Sawtooth Kitchen fills a ‘noticeable void’ in Hanover’s live performance scene

The Dartmouth investigates the creation and growing popularity of local Hanover restaurant Sawtooth Kitchen.

by Celine Choi | 6/11/23 2:15am


This article is featured in the 2023 Commencement & Reunions special issue.

Under Allen Street’s beloved Still North Books & Bar, encircled by the sweet scents of My Brigaderio’s delectable treats, lies a growing hub for the arts and live music. Since its opening last fall, Sawtooth Kitchen, serving “Southern comfort food with a New England twist,” has gained significant attention as an outlet for creative expression from Dartmouth students and Upper Valley community members alike.

Kieran Campion, founder of Sawtooth and Hanover local, said that he decided to return to Hanover and start Sawtooth after moving away for college and living in New York and Chicago for most of his adult life. He added that the opportunity to create this restaurant came to him during the pandemic when he found out about  an empty and unwanted basement space.

“In the middle of the pandemic came the opportunity to work on a project that my father and I have been thinking about and talking about for as long as I can remember, which was to build an entertainment venue in Hanover,” Campion said. “This is something that has been a noticeable void in town forever …  and with the space available … we took the opportunity to renovate, strip it to the bones and build it back up into what is now Sawtooth Kitchen.”

Sawtooth’s performance space attracts various groups and individuals, including a number of student groups, bands and theater performers as well as touring bands and performers coming through the Hanover area. The venue hosts at least one performance a week, according to Campion. Campion said that collaborating with the Dartmouth community — including the theater and music departments as well as student clubs and organizations — has helped Sawtooth accomplish its mission as a performance space for the local community. 

“I think one of the ways that we have tried to accomplish that [mission] is by bringing student performers to the community, as opposed to leaving them cloistered on campus,” he said. He added that this has a “dual benefit” by providing the student performers with a “semi-professional space” while also allowing the community to learn more about “talented” students on campus. 

PJ Griffiths ’26, a member of the band Tightrope and the Coast Jazz Orchestra, and Kieran Norton ’24, The Stripers band member, both noted the unique and professional performance space Sawtooth has provided for their musical exploration. 

Griffiths said that performing at Sawtooth provides a more formal and laid-back atmosphere than at other spaces on campus, such as fraternities.

“For the drums, we actually had individual mics for each of the drums [at Sawtooth], and they got it all set up and helped us wire everything into the mains, and it was actually a really great experience,” Griffiths said. “It was probably the best … sound experience I’ve had just because they have all the equipment there, and all of the staff there who know what they’re doing and are very friendly and helpful.” 

Norton said that he also had a positive experience with the professionalism of the space and Sawtooth’s ability to provide resources that other campus venues may lack.

“I love it compared to what I’m used to playing because they’re very professional with the sound they have,” Norton said. He added that performers can obtain live recordings of their performances by plugging in a USB drive into Sawtooth’s mixing board, which is “special.”

In addition to being a space for Dartmouth undergraduate student performers and bands, Sawtooth has also provided a space for graduate students who may not have as much access to other performance scenes such as fraternities or campus-based venues including Collis Center, the Black Family Visual Arts Center and the Hopkins Center for the Arts. 

On Tuesday, May 16, student drag group House of Lewan and Tuck Pride hosted their second TuesGay night at Sawtooth, where they hosted a drag show that happens each term. Aaron Carrillo Tu’23, former co-chair of Tuck Pride, discussed how TuesGay came to fruition as a way to build a stronger community:

“We thought, ‘let’s just create a night where LGBTQ+ folks can meet,’ so this idea started,” Carillo said. “We realized that we were talking to Sawtooth, and House of Lewan was also talking to them, so we decided to join the efforts and act as a bridge between the graduate and Tuck and undergraduate community at Dartmouth.”

Carrillo also noted that Campion and Sawtooth have been “supportive” with event planning and creating an inclusive space and a creative outlet. He added that with the past TuesGay event, communicating with Sawtooth was accessible and allowed them to create an eccentric scene.

“Kieran has been excellent in allowing us to [basically change] … the identity of the bar from the identity they already have to pretty much an LGBTQ+ bar,” Carrillo said. “Sawtooth has been instrumental, if not pivotal, for the creation of events around the community, not only for our LGBTQ+ community, but also for other events around campus.”

Sawtooth aims to connect various groups within the Dartmouth and Upper Valley community as a whole, bringing them together to share an appreciation for live performance and the arts, according to Campion. 

“My goal is to bring the Dartmouth community and the Upper Valley community at large together,” Campion said. “I think that there’s been kind of a long, slow rip in the town and school relationship and I’m hoping that [Sawtooth] can be a part of mending that.”