The question has often been asked at our dining table: why are there so many restaurants along the water serving so much mediocre food? Here we are, living smack in the middle of a state largely on the water and yet you'd be hard pressed to find decent local fish let alone fish that was well-prepared at most of the waterfront restaurants. (But then this is not a phenomenon unique to RI but we've seen this over and over again: Maine, Vermont, Virginia, Michigan, the list seems endless.)
To New England foodies it's no secret that the Newport Restaurant Group has the lock on picking gorgeous locations to site their eateries tempered by uninspiring menus. Every time we get the urge to sit by the water, sipping an aperitif while spending a relaxing evening dining out we find ourselves at either Waterman Grille (the "e" at the end is a giveaway) in Providence or the Boat House in Tiverton (both NRG properties). And every time we remark afterward that the best thing about the dinner was the water.
Our latest outing to the Boat House was a case in point.
It was a gorgeously warm evening this past Monday when we headed east to Tiverton and the Boat House for waterfront dining. We had been here once before a couple of years back for brunch and were impressed by the location -- and the food as we recall was not bad then either. But this was to be a much more challenging experience.
The wine -- a vinho verde -- was crisp and nicely chilled. The Point Judith calamari app was delicious to be sure but my fish and chips bordered on appalling: a piece of cod trapped inside an enormous rock-hard shell of something that had probably once been bread or some flour-base derivative. The cole slaw was warm, in fact nearly hot, the tartar sauce was so thin it would've made a tartar switch to beef and the fries were heavy, soggy and pretty much devoid of flavor. Susan's salad was thin and the quinoa was sparse although her crab cake was OK, yet still unremarkable.
The wine prices we thought about average here but the selections seemed weighted in favor of those jug wines that would be familiar to people not generally familiar with wines in the first place. In all fairness, we had two glasses of the vinho verde and I almost sprang for the bottle: the price was a very good value at $26. Otherwise be careful about your choices and don't count on the staff to be of any more help than the nearest marketing department.
Service was hit or miss -- again, in all fairness the volume these kids have to handle is quite overwhelming so you should have to take that into consideration. Still, our server never asked us about the food nor did the other server comment when she removed my largely uneaten plate of food.
When going to either the Waterman Grille or the Boat House, the important thing is to focus on salads (generally OK) or, an even smarter move, the burgers.