Armed with a can-do attitude and a hefty dose of nostalgia, lifelong Peace Dale resident Jane LaBlanc spearheaded The Flatts, South County’s premiere smokehouse. She transformed Giro’s, a beloved neighborhood joint that closed some time ago, and lovingly renovated the 150-year-old restaurant by hand, with a little help from her friends. She talked to us about her wending journey from real estate agent to restauranteur.
Your background is in real estate. What made you decide to open a restaurant?
I was showing the property to a potential restauranteur and he kept saying “no, no way” while we walked through. And I was like, Are you kidding me? I thought it would be amazing to have a new neighborhood place. So, I figured I would do it.
What made you decide on the smokehouse concept?
A bunch of my friends kept driving to Middletown to get good barbecue. If folks are willing to cross two bridges to eat, I thought there was something to that. I gave them what they wanted closer to home.
Can you tell us about the smoking process?
It all starts with the dry rub, which usually sits overnight. Different meats require different smoking times as well as different types of wood. For example, mesquite has a really heavy smoke to it, which is great for pork or beef, while something like shrimp needs a more delicate smoke, like a hickory.
We smoke pretty much anything — meats, vegetables. We have a delicious homemade hummus on our menu that starts with smoked chickpeas. If you can eat it, we’re going to try to smoke it!
What’s the strangest thing you’ve smoked?
The strangest — for now — has to be prime rib, simply because it would have been an expensive failure. It came out awesome. Even the au jus had a wonderful smoke to it. I want to smoke a cheesecake. That’s next on the experiment list!
The Flatt’s menu is a fantastic mix of old school smokehouse with a contemporary twist, including some unexpected vegetarian items. Even your cocktails are unique. How did you come up with it?
I am not a trained chef and sometimes what works at home does not translate in a restaurant setting. So, I have these crazy ideas but then I have a wonderful chef and staff to bring me back to earth. I was lucky that I opened in November, after most of the restaurants in the area trim their staff. So I was able to hire seasoned people to help me learn the ropes.
This particular building has a rich history in Peace Dale. Can you talk about that a bit?
Giro’s was an Italian restaurant that opened 150 years ago. It was the first restaurant in South Kingstown to get a liquor license. It was one of those neighborhood places where you come on Sunday afternoon and all your family and friends would be there. It was important for me to retain that community connection. And the community wanted it. When I got my liquor license, everyone in Town Hall cheered!
Last summer, while I painted the front of the building, people kept stopping by sharing stories about all their “firsts” at Giro’s. First dates, first drinks. The entire community was behind me to make sure that
501 High Street, South Kingstown