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Bracken the Saddle

Bill Bracken’s minding the flame at DivBar

For 20 years, Bill Bracken ruled the fine dining scene with his unique culinary style, blending gourmet cuisine and comfort food, like his to-die-for mac and cheese with truffle shavings and lobster chunks. We were surprised when he left the kitchen at Island Hotel’s Palm Terrace, but we couldn’t be more delighted to see him in his own down-home digs on the waterfront along Mariner’s Mile in Newport. The place is called DivBar Smokehouse Barbecue (, and this is what Bracken has to say about it.

First, we’ve got to ask… Why’d you leave the world of fine dining to open a barbecue joint? When I was at the Island Hotel, I had all these chefs working for me, with five different kitchens, five different menus. You’re used to running 90 miles an hour. It’s a nice change of pace to do something a little less demanding, a little more focused.

You’ve cooked for presidents and celebrities. Who would you love to cook for today? My Grandma Bracken and my mother had such a huge impact on me growing up. For my grandmother, food was about food, eating a good meal, all natural, made from scratch. It’s how I learned to love food so much. I’d love nothing more than to be able to cook for my grandmother.

Tell us about the DivBar experience. Serious food doesn’t need to be so serious—that’s been my motto for years. We’re serving just good, honest, American food in a really fun environment.

What’s the surprise hit on the menu? DivBar Dip, served with good-old Fritos. It’s an artichoke dip. We bake it in the oven. It’s been huge.