Saturday.

“Being a part of this town is so important to me,” Chef Shawn Smalley said. “Everyone has been so supportive and so cool.”

Smalley said a “conflict about the lease” is the reason his restaurant is closing, but he’s “thankful for the opportunity” the landlords have given him over the years for leasing him the space on the south end of Main Street.

“I’ve wanted to own a bar in this town since I was 18,” Smalley said. “To be able to do that and give back to the community means a lot to me. Having that stripped away… it really hurts.”

Smalley’s has brought national attention to Stillwater’s food scene on multiple occasions over the past several years.

When the Food Network sent their staff out looking for the “Best Reggae-Worthy Chicken, Ever”… well guess what, they came to Stillwater.

And they ate Chef Smalley’s food.

“I learned how to make jerk chicken and rice and beans from Jamaican women,” the Food Network’s self-described jerk chicken aficionado Antonia Lofaso said, “and I want to see what Smalley’s has on it.”

Lofaso went on to describe how Smalley’s prepares the jerk chicken from slow smoking it over pimento wood chips to finishing it on a searing hot grill and choosing your sauce.

“When you’re biting into it, there’s so many different things happening in your mouth,”Lofaso said. “It’s tang from the vinegar, its heat from the scotch bonnet peppers, it’s a warming spice from the pimento wood and the all-spice — you just want to keep diving in and biting at it. It’s so good. As I’m eating this chicken, I feel like I’m on the beach, listening to the steel drum and licking the jerk chicken off my fingers.”

Guy Fieri’s experience went down as one of the funniest segments in Triple-D’s catalog.

After Fieri heard great things about Smalley’s from other chefs and restaurateurs in the Twin Cities, he brought his film crew to Stillwater to taste some hot wings — and left with tears in his eyes, blue cheese all over his face and a pirate laughing at him.

But let’s be honest, The Food Network was late to the party.

Stillwater residents have been lucky enough to experience Smalley’s take on Jamaican BBQ first hand since 2008. The idea of Smalley’s was born out of Smalley’s love of grilling Caribbean-influenced dishes.

And we’ve been bragging about the jerk pork tacos, jerk chicken, wings and kill devil rum ever since.

Smalley’s has won the Best Burger in the Valley contest, taken home Stillwater Harvest Fest’s Chili Cook-off honors numerous times, and took home accolades from The City Pages for the best Mac ‘n’ Cheese.

“What I’m going to miss the most is the platform,” Smalley said. “ Smalley’s gave me a big platform to give back, it was always bigger than me, and bigger than Smalley’s. It was about giving back to the people in our community.”

While the food at Smalley’s will turn any foodie’s head, the beauty of Smalley’s is that it simply isn’t, and has never been, pretentious.

It’s always been about pirates, cooking really good food.

“Smalley is great for Stillwater, and I’m really sad to see his restaurant close,” Mayor Ted Kozlowski said. “He brought a lot of positive, national attention to this town with his talent and his love of food. And he has always been an awesome community partner and big supporter of our local nonprofits. I love Smalley, and I’m excited to see what he does next.”

Smalley’s is the latest in a string of acclaimed restaurants over the years to close its doors in downtown Stillwater.

“I didn’t want this to happen,” Smalley said. “I’m fucking pissed off, and I’m really sad. This is not how I wanted it to end.”